PLF files brief in Anaheim school district 'parent trigger' law case

March 07, 2016 | By CALEB TROTTER

Today, PLF, along with Parent Revolution, filed this amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal in the case of Anaheim City School District v. Cecilia Ochoa. At issue in the case is whether California’s Parent Empowerment Act–also known as the “parent trigger”–applied to Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim during the 2013-14 school year. Parents used the Act to petition to convert Palm Lane into a charter school after the school was deemed a failing school year after year. The school district, however, tried to avoid the Act by claiming that the Act didn’t apply during the 2013-14 school year. Fortunately, the trial court rejected the school district’s arguments, but the school district has appealed.

In order for the parent trigger law to apply, a school must meet four specific criteria. One of those criteria is that the school must “continue to fail to make adequate yearly progress,” or AYP. AYP is a yearly metric tied to the federal No Child Left Behind Act that measures whether students are learning math and English. Due to California changing its standardized testing during the 2013-14 school year, the state Department of Education received a one-year waiver from reporting AYP to the federal government. Because of that waiver, the Anaheim school district claims that the parent trigger law was effectively nullified for the year, and Palm Lane parents have no recourse to force change at their children’s long-failing school. The school district argues this even though Palm Lane failed to make AYP in 2012, 2013, and nine out of the previous ten years.

Our brief argues that the school district is wrong, and the parent trigger law should apply to Palm Lane for four reasons: (1) the California Legislature intended the law to have broad application; (2) public policy adopted by the state favors increased parental choice in education options for their children; (3) temporary waivers of federal law do not waive state law; and (4) the California Department of Education’s own practices support application of the law. As we state in our brief, “[t]he Parent Empowerment Act was intended to give parents the ability to improve the educational options for students stuck in failing
schools, and that is precisely what the parents here seek to achieve.”

Moreover, this case isn’t just about Palm Lane Elementary and the 2013-14 school year. As I previously noted, the result in this case will have broad implications on the ability of parents to use the law in the future.

Hopefully, the Court of Appeal will affirm the trial court and allow the parents of Palm Lane students to use the parent trigger law to once and for all turnaround their children’s school.

Read the whole brief here.