Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim, a failing school for at least the past decade, has become a battleground in the war against union power and its unconstrained efforts to retain absolute control over public education. At stake may be America’s future itself.
Palm Lane parents, disheartened by the school’s abysmal academic record  and the governing district’s resistance to change, sought relief by attempting to exercise the Parent Trigger Law, an option that enables them to petition the school district to transform the failing institution into a newly created public charter school.
Their efforts triggered a well-organized, bare-knuckles campaign by the unions and their representatives to undermine and defeat the mounting groundswell. The tactics included delays and obstructionism, intimidation and disinformation.
The parents organized and doubled down in their efforts. They issued a legal challenge to their powerful opponents in the form of a Writ of Mandate, asking the Orange County Superior Court to order the Anaheim City School District to grant their petition to become a public charter school.
The Parent Trigger Law, a bipartisan effort passed in 2010, allows failing public schools, hobbled by union rules that include controls over teacher performance, work schedule, curriculum, administrative duties and requirements, to be transformed into independent public charter schools.
Charter schools are exempt from the existing union stranglehold on public education. They are able to exercise independent control in the vital areas of hiring and firing of teachers, tenure, administrative duties and curriculum content. Most importantly, charter schools are exempt from the mandate requiring union membership for all California teachers.
SB 54 represents an existential nuclear threat to the union hegemon. The ability to end union control in even one public school is the ability to end union control over public education itself. The reality is apparent in the sometimes questionably legal tactics, outright thuggery and other desperate measures the unions have taken since the parents became activists.
The ability of unions to exercise their power and influence explains why Adelanto is the only public school to have successfully invoked the Parent Trigger Law. Palm Lane hopes to be the second and to inspire other parents to follow their lead.
No system is perfect. Inherent in the democratic process are structural flaws that weaken it. These are the endless legal challenges that drain time, energy and funds. The mechanics enable Might to triumph over Right. That is the union’s goal at Palm Lane.
The Palm Lane parents and their supporters, allies and advocates held a public press conference April 24th in an effort to address these issues, counteract the disinformation campaign and highlight the critical importance of their efforts for all of California’s public school students. The ramifications of the Court’s ruling on the Writ cannot be overstated.
Unions currently function like a politburo. They represent a clear and present danger to the values and traditions that have led to American exceptionalism, the education of the country’s future citizens. They must be defeated.
Palm Lane, Vegara and Friedrichs represent efforts to reassert the legal right of citizens guaranteed by the United States Constitution to determine their own destiny. This quality has defined the American character since our founding and stands in direct opposition to union goals. The Palm Lane parents deserve our admiration and support.
Union Watch will monitor the proceedings closely. We hope Right triumphs over Might.
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About the Author: R. Claire Friend, MD, is the Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, UC Irvine Medical Center, and the editor of the UC Irvine Quarterly Journal of Psychiatry. She is a retired psychiatrist and frequent commentator on the psychological dimensions of education and social welfare policies.
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(1) Palm Lane currently has 38% proficiency in English, 53% proficiency in math. This represents four-fold and two-fold improvements in the respective subjects since 2002. Current rankings are unavailable because the state elected not to test students for the 2013-2014 academic year.
The school provides a totally stripped- down curriculum that offers no courses in US or world history, science, geography, social studies, music, art, foreign language or of the traditional liberal arts subjects that are standard fare in private, parochial and first-tier public schools in most middle-class and affluent neighborhoods.
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