Archives for category: Parent Groups

A group of Tennessee moms created a brilliant Facebook page calling for the removal of Kevin Huffman, the state education commissioner.

The site is vivid, graphic, and highly charged with the fury of really angry moms.

One entry points out that Huffman likes to say that Kentucky does better than Tennessee, even though both have the same level of poverty. So the moms produced a comparison graph showing that Kentucky has no vouchers, no charters, and spends more per pupil than Tennessee.

Another entry posts the contract that Huffman awarded to his former employer, Teach for America. Thanks to Huffman’s largesse, TFA will pick up $7 million to send in ill-trained youngsters to teach in Tennessee’s neediest schools.

There is no power so great as the power of outraged moms. They are stronger than the Koch brothers, stronger than the Walton Family Foundation, stronger even than Bill Gates. When the lives of their children are at risk, they are a mighty and unstoppable force.

I posted a link to this article yesterday. It is hilarious. It is a conference call in which Ben Austin, the leader of Parent Revolution, talks to Congressman George Miller, the senior Democrat in the House of Representatives. P-Rev is funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation. Miller is beloved by the charter lobby and has received generous campaign contributions by the Wall Street hedge fund group DFER (Democrats for Education Reform).

Unfortunately, the link was taken down by someone at MyEdNext, and the article is no longer available online. I asked the author for permission to print the article, and she sent it to me for your reading pleasure.

Here it is.

‘Parents Can Only Listen’

I attended a conference call today initiated and led by Ben Austin, Executive Director of Parent Revolution, to honor “National Parents Day.” The call from start to finish focused on the complexity of the parent trigger law, the controversy, the process, and the status of California schools.

Although the call’s password was “Parents,” parents couldn’t ask questions – only reporters could. Perhaps Parent Revolution should consider a name change or a re-branding.

I’m confused.

A few minutes into the call, a personable Ben Austin stated, “We’ve been outspent 100 to 1 by opponents of parent trigger.” Florida parents were opponents of parent trigger. I’m certain the money depleted from my personal savings account and those of the dynamo parents from Stop Parent Trigger and Fund Education Florida and others wouldn’t total a fraction of what Parent Revolution spent. I would have asked him to elaborate if parents were allowed to participate in the Parent Revolution, National Parents Day conference call but, we weren’t.

Austin later stated that there is well-funded opposition to Parent Revolution to the tune of $8 billion. Wow! As parents we shared packages of almonds and granola bars in the senate gallery vs. eating lunch outside because we spent our savings on travel expenses, child care, and shared hotel rooms. Maybe whoever has that $8B can buy us lunch in Tallahassee next year?

Austin reflected, ”I wish I had the army of lobbyists our opponents had.” The Florida lobbyist directory shows that the California firm, Parent Revolution, has three lobbyists registered in Florida along with Students First’s five Florida lobbyists, added to the eight from Jeb Bush’s Foundation. That’s 16 paid lobbyists not to mention Florida’s Charter Consortium, the Charter Alliance Group and each individual charter with multiple lobbyists who all advocated for parent trigger. That represents an estimated 220 paid lobbyists. I think Mr. Austin has his army in place, don’t you?

I’m confused.

When describing the controversy surrounding parent trigger, Austin discussed “conspiracy theories.” To counter a widely held theory, Austin definitively stated: “Parent Revolution opposes all for-profit charters.” Say what? Wait a minute. Parent Revolution was founded by Green Dot charter school chain operator, Steve Barr. Green Dot operates 18 schools in LA and will expand to handle multiple turnaround schools in Memphis in 2014.

Many charter chains register as “non profits” then set up “for-profit” firms to handle facilities, food services, operations. Does Green Dot charters have for profit firms operating their schools? If so, does Ben Austin oppose them? For-profit charter management is almost always the case in Florida. Mr. Austin, that’s not a conspiracy theory–that’s a fact.

I’m confused. Grassroots?

Mr. Austin talked about Parent Revolution being a grassroots effort. In 2012, Parent Revolution’s funders included: the Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers. This is anything but ‘grassroots.’

If Florida parents, who are in the trenches at schools, in board meetings, in the state capitol fighting for all children, could have 10% of Parent Revolution’s funds, we’d put education back on track in our state. I’d appreciate it if Mr. Austin would mount a campaign for that.

I’m confused. Parents represent the status quo?

Also participating in this call was Parent Revolution’s ‘hero’ Congressman George Miller-D (Martinez). In a quote released the day before Rep Miller said, “We can no longer pay lip service to parental involvement in schools. Instead parents must stand up and say that the status quo isn’t good enough for their children.” Say what?

Isn’t Rep Miller still the head of the Committee on Labor and Education? He was, I believe, for over a decade. Hasn’t he held office over 35 years? Yet now Rep Miller admits to paying lip service to parents in a conference call where parents are not allowed to ask questions! Forgive me, Congressman Miller, but I do believe you are the status quo.

Congressman Miller also said, “Parent trigger gives parents a voice and a say in the involvement in the quality of their child’s school. They have a right to be heard.” Just not on this conference call, I suppose. Congressman Miller, where can Florida parents be heard and when? We’ll be there.

I’m confused. No measurements?

Two great reporters asked substantive questions. It was unfortunate that Congressman Miller left before reporters were allowed to ask questions.

