Compton throws out Parent Trigger’ petitions, families promise to fight

CLARIFICATION: In coverage of the development of Parent Trigger regulations this week and on Feb. 10, the Cabinet Report gave the misleading impression that the California State Board of Education has instigated an effort to revise the parent petitioning program. Michael Kirst, president of the state board, has also clarified that the board has no position on proposed clean-up bills.

Parents seeking the first use of the state's controversial parent trigger' school restructuring law vowed Wednesday to carry on their fight despite a move by Compton school officials to disqualify their petitions.

The board of Compton Unified voted unanimously Tuesday night to reject the parents petitions because the documents failed to include some disclosures required under state law.

At a news conference, a number of parents engaged in the process to turn the troubled McKinley Elementary school into a charter operation said they were not giving up.

"I don't understand what the fight is about but I'm not trying to understand anymore. I just refuse to let my child and my future children be failing in Compton Unified for [the school board's] benefit," said parent Theresa Theus.

"I'm a taxpayer in Compton and they are taking taxpayer money to fight against something we want and that's righteous for our children," she said.

The move by the school board comes in the wake of a temporary restraining order issued by a superior court judge preventing the district from using a verification process to ensure the identities of the parents and an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the parents by a Los Angeles-based advocacy organization.

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's office has been asked to take a look at the charges and counter charges being levied in the dispute, while the California State Board of Education has asked lawmakers to consider clean-up legislation that would provide a better foundation for governing the restructuring process.

The Parent Empowerment Act,' approved last year as a keynote to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's school policy agenda, allows a majority of parents to petition to restructure a failing school.

But the first use of the law has uncovered a number of issues including an uncertain process that districts can employ to oversee and verify petition gathering.

A set of emergency regulations, approved by the state board while Schwarzenegger was still in office, has been found to be largely unworkable, according to the California Department of Education. But making substantive changes would likely require the rules to be resubmitted for public review and comment before they could be brought back for approval by the state board - something that cannot be done before the existing emergency regulations expire next month.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley has agreed to carry legislation that would clarify the program and fix other problems - but exactly what the bill would do has not yet been defined.