“Parent-Trigger” Law Rattles Compton School

Allegations are flying that parents were misled about an effort to convert a local school into a charter.

By Julianne Hing Dec 16, 2010

This morning the California Board of Education called for an investigation into reports of misconduct in a parent-initiated petition to call for the takeover of a Southern California public school.

The AP reports that ever since a petition was filed last week by parents calling for a charter school takeover of Compton Unified School District’s McKinley Elementary School, there have been allegations of parent intimidation. Under a new California law signed this year, parents may call for the overhaul of their children’s failing public school if a majority of parents support such a move. Sixty-two percent of parents at the 438-student school signed the petition, but many have since removed their support for the school.

There are several models for school takeover. They range from calling in a charter school to replace the former staff, or firing all the staff and rehiring no more than half who must agree to overhauls, or shutting down the school altogether. The charter school company Celerity Educational Group was set to take over McKinley, until reports of misconduct surfaced.

Marlene Romero told the LA Times that one of her student’s teachers spoke with her for an hour about why she shouldn’t support the petition. The LA Times reports that parents who support charter school takeover said they’d been harassed, or told the new school would not accept undocumented students or students with low test scores. McKinley consistently ranks near the bottom of student test score performance in the state.

But another parent, Karla Garcia also told the LA Times that she had since revoked her signature because she was lied to. "They told me the petition was to beautify the school," Garcia told the LA Times. "They are misinforming the parents, so I revoked my signature."

About 50-60 parents have followed Garcia’s lead. McKinley’s principal Fleming Robinson insists that most parents are happy with the school, and are committed to seeing it improve without a charter school.

Now the California state board of education is asking the California attorney general to get involved. Today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his support for the charter school takeover in a Washington Post op-ed. His confidence in the future of McKinley Elementary may have been premature.