Progressives, like those who dominate the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education, like to consider themselves champions of justice – especially social justice for the poor, working people and immigrants.
This evening they will vote on the Palm Lane Elementary parents’ choice of charter operator for their school, and this vote will reveal whether that commitment to justice is real or rhetorical.
Justice, rightly understood, means to give people their due. If a student works hard, completes homework and scores well on tests, justice takes the form of high grade. When a laborer completes his work or a contractor fulfills the terms of a contract, justice requires they be paid their agreed upon wage or fee.
The Parent Empowerment Act – more commonly referred to as the Parent Trigger Law – gives parents the statutory right to convert their low-performing school into an independent public charter schools is they gather enough valid signatures from the parents of students at the school in question.
In 2014, a group of poor, working class and immigrant parents from failing Palm Lane Elementary circulated a Parent Trigger petition to re-start their school as an independent charter school because they wanted a better education for their kids. Despite relentless efforts by the school district and its constituent employee unions to subvert their efforts, the parents succeeded in gathering enough signatures and turned them in in early 2015.
The district used every trick in the book to submarine the signature verification process, and when the AESD Board of Education rejected the petition, the Palm Lane parents sued. In July 2015, the judge found the district’s actions to be “procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious,” ruled the parents had complied with the law and ordered the school district to proceed with charter conversion.
Instead, the AESD appealed the ruling to the state Court of Appeals – which in February 2017, the appellate court ruled in favor of the parents. The AESD spent nearly a million dollars dragging the Palm Lane parents through an almost two-year court battle.
Several weeks ago, the Palm Lane parents selected New Century Charter Schools to operate the new Palm Lane charter school. Even then, they’ve been bedeviled by opponents of the charter conversion. Anaheim City Councilman (and former AESD school board member) Jose F. Moreno attempted to broker a back-door deal take effective control of the charter operator selection. In recent days, Palm Lane parents have been receiving calls from people purporting to represent the school district and falsely claiming the New Century would charge parents an attendance fee, use un-credentialed teachers, bar low-performing students, and not provide special education, speech therapy or other services legally-mandated services.
New Century Charter Schools is absolutely have earned the right to have the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education approve their selection of New Century. These parents have done what the law has asked of them – and more. They have endured the active, unremitting hostility of the AESD leadership and the unions. If AESD Board of Education members are truly committed to justice, they will give the parents their due – and serve the interests of justice – by approving their choice of charter operator.