The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is attempting to halt the use of a California state law that lets parents force through reforms at failing schools.
The district is saying a federal waiver provides the district with a get-out-of-jail-free card for at least the next year. That claim, however, could land them in legal hot water.
California’s Parent Empowerment Act, a so-called “parental trigger law,” allows a majority of parents at low-performing schools to act and force through radical changes. Such changes can include actions like replacing large numbers of staff or even converting the entire school into a charter school, which typically has non-unionized staff. The law has yet to be used in Los Angeles, though in one case a school worked with parents to undertake major reforms in order to prevent parents from using the trigger law
LAUSD, however, announced on Thursday that they are exempt from the law completely, because the Department of Education has granted the district a two-year waiver from No Child Left Behind benchmarks that are used as the basis for the trigger law.
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The action is a preemptive one, as there are no major ongoing efforts by parents in Los Angeles to use the trigger law on a school there.
Superintendent John Deasy claimed that he supports the state law, however, and that parents would be able to use the trigger law following the end of this school year.
Former California state senator Gloria Romero told the Los Angeles Times she was “livid” with the district’s justification.
“It violates the spirit and intent of parent empowerment,” Romero said.
However, a future legal battle remains a possibility. Gabe Rose, chief strategy officer with the group Parent Revolution, a California non-profit that pushed for the trigger law’s enactment, described the district’s position as “laughable.”
“There’s nothing the federal government can do to invalidate a state law,” Rose told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Rose said that if the district tried to maintain this position a lawsuit was “definitely” a possibility.
Rose supplied the DCNF with a copy of the letter sent by Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle to the LAUSD in 2013 when they were granted an NCLB waiver. Within the letter, Delisle notes that while the waiver exempts the school district from federal requirements, “any State laws or regulations…are not affected by the waivers granted in your district.”
“Not even the people who gave them the waiver agree with the District’s position,” Rose said. He added that the district’s legal position was so weak, in his view, that it was likely more a political statement than a genuine legal one. The trigger law has been sharply opposed by United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union, and the group may have applied pressure on Superintendent Deasy to limit its application in the city.
“The law clearly applies to them, and if they choose to pretend it doesn’t, parents are going to sue them and they’re going to win.” Rose added that Parent Revolution had received pro bono legal assistance from Kirkland and Ellis, a top national law firm, in the past and would be able to do so agian.
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