Mojave Desert Parents Return To Court Over Charter Proposal
LOS ANGELES (AP)— A parents’ organization plans to return to court to force a Mojave Desert school district to accept a charter conversion proposal for a failing elementary school.
The petition will be filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court later this week or early next, said Ben Austin, executive director of Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that is spearheading parent-driven school reform, on Wednesday.
The legal move marks the latest round in an ongoing legal tussle between the Adelanto Elementary School District and the Desert Trails Parent Union. Last month, Judge Steve Malone overruled the district, saying that Desert Trail Elementary School should be handed over to a charter operator.
But the school board on Friday voted instead to form a council, which will report directly to the superintendent, to oversee reforms, many of which are already under way.
The council will request letters of commitment to reform the school from teachers, who can also opt for a transfer, will extend the school day, implement a new curriculum, and install classroom computers, among other items that parents originally requested before switching to a push for a charter, said school board President Carlos Mendoza.
Mendoza said it is too late to convert the school to a charter for this school year and said state law allows the district to select a different intervention if it cannot implement the one parents requested.
“The district has been working with the community on reform,” he stated in an email. “Now they wish to undermine the reforms that have already begun for this year by insisting they can open a charter for the next year.”
Mark Holscher, attorney for the parent union, said the vote was a flagrant violation of the court order.
“Judge Malone’s order is quite explicit, but the district has made a conscious decision to ignore Judge Malone’s order,” he said.
Doreen Diaz, lead coordinator of the parent union, said she was disappointed but not surprised at the district’s action.
“For us, this shows a school board out-of-touch,” she said in a statement. “Our district, which is close to broke, has already spent over $100,000 on lawyers to fight our efforts and apparently wants to spend even more.”
The case is the second in California to test the so-called parent trigger law, which allows parents to force changes at low-performing schools through a petition signed by 50 percent of the school’s parents.
The law is opposed by teachers unions and administrators, who see it as encroaching upon their area of expertise.
However, the 44th PDK/Gallup Poll on The Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools released Wednesday showed most people feel the opposite.
The survey found 70 percent of respondents in favor of giving parents whose children attend a failing school the option to mount a petition drive requesting that the teachers and principal be removed.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)