‘Trigger’ parents charge fraud

Fraud scuttled the “parent trigger” drive to take over a low-performing elementary school, charges the Desert Trails Parent Union in Adelanto, California. Seventy percent of parents of the school’s 666 students signed parent trigger petitions, but the board rejected some signatures as invalid and counted 97 revocations, pushing the percentage to 48 percent.

There is disturbing evidence that the revocations submitted here were secured through a campaign of fraud, harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, outright forgery,” stated attorney Mark Holscher in the letter to the district sent late Monday.

Two revocation documents were forged, said Patrick Detemple, of Parent Revolution, which is backing the trigger campaign. At least 27 should not have been counted because they lacked a signature or were signed by someone who hadn’t signed the original petition, he said.

If those revocations are invalidated, the petition would surpass the required 50 percent threshold.

One mother said she signed a petition to “save our school,” not realizing she was revoking her previous signature on the parent trigger petition.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times story, for those who prefer it.

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  1. No spin from the usual suspects?

    There ought to some way to frame this story so that the school district and the union doesn’t look like what they are – avaricious and unscrupulous – and the blame is placed where defense of a failed status quo requires it.

    I think somone’s just not trying.

  2. In the big picture, the Parent Trigger is just unworkable. Anyone familiar with the inside of a school community (which includes no one involved in the Parent Revolution operation, nor the so-called “reformers” who are pushing it) can see that if it gains any traction, it’s going to ignite chaos, conflict, confusion and controversy — “warfare,” as John Fensterwald put it. (And Fensterwald is hardly a fiery critic of education “reform.”)

    That happened in Compton and it happened in Adelanto.

    How many MORE vulnerable schools are these predators going to target before their funders start noticing that despite all the press puffery (special callout to the ultra-gullible Associated Press, and don’t even get started on the craziness at the LA Weekly), Parent Revolution’s track record is zero and it’s leaving nothing but wreckage in its wake?

    • Sabotaging something and then calling it unworkable–as is what apparently happened in Adelanto–is a bit disingenuous, don’t you think?

      • “Sabotage” is the Parent Revolution claim; hyperbole and bomb-throwing are Parent Revolution’s stock in trade.

        It simply IS unworkable. No, that’s not disingenuous; it’s realistic. if even those who are not critics of the Parent Trigger (e.g. Fensterwald) are referring to it as “warfare,” we can see how unsound it is.

        • Yeah, because when you capitalize the word “is” you establish the case for the unworkable nature of parental trigger so firmly that no further explanation is necessary.

          Yeah, not going to work. It’s not even going to work here. Among parents whose children are at stake a tactic like that wouldn’t even qualify as a bump in the road.

  3. Ah, so the tactic du jour is to carefully ignore the particulars of the case to focus on contentless generalities.

    Let’s stick to specifics.

    Got anything to say about the fraud perpetrated by school district and union officials?

    Since you’re not dumb enough to think flinging scats in every direction, like referring to Associated Press as “ultra-gullible” (what? ordinary gullibility wasn’t sufficiently damning?) or LA Weekly as “crazy” is really all that effective a response I can only think you don’t have anything of substance to respond with.

    By the way, three other states have passed parental trigger law.

    • I don’t have enough information to be convinced of whether fraud was involved — on either side. It’s clear that the Desert Trails parents were in a lot of confusion.

      The bigger issue is that it was entirely predictable that this scam would lead to “warfare” in the community, and charges and countercharges of fraud are equally predictable.

      The biggest issue is that there have been no successful Parent Triggers (assuming that one views a consummated takeover by a charter operator a “success”). Very often, those speaking up for the Parent Trigger are apparently unaware of that.

      I’m entitled to my media criticism — the press has been instrumental in promoting this fad. I dispute that it means I don’t have anything of substance to respond with.

      Yes, I’m well aware of other states’ eagerness to pass Parent Trigger laws. it’s kind of bizarre in the Information Age that they aren’t aware of its increasingly evident lack of success in California.


      • What’s clear is that those parents were anything but confused. They knew their kids were getting a rotten education and they have the means to do something about it.

        You, however, have a bigger problem. You can’t actually engage those parents because they’ll tell you to get lost so you have to try to finesse the issue by claiming the poor, confused little folks were misled by big meanies. Trouble is, it isn’t just parental trigger that proves lots of parents are very unhappy with the current system and, given an opportunity, will desert it. Charters and vouchers are both just more evidence that “parental trigger” by other means is entirely acceptable.

        And as for your “media criticism” it seems to be of a very selective nature.

        Stories that showcase unhappiness at the thought of any change to the system, and strangely silent on the quality of the education offered, are clearly tributes to the journalist’s craft. Stories that highlight parental anger at the fact they have to send their kids to a lousy school are fad-mongers or crazy.

        Gee, is there a pattern there?

        Oh, and let us not stray too far from the allegation that the district committed *fraud*. A believable allegation in the face of numerous testing scandals which prove that public education professionals and elected officials are not above playing fast and loose with the law when they’ve got something at stake and think they can get away with it.

