The state Board of Education will be reviewing fixed regulations for a law that allows parents the ability to transform their schools at what school district officials consider to be low performing campuses.

Clearer, more defined rules for the “parent trigger” will be examined by the state panel Thursday, April 21 in Sacramento following recent public comment about the parent empowerment law to the board members last month.

The board met March 9 and 10 to consider mapping out permanent guidelines for the parent empowerment law, which was passed by the Legislature last summer.

The decision to seek clearer guidelines stems from an incident in December when a group of parents at a Compton elementary school decided to exercise their new rights and change the school to a charter. What ensued were acrimony and a heated battle between supporters and opponents of the action, culminating in the decision by the state board to launch a formal probe into what occurred.

Currently, in order to pull the “parent trigger,” more than 50 percent of parents at the school must sign a petition requesting the change.

“I announced earlier that the board has scheduled to convene an additional meeting for Thursday, April 21 to consider permanent regulations to implement the parent empowerment law,” board president Michael Kirst said last month.

“We now have more information about the issues based upon 2011 developments in Compton. The process for considering permanent regulations will utilize the regulatory process and the draft regulations begun in 2010, public comments concerning prior and future draft regulations, and additional meeting of the stakeholders group, and other relevant information.”

The board had previously taken action to expedite the rule-making process by holding a public meeting in February where parents, teachers and school administrators offered their feedback on the permanent regulations.

The Parent Revolution, a nonprofit parent advocate organization, is a strong supporter of the law. The organization, which has members from Mar Vista and Venice, assisted the Compton parents and has been actively looking to help parents on the Westside establish charter schools as well.

“This law was passed to empower parents,” noted Parent Revolution Deputy Director Gabe Rose. “We think that it is quite important that any new regulations are in line with the spirit of the law.”

Program Improvement is a component of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that mandates that each school adopt accountability measures known as Adequate Yearly Progress. If a school does not meet its progress goals, which include Academic Performance Index (API) scores, graduation levels and student participation rates in testing, it is placed in Program Improvement.

Braddock Drive and Stoner Avenue elementary schools and Marina Del Rey Middle School in Del Rey, Orville Wright Middle School in Westchester, Grand View Elementary and Mark Twain Middle School in Mar Vista and Venice High School are in program improvement and are eligible for parents to seek use of the parent trigger law.

Karen Wolfe, whose son is a sixth-grader at Marina Del Rey Middle School, believes in parental choice. She transferred her son, Miles, to Marina Del Rey from Ocean Charter School in Venice though her daughter is still enrolled there.

But Wolfe, who lives in Venice, is concerned about one element of the parent trigger.

“My biggest concern is that I think that it preys on parents’ fears,” she said. “Any process for gathering signatures should be clearly articulated.”

Kirst said there will be time for parents and school administrators to weigh in with their thoughts after the new guidelines are released.

“Once permanent regulations are approved, they will be made available for a required 15-day public comment period,” the board president explained.

Rose said it is critical that the board’s action not make school choices an obstacle.

“We think that it is quite imperative that the people making these decisions should ask themselves will this make it easier for parents or make it harder,” Rose said.

Wolfe reiterated that she was a fan of school choice, but remains concerned about how the current situation can unknowingly allow unintended consequences.

“When you open up this very complex, intricate process of education reform to well-meaning but inexperienced people, that can sometimes result in unanticipated problems,” she said.

Kirst said at this time the board was not pursuing any changes in the existing law.

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