07/24/2014 01:12 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2014

Former California Senator Gloria Romero and Her Unattractive Parent Trigger Law

In a July 21, 2014, opinion piece in the Los Angeles Register, former California State Senator Gloria Romero criticizes education historian Diane Ravitch for referring to CNN news anchor Campbell Brown as "a good media figure because of her looks."

Let me state from the outset that I believe a person can be attractive and clueless regarding the importance of tenure to competent, career teachers, and that I believe Brown happens to be both.

Romero takes issue with the above idea as expressed by Ravitch. Eh.

What I noticed in Romero's blast was her desire for credit regarding the 2010 California parent trigger law. In the process, Romero states (without evidence) that Ravitch won't credit her with writing the parent trigger law because Romero is Latina.

I guess when one writes her own column, she can rant about wanting credit for the parent trigger bill while excusing herself to stretch what began as an accusation of sexism into an ethnic slight, as well.

Here is what Romero writes:

I'm not surprised by Ravitch's comments. She has long said the "Parent Trigger" law I wrote in 2010 was really written by a conservative think-tank. Sadly, it seemed unfathomable to her that a Latina senator from East Los Angeles could have written it and mustered its passage on behalf of parents fighting for education opportunities for their children. I've written Ravitch setting the record straight; to this day, she has never responded.

Allow me.

Romero insists that the "parent trigger" concept originated with her. If that is the case, she needs to take the issue up with that "conservative think tank" that gives Ben Austin's Los Angeles Parents Union credit for its origin.

The information below comes from the American Legislative Exchange Council's 35-day mailing to its Education Task Force, dated October 28, 2010 (page 73):

The Parent Trigger is an innovation in education reform recently passed into law in California. Briefly put, if half the parents whose children attend a failing public school sign a petition requesting reform of the school, the school must either shut down, become a charter school, or undergo one of two other types of reform.

The Parent Trigger concept is the creation of the Los Angeles Parents Union, a group of self-described progressives led by Ben Austin, a Democrat whose previous employers include President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, and Hollywood director-turned-political-activist Rob Reiner. [Emphasis added.]

A copy of California's parent trigger legislation did make it to the appendices of the mailout, but not without this caution concerning the perceived limits of its usefulness:

California's Parent Trigger legislation appears in Appendix 1. The legislation did not provide a clear set of instructions or detailed procedures for initiating a petition to trigger reform of a school.

The California State Board of Education filled in the details:

On July 15, 2010, the California State Board of Education promulgated and passed "emergency regulations" related to the Parent Trigger. A public comment period was open July 16 through July 23. The regulations define terms, clarify the signature process,and provide standards for the minimum amount of information that must be contained in the petitions. The regulations also add a fifth reform option to the four incorporated by reference to the Federal Register.

Still, ALEC is not pleased with the sketchiness of the California version of what they consider to be a Los-Angeles-Parents-Union-originated concept:

If half of the parents eligible to sign the petition do so, the district must act. The intrinsic simplicity of the process makes it easy to engage parents in a campaign to change their children's school. However, many questions are left unanswered by the sparsely worded legislation. For which transformation strategy should the parents petition? What level of specificity should the petition have? What happens once they get enough signatures.

To add more uncertainty to the process, the Parent Trigger law allows the school district to supercede the parent's choice of reform so long as it produces a reason "in writing" as a result of a "regularly scheduled meeting" of its board. Giving school boards the power to veto the demands of the parents could undermine the whole Parent Trigger ideal by making the petition little more than a gesture of parental frustration.

After ALEC criticizes what it perceives as the limitations of the California parent trigger law, it gives Romero credit as author of the bill.

To be clear, the information in the ALEC mailout does not give Romero credit for the concept. Indeed, as part of an additional several pages of discussion regarding the limitations of the California parent trigger law, ALEC gives credit to "authors of the California Parent Trigger, Gabe Rose and Ben Austin among them...."

So, according to the information in the October 28, 2010, ALEC Education Task Force 35-day mailout, Romero is not "the" writer of California's parent trigger law; others were involved, including the leader of the group that created the concept, Ben Austin of Los Angeles Parents Revolution.

Romero might proudly claim California's parent trigger law as her own, but the idea did not originate with her. Moreover, four years after passage of California's parent trigger law, Romero has next to nothing to show for her "accomplishment." In short, what Romero is so proud to claim as her own has proven to be an utter flop.

Romero criticizes education historian Diane Ravitch for crediting "a conservative think tank" for writing the law. Romero wants the credit for herself, which turns out to be a "no-win": When she states that she wrote it herself, she neglects to acknowledge that the concept was not hers. If she does get credit for writing the law by herself, then its failure belongs only to her.

Congratulations, Gloria. And not to worry, I won't "resort to any dismissive, sexist practices" in calling "your" legislation a failure. No personal descriptor should divert attention from the weight of your accomplishment.

As of January 2011, ALEC offers an improved version of the parent trigger law as part of its model legislation.

No state has claimed any success with it to date.