Posts Tagged ‘parental choice’

The LSC model: An antidote to phony “parental choice”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Parents Across America releases a proposal

for real parent empowerment in schools

 An antidote to phony “parental choice”

Chicago, IL and other cities across the US – Today, Parents Across America (PAA), a non-partisan, non-profit national network of public school parent activists, released a proposal for true parent empowerment that authentically involves parents in collaborative school decision making and has a strong research base in improving student achievement.

You can read our full position paper, “The Empowerment Parents Want: A Real, Effective Voice in our Children’s Education,” here.

PAA proposes its “LSC model,” a form of elected parent-majority school governance, as an antidote to recent efforts of corporate school reformers to brand parent triggers, school choice, vouchers and other attacks on public education as “parental empowerment.”

We know that these strategies do not reflect what most parents actually want, or what works for children and schools. A 2010 Phi Delta Kappa poll found that 54 percent of Americans think the best thing to do about low-performing schools is to keep the school open with the same staff and give it more support. Only 17 percent wanted to close the school and reopen it with a new principal, and just 13 percent wanted to replace it with a charter school.

Even strong charter school proponent Ben Austin, of the Parent Revolution, recently said that parents at most of the schools his organization is working with are not interested in turning their school into a charter school, but rather want to focus on improving their existing schools (EdSource Extra, 1/12/12).

According to parent Lorie Barzano of the Coalition to Strengthen Austin (TX) Urban Schools, PAA’s newest affiliate, “At every meeting I have attended in the past year, at least one parent speaks out that ‘we want to fix our public schools, not bring in outside contractors or untested experiments.’ ” 

It’s not that parents aren’t concerned about bad schools. We are. But, as explained in a recent report by Public Agenda, “What’s Trust Got to do with it?,” parents and community members give tremendous value to their local public schools. Closing their schools feels like a body blow – as though the community itself is being written off.

Parents also doubt the ability of elected officials and district leaders to make the right intervention and policy decisions; in fact, Public Agenda found that a strong majority of the public trusts the judgment of parents and teachers far more.

This lack of trust is reinforced when public officials cozy up to wealthy hedge fund operators, venture philanthropists, and school privatizers, take their marching orders from astroturf advocacy groups, or “rent” supporters, as recently happened during school closing hearings in Chicago.

“Parents in New York City and elsewhere are furious about the way in which their children’s public schools are being forced to close, or share space with charter schools,” said Leonie Haimson, a co-founder of PAA and the head of Class Size Matters. “School choice does not really exist when the priorities of thousands of parents to strengthen their local public schools, rather than write them off, are completely dismissed by policy makers.”

In New Orleans, parents’ efforts to have a voice in charter schools have been blocked. “(Louisiana State School Superintendent) John White wants us to believe that we can give input to those charters and they will run the schools based on our input. There is nothing in law that requires them to hear us. In fact, the time to engage the community should have been before the charter was written, not after. This is fake community engagement; input after you write a charter is not authentic community engagement,” said New Orleans parent Karran Harper Royal, a founding member of PAA.

Rather than requiring parents to “trigger” a restrictive, damaging set of reforms or shop around among wildly divergent charter schools, PAA supports the kind of empowerment which involves parents authentically at the ground level and in district-, state-, and nationwide policy discussions about how to improve schools.

To provide the opportunity for such authentic parent involvement at the local school level, PAA recommends adoption of a school governance model based on Chicago’s Local School Councils. 
LSCs are duly-elected, parent-majority bodies at nearly every Chicago public school. They have real power – including hiring, evaluating and firing a school’s principal. LSCs oversee a school wide process of program and budget evaluation, planning, and monitoring that offers the kind of collaborative effort researchers say is needed to make local reform succeed.

Chicago’s LSCs have proven to be a positive
 element of effective school reform for nearly two decades (for details, please see our fact sheet, “Research Shows that Local School Councils Help Improve Schools!”). 



“Anyone interested in learning about and advancing democratic, participatory models of parent representation and governance needs to understand the operational history of Local School Council (LSCs) in Chicago, Illinois. As a teacher, organizer, and parent advocate, I highly recommend those interested in improving conditions in public education investigate the LSC model as an archetype for change,” said Mark Friedman, a PAA member from Rochester, NY.

PAA understands that parent involvement and the LSC model are not magic bullets.
 Chicago’s schools, for example. continue to struggle for a variety of reasons — despite 
the best efforts of LSCs. 


However, the LSC model is a vastly superior “choice” for 
involving parents when included in a comprehensive set of research-based 
reforms including equitable and sufficient funding, pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes,
 strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded 
curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.*

We believe that
 parents will be truly empowered, and children better educated, only when parents
 are full partners in education policy making.

LSC FAQ.

*Please see
 PAA’s position statement, PAA on Reforming NCLB.

For more information on Parents Across America, check out our website at

www.parentsacrossamerica.org or email us at

info@parentsacrossamerica.org

What a choice…

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Question mark, exclamation point“Would you prefer to give more money to school administrators or give parents vouchers to choose their children’s school?” the pollster asked me.

Is this what they mean by parental choice?

The other day I received a phone call from a polling agency regarding the upcoming mayoral and aldermanic race. The poll started out with some general questions about the mayoral candidates, not asking whom I was planning to vote for but whether I had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each candidate.

Then the questions moved to aldermanic candidates in the 4th ward, where I live and where a number of people are vying for Toni Preckwinkle’s old seat.

Here’s where it got interesting.

The poll asked me about the candidates. It also asked me this question:

“Would you prefer to give more money to school administrators or give parents vouchers to choose their children’s school?”

I’m paraphrasing the second half of the question but not the first, which is word for word what they asked me.

So, what would you answer?

I am completely opposed to school vouchers, but the other choice doesn’t sound too great, either. I chose it anyway, but I know that many people would not.

Who commissioned this poll? Was it one of the 4th ward aldermanic candidates? Was it a mayoral candidate? Allowing for vouchers would require a change in state law, which neither the mayor of Chicago or an alderman would be voting for.

So, was this a ruse to ask a question biased in favor of school vouchers?

Whose poll was it, I wonder?

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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.