        I don’t envy you your task in trying to defend the educational status quo. The more so since it’s based on parental apathy and resignation – every occasion of spirited defense of how nothing must change raises the profile of public education in those parents mind’s and when you’re dependent on apathy and resignation you certainly don’t want to be in the position of trying to steer those apathetic and resigned parents away from solutions that take power out of the hands of people who’ve misused it and puts that power in the hands of those parents.

        Perhaps you should start small by trying to convince thirsty people that a drink of water’s not a good idea.

        • All that rambling bluster is really not worth responding to. Though I’ll point out that of course my media criticism is of a selective nature — I criticize crappy journalism — including the AP’s gullible, unquestioning parroting of Parent Revolution press releases and the LA Weekly’s wild-eyed rants about the evilness teachers — and not sound journalism.

        • Certainly convenient that my “rambling bluster” is not worth responding to.

          You save some of your valuable time and you’re not revealed to have no response that isn’t an implicit call to make no substantive changes to the current public education system.

          What’s kind of neat is that your lack of substantive response exactly mirrors the larger public education lobby. Probably part of the reason you’re losing and those evil “reformers” are winning.

          • I gave quite a bit of substantive detail in my response below, Allen. I can’t say who’s “winning” or “losing,” and it’s unfortunate that it has to be “warfare’ to begin with. But do note that Parent Revolution has a track record of zero, and there are no “successful” parent triggers anywhere, so I’m not sure how you call that “winning.”

          • I already covered how that’s winning; parental trigger’s practiced every time a parent chooses to send their child to a charter rather then the who-cares district school. Every time a parent gets a voucher, that’s the parental trigger being exercised.

            As for that track record, I can see why you status quo defenders are terrified of parental trigger. Charters have already proven the school district’s unnecessary but directly tearing hunks out of school districts? That’s a whole new level of attack on public education orthodoxy.

            Luckily for America’s parents and kids you won’t be able to stop it.

  4. Oh, and let’s be clear about those “vulnerable” schools…they suck.

    That’s why they’re vulnerable and what they’re vulnerable too is parental anger and disaffection. That is, where the law allows their anger and disaffection to have some weight.

    So Caroline, what you’re arguing for, stripped of the lurid predictions of a distopian educational future as a result of parental trigger, is that parents shut up and accept whatever lousy education the current system dishes out.

    • Don’t be such a big bully, Allen. Here’s a commentary that I endorse on real parent empowerment.


      • Oh, that’s delish…

        “We know that these strategies do not reflect what most parents actually want, or what works for children and schools. A 2010 Phi Delta Kappa poll found that 54 percent of Americans think the best thing to do about low-performing schools is to keep the school open with the same staff and give it more support.”

        Well sure. What could be a more reasonable course of action then to reward people who are doing a lousy job? I know that everyone who gives the idea any though will tell you that if someone’s doing a lousy job, and has been doing a lousy job for, oh, a couple of decades the thing to do is give them a raise. Given a couple of more decades they’re just bound to get things right.

        Yeah, that’ll work.

        • The challenges of low-performing schools that serve a critical mass of high-need, impoverished kids are not due to “lousy” teachers. (Obviously I’m not posting this for Allen’s benefit, since he’s off full speed with a full head of steam here, but for anyone else following this.)

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            Allen didn’t say it was due to lousy teaching. He said people were doing a lousy job, and they are. People encompasses a whole lot more than teachers. You’re mis-characterizing his comments.

          • Har! If Caroline didn’t mis-characterize my comments she’d have nothing at all to say.

            Of course those low-performing schools aren’t due to all the teachers being lousy. Since teaching skill’s not valued by the public education system there’s no way to direct the good teachers to the comfortable, white suburbs and the lousy teachers to the poorer end of town. How can they be identified?

  5. Parent Revolution is now in full shriek, yelling about “recission-gate” and accusing everyone in Adelanto, the school district, the teachers’ union and anyone else they can come up wit of fraud. This is, of course, their standard tactic by now — they did it in the McKinley fiasco too, and they went completely berserk when a teachers’ union in the east publicly posted an advocacy strategy for lobbying against a parent trigger law in Connecticut.

    After a while all this shrieking is going to lose its effect, though they do have much of the press going now.

    It’s all about convincing Parent Revolution’s funders to keep sending the checks in the face of failure after failure, needless to say.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    Let’s be honest. Any time one side pushes and the other doesn’t push back, things will be pretty peaceful.

    The California teachers unions have made it clear that they will fight any attempt to invoke a “parental trigger.” They will fight it long and they will fight it hard. Such a strategy makes “chaos, conflict, confusion and controversy” inevitable.

    If the union in Desert Trails just rolled over and said, “Things aren’t going well now; we might as well try something different,” there wouldn’t be anywhere near this level of community disturbance.

    It may well be true that no parental trigger law is practical. Any potentially successful attempt to invoke it will lead to opposition that tears at the community. Any attempt with no chance of success will, well, it won’t succeed.

    So the law may just be words on paper that will never change a child’s education.

