Posts Tagged ‘parent trigger’

PAA leader helps kill parent trigger in Florida

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

RitaThe indomitable Rita Solnet, who helped beat back the parent trigger bill last year in Florida, has done it again, with the help of other parent groups and some major goofs by Parent Revolution.

The astroturfers got caught setting up front groups, forging signatures on pro-trigger petitions, and lying about a video used to show Florida legislators that there were, yes, there were some parents who supported the proposal.

This is a huge win against Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, and the rest of the corporate reformers. It will resound across the country. Huge kudos to Rita who led the fight all the way.

PSAT for 4-30-13, Part 1: Stop shopping at Walmart!!!

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Why would anyone who cares about public schools shop at Walmart?

Really, folks. It’s your money. And when you shop at WalMart, your money goes to support:

  • more charter schools: $3.8 million in Chicago alone  including $230,000 for UNO charter schools.
  • more school closings: $500,000 to pay for Chicago’s sham “public engagement” school closing hearings.WalMartFrown
  • more astroturf “parent” groups like Stand for Children (millions) and Parent Revolution ($6.3 million) to push the parent trigger and other corporate reforms.
  • more high-stakes standardized testing: Walton supports teacher bonuses linked to raising test scores.
  • more vouchers for private and religious schools.
  • more Michelle Rhee: despite the recent scandals involving Rhee, WalMart just upped their giving to $8 million.

According to Diane Ravitch, “they commit about $160 million each year for charters, vouchers, Teach for America, think tanks, and media. Everything they do has the singular goal of dismantling public education and opening the schools to untrained, uncertified teachers.”

Maybe if every parent, every teacher, and every student in Chicago stopped shopping at WalMart, we wouldn’t all have to be out in the streets time and time again, like the three-day demonstration planned for May 18-19-20. 

Why boycott?

I had a plan to raise a boycott issue once a month, taking a cue from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s strategy – “our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from (businesses).”

I’ve also pointed out that, even without an admittedly unlikely crippling nationwide boycott of WalMart, Microsoft, Hyatt Hotels, etc., we can effectively put pressure where it really hurts: that is, in the corporate image of these companies.

I haven’t stuck with that plan, with so many other actions to take over the past months, but I remain convinced that we have the power to stop these corporate school raiders. WE JUST HAVE TO USE IT.

So. I guess I’m going to be harping on boycotts and attacking the corporate image of these corporate reformers once a month again for a while. I hope you’ll help spread the word.

PAA leader helps expose Parent Revolution carpetbagging for parent trigger

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

astroturfRita Solnet, PAA founding member and leader of PAA Florida affiliate Testing is not Teaching, reports that she and others have helped expose Parent Revolution’s carpetbagging.

PR (an apt acronym) is a California group funded by Gates, Walton and the usual gang to promote charter schools and the parent trigger. No Florida parent group has come out in favor of the parent trigger, but Parent Revolution’s astroturfers have staged a full-court press in the state legislature, where the bill passed the house last week.

Here’s what happened next, according to the Tampa Bay Times: 

TALLAHASSEE — For weeks, it seemed, few parents in Florida supported the so-called parent trigger bill.

And then, a video began circulating in the Capitol.

The video, featuring South Florida moms praising the legislation, was attributed to a mysterious grass roots group known as the Sunshine Parents. But it was actually produced by Parent Revolution, the California-based advocacy group that has been using its considerable resources and political heft to promote the legislation nationwide, Parent Revolution confirmed Friday.

Doubt has also been cast on a petition allegedly signed by more than 1,200 supporters of the parent trigger proposal. Three people whose names appear on the petition told the Times/Herald they never signed it.

“It’s sad that they are resorting to these tactics,” said Rita Solnet, a Palm Beach County mother whose nonprofit organization Parents Across America opposes the parent trigger bill. “But it puts it all in perspective. It’s people from outside Florida and outside our schools who support this bill. It’s not the real parents.”

Parent trigger (SB 862) hits the Senate floor Monday.

Great work, Rita! Look for more about PR’s fiasco in Florida in the coming days.

ALEC member, Naperville legislator sponsors Illinois parent trigger law

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Thanks to Substance newspaper for alerting us to the introduction of a parent trigger law proposal in Illinois.Gun - Trick

HB3295 is sponsored by Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville. Senger is a member of the ALEC corporate “reform” legislation writing cauldron.  ALEC’s “Stand your ground” proposal became notorious in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing. Senger’s proposed law is a clone of another ALEC-inspired proposal, the parent trigger.

