Compton School District, Parents Face Off Over Trigger Petition

Both sides allege misconduct in the process to turn an elementary school into a charter.

By Julianne Hing Jan 25, 2011

Parents who are trying to push for a charter school takeover at a Compton Unified elementary school have raised a stink after the district said it would verify all of the signatures on a petition before turning over the elementary school to outsiders.

Parent Revolution, the pro-charter school group of parents at McKinley Elementary School, held a press conference Monday to demand that the district honor the parent trigger policy, which allows parents who collect 51 percent of a school’s parent signatures to bring in a charter school. After reports of intimidation from both sides, the district said it was going to ask every parent who initially signed the original petition, filed back in December, to come back to the school this Wednesday or Thursday and present photo ID when they re-sign the petition.

The pro-charter school parent group said Compton Unified was creating new rules after the original petition had been filed. The McKinley parents were the first anywhere in the nation to push for a charter school takeover when they filed a petition with 63 percent of McKinley parents’ signatures. The charter school company Celerity Educational Group was ready to move in to take over the elementary school until the reports of misconduct derailed the process. California’s parent trigger law was just initiated last year.

Parent Revolution says that the district is out of line and should not call parents, many of whom work and cannot come during the set hours, or are undocumented and fear deportation.

"What the district is doing is very wrong," said Lorena Bautisa, LA Weekly reported. "They’re violating our rights. We’ve already signed the petition, and that’s it."

Back in December the California Board of Education called for an investigation into the signature-gathering mechanisms after the reports of misconduct and intimidation surfaced on both sides. Pro-charter school takeover parents said that teachers had tried to sway parents, telling them that the charter school might not accept undocumented immigrant kids or those with poor test scores. A set of parents revoked their signatures charging that they were duped into signing a petition that they were told was about beautifying the school. "They were misinforming the parents, so I revoked my signature," McKinley parent Karla Garcia told the LA Times last year.

LA Weekly reported that last week two McKinley parents involved with Parent Revolution filed complaints with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division, charging that teachers at the school had tried to convince them not to sign the petition.

Former State Sen. Gloria Romero, the author of California’s parent trigger law, was also at Monday’s press conference, and said that the district’s verification efforts were an attempt to further sideline parents. "This latest attempt to disenfranchise parents who have boldly stood up for change is in violation of both the spirit and the letter of the law," Romero said in a statement, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "I call upon Compton Unified officials to immediately change course."