Posts Tagged ‘Parents Across America’

Active in Urban Education: PAA conference in Indy

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Had to photoshop the first sign because of bright sun glare!

The wonderful parent activist Delana Ivey and her Indianapolis Parents Across America affiliate group Parent Power put on a great conference last Saturday called “Active in Urban Education.”

Delana and I

Delana and I

I was eager to attend for many reasons, not the least was to meet up with Delana, John Harris Loflin and Nate Harris, Indy friends and PAA leaders. Nate and I have been online friends for a while, and I met Delana and John at the first Midwest Friends of Public Education meeting in Fort Wayne in February.

The location was a story in itself. It took place in a closed city school. Delana says that district invited her and other community members to help plan use of school which is now a beautiful community meeting and event space. If schools end up closed, this is what every city ought to do with the buildings.

The first presentation was a video of Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms. One of the questions he asks is why we think that the most important thing children have in common is their age (their “manufacture” date).

Indygrp11-13In our discussion after the video, we agreed. I brought up one of my favorite ideas – non-graded classrooms. Among other benefits of a non-graded classroom system is that it would seriously interfere with the stranglehold of standardized testing and its emphasis on comparing students of the same age to each other.

Sir Ken’s amazing video sparked comments about many other issues including racism in education, divergent thinking, aesthetics v anaesthetics, the culture of compliance, and creating a movement.

The next presentation was by Gale Cosby, a special education teacher who is also a newly-elected school board member for Indianapolis. It’s always refreshing to meet ELECTED school board members! Gale’s presentation was personal, moving and informative. If you can read the slide, you will see what in interesting approach she took to her topic.


I was pleased to do the next presentation on national activism and Parents Across America. Here’s the “Take Action” handout I shared. We talked about federal ESEA reauthorisation, student data sharing, and testing. I shared another of my favorite strategies: going after WalMart’s corporate image! Here’s the handout I distributed, “Why would anyone who cares about public schools shop at WalMart?” I think I convinced some people, too!

IndyNate11-9-13But the best parts of this conference were the people and the discussions. Here’s Nate in an exchange with an Indy student who asked where the solutions are. Nate says we need to come together to address the bigger picture that school systems are designed to serve the majority culture.

And,finally, what we were all really there for.  IndyBabyreads11-13crop


PSAT for 5-29-12: Calling all parents!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

How can I resist sharing Diane Ravitch’s call to action (even when she spells my name wrong)?

Here’s what she wrote a couple of days ago:

In an earlier post, I described how a parent organization called out Scantron, the testing company, for inserting a blatantly propagandistic item into its standardized tests. The reading passage was about the alleged superiority of charters as education reform and named a fictitious “multi-millionaire” who sends his own children to a charter. Public school students in Chicago were shown this advertising for charters, with no critical views included.

The parent group is called PURE, or Parents United for Responsible Education. They are watchdogs for public education in Chicago, and they are fearless. Every city should have a group like PURE. This parent group is an affiliate of Parents Across America, and Julie Woesterhoff–its leader–was a co-founder of PAA.

One important lesson to be learned from this episode is that parents can be powerful. Parents have the freedom that teachers don’t have to call out bad test items like this one, which was blatantly untrue. If a teacher called a press conference or put out a statement blasting a test item, the teacher might be fired for revealing what was on the test. Parents are not bound to remain silent.

And parents should not remain silent.

The best parent organization in the United States today is Parents Across America. Unlike the national PTA, which has taken sizable contributions from the Gates Foundation, PAA fights for children and public education. Like PURE in Chicago, PAA is fearless. Google it, and if you like what you see, join them. (I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that the National PTA–which should be staunch defenders of public schools–had a showing of “Waiting for ‘Superman’” at its 2011 national convention in Orlando.)

Or better yet, start a chapter of PAA in your town or city.

Here’s how to do that.

D.C. sign of the times: Major component failure

Friday, April 20th, 2012

I’m in D.C. with some of my amazing Parents Across America friends, preparing to have the Department of Education for lunch.

Actually, they’re hosting us, but we’ll see.

Spent yesterday dropping off PAA position packets with each member of the Senate Education Committee. Had a great meeting with Sen. Patty Murray’s education aide, a not-so-great debate with Mark Kirk’s person. Got off the elevator just as Ed Committee Chair Tom Harkin got on… doors closed before we could ask for a picture!

Anyway, this sign was in the Senate Hart building (no doubt posted by some secret Truth in Government Commission) but perhaps even better describes things over at Arne Duncan’s USDE.