Senger’s proposal:

Provides that the parents of at least 51% of students in a low-performing school may initiate reform measures at the school through the submission of a parent petition to the school board. Provides for submission of a notice of petition. Provides that the petition shall request that the school board fully intervene in the school and implement one of the following reform measures: (1) reopen the school as a charter school; (2) change the school leadership; (3) close the school and reassign students currently attending the school to another school at the appropriate grade level within the same school district; or (4) adopt a new school governance structure. Upon receiving a copy of a petition signed by the parents of at least 51% of the students in a low-performing school, requires the school board to implement the reform measures requested in the petition.

Naperville has no “low-performing schools” and no charter schools, though I did find this pending proposal for an 18-district virtual charter school including Naperville, submitted by former CPS Chief of E-Learning Sharnell Jackson. More on that here.

However, you may remember that our own Mayor Emanuel promoted parent trigger laws for a while during his mayoral campaign.

As with most pet proposals by the corporate reform set, parent trigger laws have never improved a school. In the few places where there have been attempts to implement a parent trigger law, big-budget Parent Revolution groups with funding from WalMart, Broad and Bill Gates sent paid organizers around who lie to parents in order to get them to sign their petitions to turn the school into a predetermined charter school.

Parents Across America has taken a position against parent trigger laws and in favor of local school council-style parent empowerment, which can actually improve schools. Our legislature should work to strengthen and support LSC rather than tout ALEC-style corporate reform.

Stand for Children front man: No need for “parent trigger” with Chicago’s LSCs

Thursday, November 15th, 2012


I was proud to share the Local School Council model with my co-founders at Parents Across America, and delighted when PAA adopted it as our alternative to the “parent trigger” school privatization mechanism.

Unlike charter or private turnaround companies, LSCs have a significant track record of improving schools over time without any extra resources beyond the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers, administrators and community members.

Now, to my astonishment, organizers for such pro-privatization groups like Stand for Children and New Schools for Chicago seem to be agreeing with us on LSCs as an alternative to the parent trigger.

Here’s what’s being reported in Catalyst Notebook:

“New Schools for Chicago…says it isn’t exploring the possibility of a parent trigger law. Stand for Children is not working on a parent trigger, either. (SFC director Juan Jose) Gonzalez says that with the local school council model of governance in place at most CPS schools, he doesn’t see the need. ‘To me, through the LSC system, that is an existing parent trigger type model,’ he says.”

Real parent involvement not bought at Walgreen’s (memories of Field School)

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Parents protest Walgreens' opposition to fair school funding (1993)

So, Rahm Emanuel went swimming at his health club recently and got a great idea – give parents a $25 gift card from Walgreen’s and solve the parent involvement problem! (I guess the pool had already given him enough great ideas for solving Chicago’s homicide epidemic.)

He took this great idea to my old neighborhood school, Eugene Field Elementary, and, with Walgreen’s CEO Greg Wasson, announced that parents at 70 schools with low parental involvement would receive cards loaded with 25,000 “customer loyalty” points (worth $25).

“This is a way, in my view, of incentivizing responsible parenting,” said Rahm.

Right. Because parents have no real incentive for supporting their children’s education.

Setting the press conference at Field brought back some powerful memories, going back 25 years (wow, really?) when our two sons attended the school.

I remember being elected to the first local school council at Field. At the first meeting, we elected the top vote-getter as our chairperson. His daughter’s teacher stood up in the meeting and threatened him in front of the principal and the entire audience. Shortly after that, his daughter decided to transfer to another school, so the father lost his eligibility to be an LSC member.  All of this was done with full knowledge of the district. That was how CPS “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

I remember when the Field teachers, with the blessing of the principal, came out in force to a PTA meeting and voted themselves in to all the PTA officers’ positions, effectively shutting parents out of any role in the parent-teacher organization. That was how CPS “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

The LSC got rid of that principal, and hired a new one. She seemed great for a while, but then lots of bad advice from upper management led her to hide in her office and, among other things, deny the offer my husband and I made to run a Great Books program in the school. She actually wrote us a letter saying that the school had “enough volunteers.” CPS officials saw nothing wrong with this letter. That was how they “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

Eventually the LSC found a better principal fit with Rachel Resnick – and I have no idea how things are for parents under the current principal. Apparently not good enough.

