Last spring, Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee tried to push the phony “parent trigger” legislation through the Florida legislature. It seemed to be a slam-dunk, since the legislature is controlled by Republicans and the governor is Republican, and the skids were greased to turn more public schools over to the charter corporations. These corporations give generous campaign contributions, so the table was set to add to their portfolios.
But they forgot about the parents, the alleged beneficiaries of the “trigger.”
Florida parent organizations turned out in force to oppose the “trigger.” They knew what the game was, and they knew it was not for their benefit that Bush and Rhee and ALEC were so eager to “empower” them with the ability to give their public school to a corporation. The Florida PTA and groups like Testing is Not Teaching, Fund Education Now, and 50th No More opposed the “trigger.”
Parents made a difference. They understood that the goal of the “trigger” is to shoot public education in the heart. They convinced enough Republican senators to vote against the bill that it ended in a 20-20 deadlock in the state senate. Of course, the forces of greed will return again, but parents will organize again.
Parents in Chicago are organizing to support the Chicago Teachers Union. One group, the parents of the 19th Ward, have been outspoken. I got this email today:
I wanted to share this post, which was written by Nellie Cotton, an involved Chicago Public Schools parent, an activist who speaks truth to power in a snap, a strong CTU supporter and a woman I am so happy to call my friend. Nellie has agreed to let me forward her post. I think it speaks to the experience a lot of parents have had in CPS, but not a lot have taken up the cause as brilliantly as Nellie.
19th Ward Parents
I was just thinking of how I became involved in all this and of all the wonderful people who have helped me become empowered. Please forgive me for rambling.
All this first started about three years ago when due to budget cuts, we were going to lose positions. One of those was an exceptionally gifted and beloved teacher, Miss Susan Cummings. Miss Cummings is simply amazing as a teacher. Her love of teaching and her “spark” are palpable. I felt helpless. Not knowing what to do, I approached my LSC for guidance, only to be told this happens, nothing you can do against CPS and, by the way, “Where were you when this issue first came up? “
I could not let this rest. My daughter Cecilia (she was Miss Cummings’ student) and I went door to door with a petition demanding her position not be cut. We collected 261 signatures and went to a board meeting to present them, sent copies of the same stuff every Tuesday and Thursday to our congressman, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and to Mayor Daley. I went to the monthly CPS school board meetings. Then one day as I had given CPS CEO Ron Huberman my weekly packet, I coincidentally met that dynamo ,Karen Lewis. She was president-elect of the CTU and she introduced me to Jesse Sharkey, who took my information and urged me to join CORE, any parent groups, or my LSC because “Parents and teachers must work together to be effective.”
I knew then she was a dynamic force.
We are grateful we still have our Miss Cummings!
Fast forward to Mayor Emanuel pushing longest day on CPS schools. Again I was shot down by my LSC, as this was a done deal, I was told. CPS had several staff people come talk to the parents and tell them it was a done deal, accept it.
I couldn’t! I knew better.
My mother picketed and boycotted in order to get a high school built in Pilsen. I had been active in keeping Pope John Paul II school open! Again I started with petitions, signs and red bows on trees. I asked to use Lawler Park to have an informational meeting and, honestly, did not have a real grasp on all the issues at the time. I was struggling with medical issues, my Mom was terminally ill, and I was just going on faith.
The day of my meeting, I realize now that I had no grasp of the issues. I was going on moxie alone. I was so blessed to have Maureen and Christine contact me out of the blue and take time to do a presentation on the issue at hand. I was blown away. They came armed with information and passion. They are incredible! Through them and because of them, I have met so many other fantastic people that are affecting positive changes and inspire me every day. Wendy Katten, Erica Clark, Kelly, Jennie, Becky, Laura and Jimmy, The 19th Ward Parents, I am proud to know you, you guys ROCK! And so many others …
If nothing more, this journey has afforded me the opportunity to meet such incredible people. Thank you for advocating for what truly matters!