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The Los Angeles Unified School District ducks out of trigger law, cites federal waiver

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 19 2014 4:10 a.m. MDT

In this photo taken Thursday, June 14, 2012 Los Angeles Unified School District LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy tours the district in Los Angeles.

Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

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The Los Angeles Unified School District announced last week that it was exempting itself rom the state's controversial parent trigger law. The district claims the exemption based on a federal waiver which restarts the clock on failing schools under federal law.

The exemptioin angered the chief sponsor of the legislation, and he argued that it violates the intent of the statute.

"I am livid about this," former state Sen. Gloria Romero told the Los Angeles Times. "I believe it violates the spirit and intent of parent empowerment."

It is was not immediately clear why an exemption from federal sanctions would exempt the school from complying with state laws based on federal measurements.

As the L.A. Times noted, "In a letter last year, a U.S. Department of Education official told (Unified superintendent John) Deasy the federal waiver did not exempt L.A. Unified from identifying schools for improvement, corrective action or restructuring, and did not affect any related state laws."

According to L.A. School Report, Deasy insisted that L.A. Unified's position still allows parents to use the trigger law if the school is listed as failing for two consecutive years. Under the waiver, he said, “We are completely aligned with the state law.”

Romero told L.A. School Report that the real problem was the timing as much as the decision. The decision was apparently reached last fall, but was only announce last week. “What I want to know,” she said, “is why did they keep this quiet all this time.”

The parent trigger law allows 50 percent of parents in a school's boundaries to essentially take over a failing school by signing a petition, as the Deseret News detailed here.

The parent trigger model has been replicated in a handful of states, including Connecticut, but it remains controversial and many argue that it is undemocratic and prone to unintended impacts. Opponents cite one incident in Los Angeles where a school principal was fired using the parent trigger petition, although many disputed that he was the root of the school's problems.

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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