The "Parent-Trigger" Goes to Compton

| Tue Dec. 7, 2010 7:49 PM EST

-Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones-Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones

[UPDATE: "Parent-trigger" organizers are now accused of misleading parents.]

This week, parents of kids attending LA's public McKinley Elementary School in Compton are trying something new: Shutting down the chronically struggling institution and demanding that it be replaced by a charter school. [Read Kevin Drum for a good backgrounder on charter schools.]

Can parents really do that? In California they sure can, thanks to the state's new "parent-trigger" law, which allows parents to force big changes at the state's lowest-performing schools.

And Compton is just the first case. The Los Angeles Times reports that parent-trigger laws are in various stages nation-wide. Meanwhile, former DC school head Michelle Rhee has launched what she calls a "national movement" to push for more charters and "teacher accountability."

The idea of using charter schools to "solve" low-performing public school issues—as opposed to increasing school funding and teacher pay—remains a divisive one. For now, parents in Compton are joining Michelle Rhee's camp, and it's hard to blame them. Thanks to Prop. 13 and budget cuts, parents in low-income communities in California aren't always able to get more funding or better teachers for their schools. Aside from giving charters a chance, what other options are there for Compton parents in the short-term?