  7. Well, the “something different” in Adelanto was kind of nebulous, Roger.

    The Desert Trails parents were given two petitions to sign. One called for turning the school into a charter — a parent-run charter, by some accounts. The other was a long list of demands. Both sides seem to be giving this account (of the two petitions), so I don’t think that’s in question.

    Well, some of the demands on the long list can only be met with ample extra funding, or by shifting funds from other schools in the district. So, what’s the solution to that issue?

    Interestingly, some of the demands are in directly conflict with the policies espoused by the education-“reform” sector with which Parent Revolution is allied. Examples: The list included smaller class sizes, although the “reform” sector’s current view is that larger classes are preferable (except for their own kids, of course). The list included increased enrichments, although the “reform” sector’s policies lead to fewer enrichments and increased test prep (except for their own kids, of course). The list included additional supports for the school, such as more playground monitors and other staff, which of course require more funding. Yet the “reform” sector insists that increased funding does not improve education (except for their own kids’ schools, of course).

    No matter how much Parent Revolution shrieks that it was all a plot by the union, it doesn’t seem like there’s any doubt that the two petitions confused things. It’s not very clear whether the parents actually are calling for a parent-run charter school. But if they are, that seems problematic too. It’s a challenging, crushing job to run a school — are parents, even the capable, committed parent leaders who are speaking out on both sides in Adelanto, really prepared to take that on? Parent Revolution cannot help them, as its staff has no actual experience in education.

    So just what is it that the effort in Adelanto is really attempting to try? In my view, its actual goal is to convince Parent Revolution’s funders to keep the checks coming a while longer, despite the track record of failure so far.

    If everyone rolled over and said “OK, we’ll do what the petitions say” — when there are two petitions and much of what they ask for is unfeasible — what would happen then?

    • Roger Sweeny says:


      You know and I know that if 70% of parents had signed a single petition calling for a charter school, the Desert Trails union would have fought it. They would have allied with as many local people as they could to say that the other locals pushing the project were sadly, disastrously wrong–maybe being used by outside agitators, maybe worse. People would be brought into the district to talk to all the parents who had signed, to tell them what a bad idea it was, to tell them that Parent Revolution didn’t have the parents’ interests at heart, that they had their own agenda, that turning the school into a charter would severely damage the community, etc.

      If they weren’t having success, they would draw out the process as long as possible, and bring in the state if they could, to stop this particular death sentence, or to repeal the parental trigger law completely.

      Many of them would sincerely believe that they were doing all this to save public education in America. It would be tough and divisive and would leave big scars. But, hey, saving public education is not a tea party.

  8. Stacy in NJ, you’re trying to claim that Allen didn’t mean that teachers were doing a lousy job — he meant that other staff at the school were doing a lousy job, but exonerated teachers? What other staff?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Everything you write gets filtered through the “whatever is politically expedient for Caroline to type” filter. Try setting aside your ideology for a minute and try for accuracy.

      I didn’t “claim” anything. I made a statement of fact. I provided evidence. Try it; you might like it.

    • Maybe the next time the Olympics comes to the U.S. we can add “rhetorical gymnastics” as an event. Certainly we have plenty of highly motivated amateurs.

      Of course the teachers are doing a lousy job. It’s a lousy school. Who among the professionals should get a big, fat slab of the responsibility for that state of affairs but the teachers?

      The real culprit, the underlying force that encourages lousy teachers to be lousy and good teachers to be lousy is the institution for which they work. If competence were an important consideration in the public education some efforts would have been made to discriminate between good and lousy teachers.

      But there hasn’t been which is why various state legislatures have tried with varying degrees of success to force upon the public education system the requirement that good and bad teachers ought to be identified as such and ought to be treated differently.

      Unfortunately, those same state legislatures haven’t come to the conclusion that many of their constituents have come to, that it’s not worth waiting and fighting. Just take your business elsewhere and leave the school district to stew in its own juices.

  9. Stuart Buck says:

    What an Orwellian group the left-wing “Parents Across America” is . . . they oppose anything that gives poor parents the ability to escape whatever system left-wingers design for them.

  10. How generic you are today, Stuart. Is that the comment you reserve just for weighing in when you don’t have time to read the thread?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Who died and made you the comment police?

      • The Desert Trails parents DID submit a petition calling for a charter, Roger. They also signed a second petition with a list of demands.

        • Caroline, you’ve stated several times that Parent Revolution has a track record of zero or a failing track record, but you’re throwing up a smoke screen. Parent Revolution’s failures are political; the schools’ failures are academic and impact students, families, and the community. Your entire argument here can be summed up in four words: “Let them eat cake.” Historically, that’s not a winning strategy.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          Yes, Desert Trails parents signed two petitions, one calling for a charter and one calling for improvements. This has made it hard to determine what they really wanted since the two are not completely compatible.

          My hypothetical was “if they signed a single petition calling for a charter school.” I wanted to assume away the problem of “what were they really signing for?”

          I was suggesting that even if 70% of the parents had signed one and only one petition clearly calling for a charter, the local and state unions would have fought it and fought it hard.