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LA Unified school board member wants changes to California's Parent Trigger law

A Los Angeles Unified school board meeting in Oct. 2012.
A Los Angeles Unified school board meeting in Oct. 2012.
Tami Abdollah/KPCC

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California’s Parent Trigger law has been used five times to try and overhaul low-performing schools. Three of those were in the L.A. Unified School District. School board member Steve Zimmer has proposed a resolution up for a vote at Tuesday’s meeting calling for new restrictions. (Check back later today for updates on the  board's actions.)

Under the Parent Trigger law, when a majority of parents sign a petition, those parents get to decide how to restructure a school where test scores fall far below the state average.

Reforms can include removing the principal, asking a charter school company to run it, or other changes.

Board member Steve Zimmer believes the process is flawed.

“I’m concerned that everyone has access to accurate information. I’m concerned that everybody gets to participate in the process," Zimmer said. "I’m concerned that we’re focusing on the schools that objectively need this type of transformation the most.”

His resolution would ask state legislators to change the law and give all parents a say in the transformation method.

The proposal also requires unbiased information to be presented at a school community meeting and to local school board members before a vote on a parent petition.

The non-profit group Parent Revolution has been involved in promoting petitions. Gabe Rose, the group’s deputy director, said he doesn’t have a problem with Zimmer’s plan, but says parents have had a hard time using the law.

“We’d like to actually be supportive of this resolution," he said. "But we can’t be supportive of it unless it addresses the biggest problem out there right now which is the continued harassment and intimidation of parents who are standing up trying to organize and fight for their kid.”

University of Southern California Associate Professor Julie Marsh says the Zimmer proposal signals that the law is going through a shakeout period.

“The fact that you can get a majority of parents to sign something that could actually change how the school operates or who is operating it is pretty revolutionary,” Marsh said.

While several other states have Parent Trigger laws, California is at the forefront of figuring out how much power to give parents, she said.

If the resolution passes, the information requirements would only apply to L.A. Unified schools. The district would have to lobby legislators in Sacramento to apply for the changes statewide, including the proposal to give all parents at the school a vote on the way the school is overhauled.