For immediate release: Parents Across America hails defeat of Florida’s Parent Trigger bill

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

For immediate release: March 10, 2012

Contacts: Rita Solnet, Boca Raton: (561) 289-7333;
Caroline Grannan, San Francisco: (415) 412-5758;
Julie Woestehoff, Chicago (773) 715-3989;

Parents Across America hails defeat of Florida’s Parent Trigger bill:
A victory of parents over forces that would privatize and profit from our public schools

Public education and true parent empowerment were the winners after a “Parent Trigger” law died on the floor of the Florida State Senate on March 9, said Rita Solnet, a Florida parent activist and a founding member of the national organization Parents Across America, who worked with other parent groups from the state to defeat the bill. Solnet hailed the outcome as a triumph of parents over the forces that would privatize and profit from our public schools.

“I pray this defeat helps other states to avoid a similar attack on our public schools,” said Solnet, a Boca Raton businesswoman and a co-founder of PAA.  “This was a victory for true parent empowerment. By working together with my colleagues in PAA and other grassroots parent groups, including Save Duval Schools, 50th No More, the Florida state PTA, Fund Education Now, and Testing is Not Teaching, we managed to beat the richly-funded corporate reformers.”

The so-called Parent Empowerment in Education Act (SB 1718) was framed as allowing parents at a public school to vote to “turn around” their school by employing several options, including charter conversion. Yet very quickly, Florida parents realized that this measure, which died in the State Senate on a 20-20 bipartisan tie vote, represented yet another underhanded ploy by corporate reformers, including Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee, to hand public schools over to private, for-profit operators.  Many parents drove several hours, hired babysitters and missed time with their children to travel to Tallahassee to lobby against the bill.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the corporate reformers, chiming in last week in support of the Florida bill. Emanuel told a local newspaper, “Giving parents this power would encourage them to play a larger role in their children’s education, and with greater power would come greater responsibility.”

In response, Julie Woestehoff, PAA co-founder and executive director of Chicago’s Parents United for Responsible Education, countered, “Mayor Emanuel and his hand-picked Board of Education have just closed or turned around 17 schools despite vehement protests of parents who were already deeply committed to their children’s schools. It’s just absurd to pretend that the Florida proposal was anything more than another cynical effort to further expand charter schools and privatization of public education under the guise of ‘parent empowerment.'”

In March 2011, Parents Across America released a position paper opposing “parent trigger” laws, based on the damaging impact of the California law.  PAA members in California have closely followed the Parent Trigger saga there, and when the Florida legislation was first announced earlier this year, Solnet shared their concerns with other parent leaders, legislators and education officials in the state.

California passed the nation’s first parent trigger law in 2010.  Since then, similar bills have been introduced in many states around the country, with language written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC), an organization that promotes a right-wing agenda.  But despite the misleading accounts of representatives from the Astroturf organization Parent Revolution, flown in from California to testify before the Florida legislature, the law has never been used successfully in that state or anywhere else.

The Parent Trigger was first conceived by an organization called Parent Revolution, founded by a charter operator and funded by the Gates, Broad and Walton Family Foundations (the latter of Wal-Mart fame). The law squeaked through the California legislature in early 2010 but has had led to no school turnarounds.  Instead, it has ignited chaos and controversy in the two communities where petition campaigns have been tried. In Compton, the effort collapsed amid allegations of fraud on both sides. In Adelanto, parents were asked to sign two different petitions, though only one, calling for charter conversion, was submitted to the authorities (LA Times, 2/19/12).

The outcome of the ensuring controversy is still up in the air, according to Caroline Grannan of San Francisco, a PAA member who has followed the situation closely .  She concludes: “The divisive battles that the Parent Trigger law has sparked in California should cause parents and concerned citizens elsewhere to avoid similar legislation like the plague.”

PAA’s March  2011 position paper pointed out that while the organization “strongly supports true parent empowerment,” the Parent Trigger law “gives them no opportunity to choose among more positive reforms, and fails to promote the best practices for parent involvement from the ground up. In addition, the process creates huge potential for abuse, disruption and divisiveness to school communities.”

Rather than requiring parents to “trigger” a restrictive, damaging set of reforms, PAA supports real parent empowerment at the school level, as well as involvement in decision-making at the district, state, and national levels. More recently, PAA released a proposal on how authentic school-level improvement efforts can be achieved through local school councils made up of majority parent membership.


First Parents Across America open call in tonight 2-20

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Tonight, Monday Feb. 20 at 8 PM, Parents Across America will be sponsoring a conference call, open to all, to brief you on strategies you can use to fight back against the damaging tide of privatization wreaking havoc our public schools.

