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Cortines lifts LAUSD ban on Parent Trigger enacted by Deasy

Vanessa Romo | November 11, 2014

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parent triggerThe head of Parent Revolution said today that LA Unified has reversed course, lifting the ban on using the “Parent Trigger” law this year to overhaul failing district schools.

“As one of Superintendent Cortines’s first moves, it’s a sign that the district will be respectful of the law,” Ben Austin, founder of the group that helps parents organize and enact the take-over of a failing campus, told LA School Report.

“It indicates that Cortines wants to work collaboratively with parents and parent unions,” he added.

The state Parent Trigger law allows parents to make changes at their children’s school if a majority of parents sign a petition demanding improvements. So far, it has been used for only a handful of schools in California.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines and Deputy Superintendent Michelle King met with Austin last week to discuss the moratorium. In an interview with LA School Report a day later, Cortines confirmed the district’s change in policy.

“I believe in parent choice, and I mean parent choice. There is no ban,” Cortines said, adding that he had already notified the author of the law, former Senator Gloria Romero, about his position.

However, several district officials said they know of no such change. When asked about it last week General Counsel David Holmquist said he had been unaware of Cortines’s decision.

Former Superintendent John Deasy had argued that the district was exempt from the Parent Trigger by a federal waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, allowing LA Unified and seven other California school districts to create their own metrics for academic performance in the temporary absence of statewide standards.

The statewide tests were eliminated last year, in anticipation of computerized tests based on the Common Core State Standards, which begin this spring.

In Deasy’s view, the law could not be used this year because of the change in statewide testing; use of the Parent Trigger laws requires that a school demonstrate poor academic performance two consecutive years, based on the same metrics.

At the time of Deasy’s decision, Romero said she expressed anger that the district would undermine parent empowerment by invalidating the law, and Parent Revolution called the district’s legal logic “laughable.” In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education, which granted the waiver and was asked to clarify its conditions, says neither the federal government nor any other entity can override a state law.

In a letter written almost a year ago, Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle wrote, “The requirements to determine whether schools have made adequate yearly progress (AYP) and to identify schools for improvement, corrective action and restructuring have not been waived, and any State laws or regulations, including those related to AYP or school improvement status, are not affected by the waivers granted to your district.”

Romero appealed to Cortines to overturn Deasy’s edict, embracing the spirit of the law in his first school board meeting last month.

But when asked about Cortines’ decision, Romero said, “Legally, there is no ban. What they’re lifting is a false exemption.”

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