In 2010 I authored the Parent Empowerment Act which granted new rights for parents to truly become the architects of their own children’s educational futures. Joined by then-Senator Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, we advanced a measure recognizing that too many, particularly poor and minority children, were trapped in schools designated by California’s Department of Education as failing. Despite annual publication of those schools, seldom was effective restructuring done. Children in these schools continued to languish, contributing to widening achievement gaps in education state standards.
Anaheim’s Palm Lane Elementary School was one of these schools. Palm Lane stands in the shadow of “the happiest place on earth” — Disneyland. Though unaware of official data, parents said they “knew in their gut” their children were not academically advancing and began organizing.
Recently, after fighting their own Palm Lane parents in court for two years — spending upwards of a million dollars in the process — the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education voted to finally accept the parents’ petitions originally submitted in January 2015. The board’s action followed the sound rejection of the district’s appeal by the California Supreme Court.
Court transcripts provide a sordid story of the lengths the district engaged in to deny the mostly immigrant and Latino parents their right to transform the school under the law. In a stinging decision issued by then-Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks, he ruled the district‘s conduct toward the parents in the petition process was “unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”
Undeterred, the AESD Board continued its appeals all the way to California’s Supreme Court. They were joined by both the California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association (whose members are often elected with the political muscle and money of the union) who feared the sweeping decision in support of parents and establishing legal precedence.
The Supremes responded to the parents’ opponents with one word: “Denied.”
With one word, a justice that had been denied these parents opened a new chapter of affirmation of parents’ rights to transform failing schools in California. The lead parents, Cecilia Ochoa, Magdalena Paredes, Geronimo and Myra Gaytan, and Myra Cervantes, now take their rightful place in state history of parents struggling to secure better futures for their children….