OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

Posts Tagged ‘Parent Empowerment Act’

Anaheim City Council to Weigh in on Charter Schools and Parent Trigger Law

Posted by Chris Nguyen on September 14, 2015

City_of_Anaheim_Seal_svgOn Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council will vote on a resolution supporting students’ “equal access to a quality education,” specifically pointing to charter schools and the rights of families to use the Parent Trigger Law (also known as the “Parent Empowerment Law”).

The resolution reaffirms the City’s “existing budgetary practices…in support of its public schools,” including “joint-use facilities and programs…” (The City currently provides indirect financial support to the tune of $5.7 million each year through facilities/joint use, programming, and public safety.  Additionally, the City has provided indirect financial support for capital improvements/infrastructure worth $19.9 million over the last five years.)

The resolution also urges the seven school districts serving Anaheim to provide more charter schools and “adopt strategic plans and reforms to close the achievement gap for chronically low performing schools in Anaheim before seeking additional city funding.”

These two portions are clearly in response to the request by the Anaheim Union High School District for direct City funding of that district, which was agendized for the Council meeting by Mayor Tom Tait.

Finally, the resolution “urges all seven school districts to actively inform parents of their legal rights under the California Parent Empowerment law and its Parent Trigger provisions, and to support and not in any way legally hinder or cease existing legal efforts to challenge parents exercising their legal rights as authorized by state law.”  This portion is obviously in response to the Anaheim City School District’s actions after parents at Palm Lane Elementary School utilized the Parent Trigger Law and prevailed in court.  (Among other things, the school district is appealing the court ruling.)

For those wondering, there are seven school districts that serve the City of Anaheim:

  • Anaheim Union High School District, 22,531 students, 14 schools
  • Anaheim City School District, 19,164 students, 25 schools
  • Orange Unified School District, 7,383 students, 10 schools
  • Magnolia School District, 5,679 students, 8 schools
  • Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, 3,719 students, 1 school
  • Savanna School District, 1,941 students, 2 schools
  • Centralia School District, 1,245 students, 2 schools

The resolution was agendized at the request of Councilwoman Kris Murray in response to the Tait item to provide direct City funding to the Anaheim Union High School District.

Click here for the staff report on this item.  Below is the full text of the resolution:

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ANAHEIM SUPPORTING ANAHEIM’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND OFFERING TO WORK IN CONTINUED PARTNERSHIP WITH ALL CITY SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO ENSURE STUDENTS IN THE CITY HAVE EQUAL ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION, INCLUDING SUPPORT FOR PROGRAMS, POLICIES, AND EDUCATIONAL CHOICES PROVIDED IN STATE LAW TO EMPOWER PARENTS AND STUDENTS TO CLOSE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP (AKA THE “ANAHEIM PARENT AND STUDENT EMPOWERMENT ACT”)

WHEREAS, the City of Anaheim has a long-standing, supportive partnership with its school districts providing millions annually in supplemental educational resources; and

WHEREAS, the city’s financial support includes funding public safety officers and crossing guards at public school campuses, after school enrichment programs, joint-use agreements for city parks and libraries, and community services that provide a direct enhancement to the education of the City’s children; and

WHEREAS, the City of Anaheim’s greater business community contributes millions annually to support the City’s public schools, including a recently completed Youth Assessment Survey funded by the Disneyland Resort, and the new grant initiative Accelerate Change Together (ACT), managed by the Orange County Community Foundation with financial support provided by the Disneyland Resort, Angels Baseball, and Anaheim Ducks, to address gaps in service for underserved Anaheim youth; and

WHEREAS, the City of Anaheim agrees all residents, parents and children, deserve equal access to a quality education; and

WHEREAS, many school districts across the City are achieving and exceeding state standards, with many of their schools recognized as California Distinguished Schools, and

WHEREAS, several school districts in the City of Anaheim are unfortunately listed as having among the worst performing schools in the County of Orange, including the Anaheim Union High School District, which reports that half of their schools are failing to meet state standards despite having among the highest levels of per pupil funding per the state Department of Finance; and

