Anaheim Council Weighs in On Palm Lane Charter School Fight

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A split Anaheim City Council Tuesday night narrowly passed a resolution calling on a local school district to follow parents’ wishes if they choose to convert an elementary school into a charter campus, but only after it was clarified that the city isn’t taking a stance on the politically charged issue.

Last week, the Anaheim City School District board unanimously rejected a petition by parents to take over Palm Lane Elementary School and change it into a charter school because the document didn’t contain enough signatures or outline a conversion plan, which is required under state law.

That law is called the Parent Empowerment Act, also known as the “Parent Trigger” law, and was passed in 2010. It allows parents to assume control of a low-scoring school and convert it into a charter campus as long as a majority of the parents back the take-over.

Organizers claimed to have collected signatures that represent 66 percent of the students’ parents. But school district officials said the valid signatures amount to only 48 percent. Petitioners were given 60 days to collect enough signatures to reach a majority.

The fight over Palm Lane Elementary has become a hot-button issue for Orange County conservatives, with groups like the county’s Republican Party and the Lincoln Club mobilizing to support the pro-charter school parents.

It has also attracted the attention of several Republican state lawmakers. Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) and representatives of Assemblywoman Young Kim (R-Fullerton) and state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), attended the council meeting and voiced their support of parents’ effort to convert Palm Lane into a charter school.

Parents who back the take-over say that Palm Lane has consistently underperformed for a decade, and that they have the right to choose a management option they believe will offer their children a quality education.

“Please support our kids. They are our future. And in order for them to be good citizens, they need to have a good education,” parent Magdalena Paredes told the council.

Meanwhile, those against the takeover say the school can be improved without taking the radical step of converting it into a charter school.

Council members approved the resolution in a 3-2 vote, with Councilwoman Lucille Kring, who proposed the resolution, Councilwoman Kris Murray and Mayor Tom Tait voting in favor. Council members Jordan Brandman and James Vanderbilt voted against it.

Tait said he would back the resolution because its language made clear that the city was only asking the school district to follow the law if parents collect enough signatures to transform Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school, but doesn’t explicitly advocate for the conversion. He said that decision was best left up to parents.

Brandman disagreed and argued that the resolution implies Anaheim’s support of converting Palm Lane into a charter school.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • Smeagel4T

    There needs to be regulations requiring all charter schools corporations to be 100% transparent exactly like public schools, and any companies providing outsourcing services to the charter schools must be 100% transparent in regard to any corporate operations related to those services. The later should likewise be applied to public school dealings with corporations where missing.

    With Wall Street hedge fund managers starting to get involved in charter schools, the warnings of crony capitalism and political corruption are starting to light up everywhere. If charter schools are going to be operating in substitution to public schools, they must operate under exactly the same transparency as public schools.

    Their recent tendency toward going to court and claiming that as private corporations they don’t have to be transparent is a strong warning sign of corruption, and is easily countered by making 100% transparency for the entire money trail a contractual agreement for running a charter school. If the corporation is unwilling to enter into such an agreement, then the corporation can involve itself in some other form of business.