When: Monday, Feb. 20 at 8 PM EST.

Conference Dial-in Number: (424) 203-8075

Participant Access Code: 1037540#

First, Karran Harper Royal, a PAA founding member, will talk about what’s happening in New Orleans, where nearly 75% of the schools are charters and before too long, they may all be privatized.  Rather than the idealized picture portrayed by Sec. Duncan and the corporate reform crowd, this has led to nightmarish experiences for many children, who no longer have the right to attend their neighborhood school, and are often forced to travel hours each day on buses which their parents have to pay for. Hear what Karran and other NOLA parents are doing to fight back, and about the lawsuit they have filed with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dora Taylor and Sue Peters, founders of PAA- Seattle, will describe how they are experiencing the fourth push in 15 years to authorize charter schools in Washington, one of only about ten states in which charter schools are still not legal.  Parents are also facing a barrage of potentially damaging “teacher evaluation” bills in the legislature. Sue and Dora will talk about how they are organizing other parents throughout the state, working with other stakeholder groups, and helping to disseminate the truth about charters and teacher evaluation to prevent these bills from being passed – in Bill Gates’ own backyard.

When: Monday, Feb. 20 at 8 PM EST.

Conference Dial-in Number: (424) 203-8075

Participant Access Code: 1037540#

If you have a question in advance, please send it to

Start the new year off right with a gift to Parents Across America!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Dear Friends:

It’s nearly impossible for parents to ignore what’s being done to our public schools these days. It’s become even harder for parents to have a say about decisions that affect our children’s lives on a daily basis. In fact, politicians and those running our school systems often seem to think that the only voices that matter in education are those that come with big dollar signs!

Fortunately, Parents Across America was formed nearly a year ago to give parents a powerful new voice in the national public education debate. PAA has already become a major player in the fight for a high quality education for every child in the U.S. In a few short months, we have gained prominence and established ourselves as a credible voice for parents through articles in Education Week, the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, on radio and TV, and in the newspapers.

The 1% wants to control public education in this country – and they do not want parents to have a say in our own children’s education. That’s why we are coming to you today for support.

If you think it’s important that parents have a strong, informed and independent voice in our children’s education, please consider making a tax-deductible donation so that PAA can ramp up our efforts.  Some of our activities in the past year: 

  • We held our kickoff national educational forum in NYC on February 7, 2011, with keynote speaker Diane Ravitch.
  • Our electronic newsletter has more than 4,000 subscribers, and our Facebook page and group have more than 1,500 members.
  • We have 15 chapters and affiliates in 10 states, with more forming every week.
  • We played a prominent role in this summer’s Save Our Schools march on Washington DC, and PAA members spoke at the rally and provided workshops at the conference.
  • Our proposal to reform NCLB/ESEA was featured in the Washington Post and was endorsed by the SOS March.
  • Armed with our fact sheets and other information, our members helped beat back the forces of corporate reform in states from North Carolina to the state of Washington.

But we have still a long way to go to overcome the forces of big money that are intent on privatizing our public schools, and imposing policies, including school closings,  more high stakes testing, and the rapid expansion of online learning, that threaten to further damage our children and are unsupported by research.

If you care about public education and you think that an organization like PAA is needed to push for better public schools for every single child, and to give stakeholders a national voice in progressive education reform, please make a generous donation now.

You may use ourDonate button or mail a tax-deductible check or money order to PAA/Class Size Matters at 124 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10011

Thank you and have a happy holiday season from  Parents Across America!


At the NAME conference today

Friday, November 4th, 2011

The National Association of Multicultural Education (NAME) has been holding their  21st annual international conference here in Chicago this week. NAME’s mission is to advance and advocate for equity and social justice through multicultural education.

I’ll be on a panel this afternoon with friend and true education reformer Bill Ayers and a bunch of other people, all who have contributed to a (we hope) soon-to-be-published book called “Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education.”

The book will offer stories of people and groups that have stood up to the recent attacks on public education to offer hope and some ideas for resistance.

In my allotted 5 minutes, I’m going to run through a few highlights of PURE’s actions, from our formation as an alliance of parents and teachers, to our challenge to test-based retention (including our parent broadsheet), to the fight against Renaissance 2010 (including fact sheets about Arne Duncan “Dodge-ing the Truth” and AUSL’s “Missing Children“), and ending with our co-founding of Parents Across America, taking the work nationwide.

The good news is that “just parents” can  have a strong voice and can make a difference.     

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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.