Response to Tribune attack on PAA “parent trigger” position

The Chicago Tribune didn’t publish a response letter from Parents Across America on the parent trigger, even though their April 29th editorial specifically slammed our position.

But a few days ago they did print this letter from one of the unions involved in the only parent trigger shoot-out so far:

 

This is in response to your April 30 editorial “Parent power.” When you refer to the McKinley Elementary School petition in Compton, Calif., as “parent-powered, child-focused,” you ignore the fact that the petition was circulated not by parents in the school but by paid organizers pushing a for-profit charter school operation. Dozens of parents signed their names after being given false information about the nature of the petition, and once they found out, asked to retract their signatures. That’s one important reason the board took action, a fact you leave out.

The quote you attribute to the California Federation of Teachers president did not appear, as the editorial implies, during the effort by the school board to stop the petition but nearly a year earlier, before the bill became law. Your comment “cue the hysteria” would more aptly apply to your editorial.

Carolyn Richie, president, Compton Council of Classified Employees, Compton, Calif.

Here’s the letter two PAA members wrote, which the Trib has not deigned to print:

To the editors:

It was surprising to see the Parents Across America position paper on Parent Trigger laws derided as “hysteria” in an April 29 editorial, misleadingly headlined “Parent Power.”

Our position is based on research and thoughtful understanding of the issues.  While the Parent Trigger allows parents to voice discontent with a school, it gives them no opportunity to choose among research-based reforms, rather than privatization, firing half the staff, or closing schools.  It also fails to promote the best practices for parent involvement from the ground up, and in  the process, creates huge potential for abuse, disruption and divisiveness.  We instead support policies in which parents are authentically involved at the ground level in developing strategies for improvement.

In Compton, the organization Parent Revolution selected the school and the charter operator before sending paid operatives into the Compton community to collect signatures. The campaign was secretive, and Compton parents had no opportunity to consider all the options. Soon after the petition was submitted, confusion and chaos broke out. Some parents who signed said they had misunderstood the petition, or had been misled about what it called for. Some Parent Trigger supporters said they had been harassed. Angry parents protested at a Compton school board meeting, and charges and countercharges continue to fly.

Our view is that divisiveness are inevitable in this poorly regulated process. The Parent Trigger is a distraction from the real work our schools require – implementing proven, common-sense strategies for parent involvement and meaningful education reform.

Signed,  Caroline Grannan (SF) and Leonie Haimson (NY) for Parents Across America.

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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.
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