WHEREAS, parents at chronically low performing schools in Anaheim have sought to exercise their legal rights under California’s Parent Empowerment Law to improve access for their children to a better education and have faced staunch political and legal opposition by elected and administration officials governing these schools at taxpayer expense; and

WHEREAS, charter schools provide a personalized approach to education including smaller classrooms, innovative teaching methods, and parent involvement, such as the acclaimed El Rancho Middle School with Orange Unified School District and the independent GOALS Academy, which opened its doors on August 17, 2015 with the full support of the Anaheim City School District administration and trustees; and

WHEREAS, Charter Schools have been used effectively in the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide an alternative for economically disadvantaged students who have been attending chronically underperforming public schools; and

WHEREAS, the AUHSD has unanimously adopted a resolution asking the City of Anaheim to establish an undefined, unrestricted line item in the City budget to supplement funding for all public schools within the City, above and beyond the millions in public and private financial support provided by the City today and without any advance communication or collaboration by the AUHSD trustees or administration with the City; and

WHEREAS, AUHSD covers five cities in its jurisdiction, Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, La Palma, Stanton and its resolution was directed only in Anaheim and provides no taxpayer safeguards that if adopted by the City, the additional funding would be used to support schools and students in Anaheim, rather than the other four cities of the AUHSD service area; and

WHEREAS, the line item in the City budget requested by AUHSD would have no restrictions, taxpayer oversight or accountability and has the potential to divert vital city funding for Anaheim police, fire, parks, libraries, roads and closing the gap on the City’s escalating pension liabilities; and

WHEREAS, the City’s schools have received record levels of increased state funding over the past two fiscal years and the state Legislative Analyst Office has stated that the next fiscal year will be at or above existing levels, in addition to a $249 million bond approved by voters for AUHSD in 2014 and a $169.3 million bond approved by voters for ACSD in 2010; and

WHEREAS, ACSD had just approved an expenditure of $670,000 in funding that will go to legal fees rather than its public schools to appeal the Superior Court ruling in favor of Palm Lane parents exercising their legal rights under the California Parent Empowerment Law; and

WHEREAS, a high percentage of Anaheim’s economically disadvantaged students continue to attend chronically low performing schools and there is insufficient evidence that unrestricted funding by the City would be used to improve upon the status quo and bring about substantive reforms, as evidenced by the increased levels of local and state funding in recent years that has yet to substantively close the achievement gap at schools reported as underperforming in the City; and

WHEREAS, the City of Anaheim and its public school districts should work together to adopt programs, policies, and reforms that are directed at closing the achievement gap at existing schools currently underperforming by state standards to ensure all students in the City have equal access to a quality education; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Anaheim:

  1. The City of Anaheim will continue to provide significant financial resources based on existing budgetary practices to continue the City’s historic support of its public schools and will continue to partner with its school districts on joint-use facilities and programs to enhance educational opportunities for families, parents and children in the City; and
  2. The City of Anaheim urges the seven school districts that serve Anaheim students to adopt policies and programs to provide greater levels of high quality educational choice, including charter schools, and to adopt strategic plans and reforms to close the achievement gap for chronically low performing schools in Anaheim before seeking additional city funding; and
  3. The City of Anaheim urges all seven school districts to actively inform parents of their legal rights under the California Parent Empowerment law and its Parent Trigger provisions, and to support and not in any way legally hinder or cease existing legal efforts to challenge parents exercising their legal rights as authorized by state law.

Posted in Anaheim, Anaheim City School District, Anaheim Union High School District, Centralia School District, Magnolia School District, Orange Unified School District, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, Savanna School District | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Anaheim City School District’s First Robocall to Palm Lane Elementary School Parents – Full Recording & Transcript

Posted by Chris Nguyen on September 8, 2015

Anaheim City School DistrictMuch has been made about the content of the robocalls from the Anaheim City School District (ACSD) to Palm Lane Elementary School parents regarding the effort to utilize the Parent Trigger Law (officially the Parent Empowerment Act) to convert Palm Lane into a charter school.

