South LA Parents Union Bargains with LAUSD Like Any Other Powerful Union

Ben Austin
Executive Director, Parent Revolution

Last Friday, LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy came to West Athens Elementary School in South LA to sign a groundbreaking Partnership Agreement with the leadership of the West Athens Parents Union, called the “Aguilas de West Athens” (AWA). It marked not only an important day for the children of West Athens Elementary, but also an important evolutionary step in the parent power movement.

The negotiated Partnership Agreement is a result of collaboration and cooperation on the part of both the school district and parents. It invests $300,000 in new staffing positions (including a school psychologist and psychiatric social worker) to address issues of school climate, bullying, and student safety; increases focus on Common Core implementation and professional development for teachers; and commits to strengthening parent voice and parent power in the school over the coming year.

As noted in coverage from outlets like the LA Daily News and Hechinger Report, the West Athens success story highlights a markedly different response to organized parents using parent trigger to transform a low-performing school than we’ve seen in recent history.

Two years ago at Desert Trails Elementary, the parents union had to force their own school district through a court order to follow the law and uphold their parent trigger petition. Last year, at 24th Street Elementary in LAUSD,, the parents union was able to work out a groundbreaking deal with district leadership, but only after submitting parent trigger petitions representing almost 70% of their school.

Today is a new day. Rather than waiting for parents to use the parent trigger, the district proactively engaged them so they didn’t have to..

The district responded to the demands of the parent union by coming to the table to negotiate an agreement that puts kids first. Because of their collaborative efforts and the ongoing work and dedication of West Athens parents, teachers, and school leadership, children in their community should have a safer, higher performing school in the coming years that will eventually provide every student with the public education they deserve.

The efforts at West Athens are an important barometer of where the idea and the movement behind parent trigger are heading in California. As more and more districts come to terms with the political power and moral authority that organized parents now possess, we will continue to see more and more proof points of parents able to use their power to create “kids first” reforms at their school, regardless of whether or not they have to actually use the law to “trigger” the change.

The parent trigger movement isn’t about any particular policy endgame. It is about giving parents a powerful seat at the table to advocate for the interests of their children and obtain an excellent education for every student.Different parent unions at different schools in different communities will have different needs. That’s the point. These reforms may or may not fit into neat ideological boxes. That’s because parents don’t care about esotericideological battles between reformers and teachers unions or Democrats and Republicans. Parents all want the same basicnon-ideological thing for their child: a great school.

And they need it right now.

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