Friday, March 18, 2011

Parents Oppose Parent Trigger

Parents Learning to Fire the Corporate Trigger
With all the media hype about parent control and parent power, one would think that most parents are convinced that they know better than the well-trained professionals who run the classrooms how to best educate their children. Not so. Parents Across America (PAA) issued a press release this week arguing against Parent Trigger laws. (You can see the entire press release here).

According to their press release, California’s Parent Empowerment Act (Parent Trigger law) “represents neither real parent choice nor empowerment.” (The law allows a majority of parents at a low performing school to petition to have it converted to a private charter school). They also pointed out that none of the options offered by the law “have been consistently successful in improving schools,” while these options are the same as those already provided in the federal School Improvement Grant program. They also point out that the Parent Trigger law is really about privatization, or allowing “some organizations a better foothold in public schools.” Indeed, the law was written and has been promoted by Parent Revolution, a charter school front group, backed by billionaires. Instead, PAA supports authentic, grassroots parent collaboration with educators for proven reforms like smaller class sizes.

“The Parent Trigger gives parents ‘no opportunity to choose among more positive reforms, and fails to promote the best practices for parent involvement from the ground up,’ as pointed out by Julie Woestehoff, Executive Director of Parents United for Responsible Education of Chicago.  ‘The process creates huge potential for abuse, and for disruption and divisiveness in school communities.’

Los Angeles parent leader Bill Ring adds, ‘I fear that this law, in its current incarnation, may be more about getting some organizations a better foothold in public schools.  Even if parents do choose to reconstitute their school as a charter, how does this process ensure that they are empowered to evaluate the changes and ensure better outcomes for their children?’

Parents Across America instead supports a process in which parents are authentically involved at the ground level in developing strategies for improvement.  ‘These strategies might include smaller classes, more parent involvement, or other reforms that have been proven to work and are aligned with the individual needs of the school and its students,’ says Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters.”  (For the full press release, please click here).

While the corrupt parent trigger effort at Compton’s McKinley Elementary has received considerable media attention, there has been a quieter effort under way at Mount Gleason Middle “School, in Sunland, near Los Angeles. The effort at McKinley was not a truly parent-initiated effort. Rather, it was spearheaded, funded and promoted by Parent Revolution and backed by billionaire supporters, and involved numerous allegations of threats and intimidation. According to Caroline Grannan (of PAA) and Sharon Higgins, the Mount Gleason effort has been spearheaded by a parent who wanted to replace the principal. Without an overt attempt to turn a profit, Parent Revolution has effectively ignored it.

Robert D. Skeels, from the Solidaridad blog, presents further evidence of the Parent Trigger movement’s corporate backing, such as its funding from the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation, and the Annenberg Foundation. Granted, these are ostensibly philanthropic foundations. However, they are funded with corporate profits and push corporate interests, like union busting and privatization schemes which help educational management organization reap greater profits. Parent Revolution is a front group for Ben Austin’s Green Dot Charter schools. Sharon Higgens' has written about the corporate dollars flowing into Green Dot and Parent revolution in 'The "Parent Trigger" and its connections to the phoney LA Parents Union, Green Dot, Steve Barr, and Eli Broad.'  Skeels also connects Parent Trigger’s leader, Ben Austin, to reactionary free enterprise extremists at the Cato and American Enterprise Institutes. Skeels also dug up this wonderful Ben Austin quote from an Annenberg publication, "The idea of the parent revolution is to say fuck you, that every single thing about our school is going to be about kids. Otherwise, I'm sorry, we are going to take our kids and go elsewhere."

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