Oddly in all the controversy about whether ACSD was informing Palm Lane parents or lobbying Palm Lane parents, no one has provided the full audio nor the full text of any of the robocalls.  So for the first time for public consumption since the initial robocall was made, OC Political publishes the first robocall here.

From time to time, OC Political leaves it to our readers to read/listen to the original source rather than filtering it through our analysis.  This will be one of those cases, so other than noting below the differences between the recording and the original script, we leave it to you, our readers, to listen/read for yourselves what the first robocall from ACSD to Palm Lane parents said.

In response to a request from OC Political, ACSD provided a 97-second recording of their robocall to Palm Lane parents on December 9, 2014, when the petition process was heating up but before the petitions were submitted.

Here’s the audio of the robocall:

 

Here’s the transcript of the robocall:

Good evening parents,

This is Linda Wagner, Superintendent of the Anaheim City School District.

Providing the highest quality education possible for your students is our highest priority. Recently, it has been reported to us that there are people in our community who have been paid by an organization to gather parent signatures for a petition that could completely change the way some of our schools are run. What they may not be telling you is that signing the petition could change our schools in dramatic ways.

If they wish to do so, the law allows parents to sign petitions that cause one of several things to happen.  The petition could cause your child’s school to become a charter school; it could force the closure of a school; and it could result in a complete change in the faculty and the staff of the school. If you are truly interested in changing your school, including perhaps new teachers and staff, we do not want to discourage you from signing the petition. We would ask, however, that you read what you are signing and be careful about allowing aggressive petition gatherers to pressure you in to signing a document without all of the facts.

We have not and will not advocate on either side of this issue.

While we do not control communications from either side on this issue, we remain committed to offering a clear and fact-based presentation of all information to our parents, so that you can make the very best decision for your child.

We are proud of the well-rounded education we provide our students. Our programs integrating technology, engineering, robotics, mathematics and critical thinking are preparing our students for college and careers.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to call us anytime at (714) 517-7510.

While any script will vary from the way a call is actually recorded (slight ad libs or minor differences from the speaker not reading the script word-for-word while recording), there is one odd, substantive deviation regarding Common Core. The original script had: “Anaheim City School District teachers are prepared and focused on teaching new national standards designed to help students think deeply, apply their learnings successfully, and be well prepared prepare for a bright and promising future.”  For whatever reason, Superintendent Wagner left this sentence from the script out when she recorded the call.

The only other noticeable changes were the swapping of two of the last three paragraphs (including the one that originally contained the omitted sentence), the longer introduction, and Wagner’s increased use of the first person (we) instead of the script’s original third person (the Anaheim City School District).  Wagner also corrected a few grammatical errors in the script.

Here is the original script for the December 9, 2014 robocall, as provided to OC Political by the Anaheim City School District:

Dear Parents,

Providing the highest quality education possible for your students is our highest priority. Recently, it has been reported to us that there are people in our community who have been paid by an organization to gather parent signatures for a petition that could completely change the way some of our schools are run. What they may not be telling you is that signing the petition could change our schools in dramatic ways.

If they wish to do so, the law allows parents to sign petitions that cause one of several things to happen.  The petition could cause your child’s school to become a charter school; it could force the closure of a school; and it could result in a complete change in the faculty and staff of the school. If you are truly interested in changing your school, including perhaps new teachers and staff, we do not want to discourage you from signing the petition. We would ask, however, that you read what you are signing and be careful about allowing aggressive petition gatherers to pressure you in to signing a document without all of the facts.

We have not and will not advocate on either side of this issue.

The Anaheim City School District is proud of the well-rounded education we provide our students. Our programs integrating technology, engineering, robotics, mathematics and critical thinking are preparing our students for college and careers. Anaheim City School District teachers are prepared and focused on teaching new national standards designed to help students think deeply, apply their learnings successfully, and be well prepared prepare for a bright and promising future.

