Look out for more astroturf organizing: Rahm wants parent trigger

Bang - parent triggerThere have been rumblings about bringing the parent trigger concept to Illinois from groups like the ultra-conservative Heartland Institute. I wrote about this program almost a year ago in National Journal.

Now local Bill Gates avatar Rahm Emanuel is pushing this charter school-backed process for manipulating parents into “demanding” more charter schools. Earlier this week at a CPS school, Emanuel said (note the threatening words at the beginning – don’t say I haven’t been warning you):

But parents have to do their part, as well. If they find their children stuck in a school that simply isn’t doing the job, we should empower them to force the needed changes.

I believe we should consider allowing a majority of parents to legally force a failing school’s transformation – through administrative changes, bringing in a new operator, or by shutting it down and starting over with a charter, a school of excellence, or any other model that the community chooses. We simply cannot tolerate schools that fail year after year.

How about this – if parents find their children stuck in a school that simply isn’t doing the job, CPS needs to get off its butt and give the Local School Council, the teachers and the parents the help they need for the school to succeed. The Whittier Moms did “their part” – and they had to stage a weeks-long occupation just to wring a promise of a school library from CPS.

And if LSCs were given even a fraction of the support they need and deserve, we would be light years ahead of other districts by now. Research shows that schools improve far more under LSC governance than CPS intervention. Chicago’s LSCs have been transforming schools since 1989, a fact that Emanuel seems not to know; he promises to put principals on five-year contracts with CPS to hold them accountable. Guess he plans to change the school reform law, which gives LSCs the power to offer four-year contracts to principals, one of the few things that has actually worked in Chicago.

He also seems to be unaware that CPS is an open enrollment district. If a parent wants their child out of any school, they can find another option. We’ve already got enough charter schools which, despite claims of having long waiting lists, always seem to be out trolling for new students. And charters often give a cash signing bonus – stocking stuffer!!

Parent trigger sponsors spend big bucks to fool parents

Parent trigger promoters claim that this is parent empowerment, and that the desire for “school transformation” comes from pure (so to speak) parent interest. That’s baloney.

Recent headlines touted the “victory” of Los Angeles’ McKinley School parents who signed petitions to turn the school into a charter. Problem is, many parents are now recanting their signatures, and the “majority” vote may soon be set aside. “They told me the petition was to beautify the school,” said Karla Garcia, whose two children attend McKinley. “They are misinforming the parents, so I revoked my signature.”

The parent trigger movement was started in California by Steve Barr, CEO of Green Dot charter schools. He first created the LSC Parents Union, then established the Parent Revolution. Both groups exist to engage parents in charter school expansion. This has morphed into the parent trigger movement, which is a wholly-owned and operated subsidiary of Green Dot run by non-public school parent and Beverly Hills lobbyist Ben Austin.

As Oakland blogger and Parents Across America founding member Caroline Grannan writes:

The entire Parent Trigger move actually came not from within the McKinley community but from the organization Parent Revolution, which was founded not by parents but by a group of charter school operators led by the high-profile Green Dot. As the Los Angeles Weekly puts it, Parent Revolution “has 10 full-time staff members and a $1 million annual operating budget, is funded by blue-chip philanthropic endeavors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation [of Wal-Mart].” .

For this and many other reasons, voters need to say No to Emanuel’s education plan.

Why not send a note to that effect to Emanuel’s policy and research director, David Spielfogel? david@chicagoforrahm.com

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.