But my perspective at PURE allows me to continue to see how CPS and the mayor “incentivize” parent involvement around the city:

  • CPS allows principals to break federal parent involvement rules by refusing to allow PURE parent workshops to take place, even though the NCLB parent advisory committees have voted to have the workshops.
  • CPS encourages principals to waste hundreds of thousands of parent involvement dollars every year by sending school staff and a few parents to out-of-state conferences (airfare, hotel, meals and stipends included in the cost) while parents at home gain nothing.
  • CPS’s Office of LSC Relations continues to blacklist PURE from LSC training even though LSC members prefer independent training over CPS’s cursory bullet-point sessions.
  • Rahm’s cronies in the foundation and corporate giving world continue to blacklist independent LSC/parent support groups like PURE and Designs for Change, a situation which one of the late Don Moore’s children suggested contributed to his early death.
  • Rahm and his cronies ignore and disrespect elected, parent-run local school councils while pushing education privatizers’ phony “parent empowerment” programs like school choice and the parent trigger.

PURE’s response to Walgreen’s and other corporate sponsors of phony parent empowerment has always been, “Start by paying your fair share of school funding” so that Illinois moves from the bottom of the heap in per-capita school funding. Then we can talk about your gift cards and your swimming pool brainstorms.


The 3 Big Lies in the Won’t Back Down movie

Friday, September 21st, 2012

I saw the “Won’t Back Down” movie last night. The crowd loved it, and I would have liked it, too, if I hadn’t known why it was produced or been aware of the three big lies at the heart of the movie.

After all, it’s just a movie, right? And a successful feel-good movie at that. Not being at all connected to reality (despite the big announcement at the very beginning that it was “inspired by actual events”) shouldn’t matter, right? I mean, did “Coma” accurately depict the way medicine really works? Could scientists reproduce all the effects in the “Star Wars” movies? Would a celebrity impersonator like “Dave” really get away with switching places with a comatose president and make government serve the people again?

Of course not, and no one attacks those movies’ accuracy.

The difference here is that the producers of “Won’t Back Down” have publicly acknowledged that the movie was designed to sell parent trigger laws to parent and state legislatures. Our screening in Chicago was introduced by, among others, a staff member from New Schools for Chicago, which pushes charter schools. The “goody bag” we were all promised at the end of the movie ended up being a WBD totebag with a brochure for New Schools for Chicago in it. Oh, goody.

As propaganda, then, the movie’s lies are fair game.

WBD Big Lie #1: Teachers union contracts do not allow teachers to stay after school to give children extra help.

Anyone who has been in a public school for more than 10 minutes knows this is a lie. Teachers are there after school, before school, and during lunch and recess helping students.

But this lie is a critical dramatic device in the movie, Mom Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first major “aha” moment. When she runs into the classroom in the middle of what passes for a lesson in Terrible Teacher’s room, demanding that the teacher stay after school and tutor her child, the teacher says, “School ends at 3 pm.” Mom runs out of the room, a furious and defiant look on her face. Later conversations reinforce the lie that teachers are not allowed to stay after school to “give the children what they need.”

WBD Big Lie #2: School turnarounds result from parents and teachers voting to “change the school.”

The movie shows teachers agonizing over their vote on the”Fail Safe” program, the movie’s name for the parent trigger. But the real parent trigger laws DO NOT ALLOW TEACHERS A VOTE OR A VOICE. One could brush this difference off as mere dramatic license, but the movie depends completely on the alliance between Mom Maggie and Teacher Viola Davis, who is depicted as an angel of a teacher as well as a deeply loving mother. Yet the premise is a lie.

WBD Big Lie #3: Great schools are easy.

This was honestly the most idiotic part of the movie. Not that it’s easy to portray something complicated in movie language. But really. Mom Maggie goes to the district office. She has coffee with the receptionist who tells her about the “Fail Safe” law. Maggie’s takeaway? All you need to turn a school around is to “get one teacher, and  stick it out.”

Later we see Mom With Two Part-Time Jobs and Dyslexia personally writing a 400-page proposal for the new school, which includes fun “ideas” from various teachers like “field trips” and “Shakespeare.” Hero Teacher Viola contributes the idea that the curriculum should be “integrated.”

Yes, it’s a movie. “Coma,” “Star Wars” and “Dave” didn’t have to prove that they were valid in the real world.

But when people use a movie to disrupt and potentially damage the real lives of real children and real adults, they do have to be held accountable to the rest of us.

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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.