While we do not control the communications from either side on this issue, we remain committed to offering a clear and fact based presentation of all of the information to our parents, so that you can make the best decision for their child.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to call us anytime at (714) 517-7510.

Posted in Anaheim City School District | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Parents and Children Win The Right to Start a Public Charter School at Palm Lane Elementary

Posted by Craig P. Alexander on July 17, 2015

Yesterday (July 16, 2015), after a seven day trial, Superior Court Judge Andrew P. Banks issued his decision awarding the parents and children who wished to convert their failing public school Palm Lane Elementary into a public charter school under the Parent Empowerment Act (also known as the Parent Trigger Law). To read the Court’s ruling go to: CJC5thflr@occourts org_20150716_144242

In brief, the Judge found that the parents had complied with and substantially complied with all of the requirements of the law and that the Anaheim City School District and its Board of Trustees had neither complied with the letter nor the spirit of the law.  Judge Banks ordered that the Board reverse its February 19, 2015 finding that the parents had not gathered enough signatures (he ruled they had) and their erroneous finding that Palm Lane Elementary was not a “subject school” that was eligible to be converted to a public charter school.

What does this mean?  First assuming the School District does not appeal (or that the Appeals Court rebuffs any such appeal), in the fall of 2016 Palm Lane Elementary will re-open under Charter School management rather than under the failed management of the Anaheim City School District, its Board of Trustees and their union partners.  I should note at this juncture that Palm Lane Elementary has been on a “failing school” list for over TEN years.  If the District had not denied the parents’ petitions on February 19th, Palm Lane would have opened as a public charter school this fall. But due to the District’s delays, including filing a lawsuit against the lead parents, the children of Palm Lane Elementary must live with another year of poor performance and mismanagement.  A year of their education they can never get back.

Space here does not allow me to go into details about the manner in which the District handled this affair (which is likely not over yet) but it is telling that Judge Banks stated in his ruling: “I find the rejection [of the petitions] to be procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”  By rejection he was referring to the District’s February 19th decision.  By this finding and statement the Judge was not just finding that the District was wrong but that their actions were anything but the “cooperative working with the parents” the Judge ruled the law required.  In the Judge’s words: “Clearly, the Respondents [the District] did not meet their obligations of good faith cooperation with respect to this issue and as mandated by the Act. [the Parent Trigger Law].” [additions mine].

As one example the Judge noted that Dr. Linda Wagner, Anaheim City School District’s Superintendent, did not know even on the day she testified in Court who the lead Petitioners were (i.e. the Lead Parents who submitted the Petitions to convert Palm Lane to a public charter school).  He also noted that the author of the Parent Trigger Law, former State Senator Gloria Romero, issued a letter to the District offering to assist the District in coordinating with the lead Parents who Sen. Romero was working with, and the District NEVER RESPONDED TO THAT LETTER.  Since Dr. Wagner authorized the District’s attorney to file a lawsuit against those very parents (who they specifically named in the lawsuit) a couple of months prior to the trial, in my opinion either she was willfully ignorant or incredibly disingenuous.

It is said that elections have consequences.  I hope this trial court ruling has election consequences to the Board of Trustees of the Anaheim City School District. The parents and children of that District deserve better!

Kudos to the legal team of Kirkland & Ellis who represented the parents and Gloria Romero’s organization in the lawsuits, to the California Policy Center, Inc., Arturo Garcia, the lead parents and their supporters and a lot of others I do not have space here to list who also supported the parents.  Mega Kudos to Senator Gloria Romero for her unwavering support of the parents both in being the Parent Trigger Law author but even after leaving the legislature, helping the very people she wrote the law for!

Note: I call the charter school a “public charter school” because a charter school is still a public school, just one that is not dominated by public employee unions.

 

Posted in Anaheim City School District | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »