A New York City parent went to a screening of the new movie “Won’t Back Down,” which promotes the parent trigger idea. Various privatization advocates are pushing parent trigger laws that enable parents to “seize control” of their public school and hand it over to private corporations.
The parent stayed afterward for a panel discussion involving Leonie Haimson, leader of the pro-public school group Class Size Matters (I am one of her board members), and two others who are not public school parents.
Here is the report:
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Marge
Sent: Thursday, September 20, 2012 11:03 AM
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Screening of Won’t Back Down Last Night
Thanks to Leonie spreading the word, I attended the free screening of “Won’t Back Down” last night in Union Square.
The movie was not that great, though I generally like the three main actresses, Maggie Gyllenhall, Viola Davis and Holly Hunter. The Pennsylvania Teachers’ Union was shown as Machiavellian and the fact that the school was converted to a charter was never mentioned (only that the teachers would no longer be unionized).
On the panel afterward were Leonie and a woman named Christina from NYCAN, which is currently pushing new parent trigger legislation for the Buffalo area (which would not only allow parents to vote for charter conversions, but also closure and turn-around). The third woman, Kate, the parent of a 5-year-old, is on the board of a proposed new 6-12 charter school (Great Oaks) hoping to be approved and sited on Governor’s Island.
It continually amazes me when someone whose only experience of public school is that they have a 5-year-old is invited to speak on panels such as these. I daresay Leonie’s little finger knows more about public education than ten parents like this woman. Her main objective in opening a charter school is that there aren’t enough seats in lower Manhattan, so instead of lobbying the DOE to build more, her first thought is to open a charter school? Also, the source of her involvement seems to stem from the fact that her child was shut out of his/her local zoned school (probably PS 234) and now attends a private school. (I guess she couldn’t dream of accepting a seat in another near-by school, calling that “no choice at all.” She also complained that the principal wouldn’t let her walk in whenever she wanted to observe class, though not sure why that came up if her child is not enrolled in the school. And, I don’t know of any school that’s going to let parents in whenever they want to “observe.” By the way, ever heard of open school week?)
I really appreciated receiving the Parents Across America FAQ from Leonie. This pointed out that the movie is produced by 20th Century Fox (Rupert Murdoch) and Walden Media (Philip Anschutz, who also made “Waiting for Superman”). It explains that the Parent Trigger law has been misused in California (and the schools chosen were set upon by outside operatives who, in one case, got parents to sign multiple petitions – one calling for smaller class sizes and other reforms and a second calling for the school’s conversion to a charter – way to confuse people).
Leonie actually offered a prescription for parent involvement that differs from these parent trigger laws – a robust School Leadership Team which can make decisions affecting the school, including firing the principal, and parent involvement in decision making on a district, city-wide and state-wide level.
Leonie, thanks again for letting us know about last night’s opportunity. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay to see this movie!