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The State Board of Education today gave tentative approval to rules outlining how parents may petition to dramatically restructure their children's low-performing schools.

The nine-member board voted unanimously to provide a final 15-day comment period before they vote in September to officially adopt the regulations. But board president Michael Kirst doubted members would make any significant changes to what was approved today.

The rules reflect a give-and-take between the powerful California Teachers Association and the well-funded advocacy group Parent Revolution. The regulations would fill in the gaps of the controversial "parent trigger" law signed last year by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after it squeaked through the Legislature.

The law allows parents to demand one of four school overhauls if a majority of parents at the school or from feeder schools petition for the change.

The teachers' union has raised concerns about two options that would require teacher layoffs at a school. The board ultimately rejected language that would have made a majority of teachers approve switching a school into a charter school through the trigger process. The law's original author, former Democratic Sen. Gloria Romero, said this law was about empowering parents, which doesn't involve getting permission slips from teachers.

Parents at McKinley Elementary School were the first to test the law last year. But they failed to record the date of some signatures on the petition, giving the Compton Unified School District legal means to deny the request.

The new formal rules would require the state's Department of Education to post on its website an example petition, helping prevent issues like the one in Compton. Strict rules would explain what information parents must include in petitions. Both sides in Compton accused each other of scare tactics and intimidation; these would be barred.

The state trigger law applies to schools with an Academic Performance Index ranking of less than 800 that haven't made significant improvements. These would not include schools whose performance is so poor that they earn the federal "persistently low-achieving" label and thus are already subject to reforms.

Though hundreds of schools are eligible, only 75 schools may use the trigger process under Senate Bill X5 4.

Reform options include replacing the principal and adding performance incentives for teachers; replacing the principal and firing half of the teachers; shutting down the school altogether; or converting the school to a charter.

Parent Revolution called for board member Patricia Rucker to recuse herself from the debate because she served as a lobbyist for the teachers' union. Rucker said after the vote there was no legal merits to their complaint. She did not recuse herself and voted in favor of continuing the process.


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