The first was Natasha Lindstrom. She asked: “What key measurements, Mr. Austin, are you looking for to determine if these turnarounds work?” Austin’s immediate reply was, “well, this is a two steps forward, one step back type process.” Say what? Mr. Austin seemed to take us on a tour of his stream of consciousness as he searched for a better reply. He talked about being a public school parent and how his daughter’s school is a good school. He said the benchmarks would “not be just test scores!” He discussed his favorite topic of the day being dead animal carcasses in a turnaround school where parents were forced to demand the carcasses be removed for health reasons. He concluded with, “if parents are happy with their child’s education, then it’s successful.” That’s a nice, straightforward answer. However Natasha Lindstrom asked for key measurements which, as you know, dangles over the heads of public school educators like a cleaver hung with dental floss.

To add to my confusion. Parent Revolution’s website states their goal is “to improve academic outcomes.” How does Mr. Austin expect to accomplish that without key measurements as factors? Perhaps they will change their goal to read “happy parents” so the website is properly aligned with what its Director says.

I’m confused. Relevant?

Next up was the K-12 News Network journalist, Cynthia Liu. Her spot-on question and follow up went directly to the core of the controversy over parent trigger. “Aren’t the examples you gave of effective parent petitions at Haddon Elementary and 24th Street Elementary evidence that Parent Revolution is irrelevant?” Boom!

Remarkably, the most memorable quote of the call followed that question when Mr. Austin said: “Parents don’t need Parent Revolution.” (No kidding, he actually said that!)

He explained that parents can work through PTAs and local school councils with grassroots petitions. Gee, Parents Across Florida has said that for years. Then Mr. Austin gave a lengthy example of a Los Angeles school that organized a protest demanding common sense changes. He said no one responded to them. So Parent Revolution, he concluded, is needed. It is relevant in cases like that.

However, if I’m not mistaken, the example he provided when no one empowered responded to parents was one that Parent Revolution was already involved in. Could that be why parent’s demands went unanswered? Could it be that the school was paralyzed over the turmoil created by a controversial third party with a reputation for instigating long court battles and creating divisiveness in communities?

I’m confused. Petition names can be rescinded?

The holy crow moment for me was when Mr. Austin stated: “Of course parents can rescind their names from a petition.” How many months of turmoil did the Adelanto, CA court case cost when their organization refused to allow parents to rescind their names and took them to court? How much did that cost taxpayers? Say what?

In what seemed to be a teeter-totter pattern of responding in this call, Ben Austin then jumped on the other side to say: “But, of course, signing a petition is just like voting.” He gave an example of someone who voted for President Obama in November but then chose to rescind afterwards. While the analogy is interesting, it simply doesn’t apply. A petition on a clipboard shoved at you by someone guaranteeing they’ll “improve the school with nurses, after school care, more books, etc.” while you’re dashing off to work is a far cry from casting a vote for President on election day. Good try though.

I learned that July 28th is National Parents Day.
I learned that a school in Los Angeles has a problem with dead animal carcasses being removed.
I learned that Parent Revolution sees parents as “them and us.”
I learned that a long time chair of an education committee says he wants to give parents a voice– now.
I learned that as much as I try to understand Parent Revolution’s position, their Executive Director confuses me.

Rita Solnet, Florida

This reader says that there is a growing move to push back against Jeb Bush’s disastrous reforms.

Twice, the state’s parent activists have defeated the efforts of Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee to pass a “parent trigger.” Why would parents join to defeat “parent empowerment”? They knew that the parent trigger was a corporate reform trick to allow more public schools to be handed over to corporations for profit and power. The parents banded together to stop privatization, and they won.

The reader comments about the growing resistance:

I know that it’s way too soon to claim that the worm is turning but I’m fascinated by the pushback down here in the Sunshine State. For years it seemed that no one particularly cared about the craziness coming out of Tallahassee; we just kept on doing what we were told and hoped it would get better.

Now we’ve had a committed and active coalition of parents and teachers push back successfully against a parent trigger law twice. We’ve had a (former) governor veto a VAM teacher eval bill before it got passed by the current governor and then amended by this year’s legislature due to pushback.

Now we have the state school boards and superintendents pushing back hard as well. Finally. Looks like Jeb Bush’s famed school grading program is going to be tweaked yet again because it fails so miserably every year and has created much hostility in parents, school boards, and superintendents due to the ever-shifting ground, the perpetual motion targets, and unfairness of the whole mess.

Even our new Education Commissioner (appointed fresh after his embarrassing electoral loss in Indiana) Tony Bennett seems to have softened a bit, at least in his public statements. We may yet produce a groundswell of opposition here in Florida to fight back the worst of the corporate reforms. At least that’s my hope.

Either that or the cynical reason that Rick Scott wants to be re-elected governor next year and he polls very low when it comes to education. Either way their still remains some hope:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/18/3457546/state-to-review-tougher-school.html

Florida parents–especially the Determined Moms–beat the Parent Trigger again. The Senate voted 19-19. The tie vote was a repeat of last year’s vote.

Enough Florida Republicans voted Nay to block the bill.

Parent power beat corporate power!

Florida parent groups–the PTAs, Testing Is not Teaching, Fund Education Now, 50th No More, and others–stood firm against the charter lobby.

Florida has more than 600 charter schools, but not enough to satisfy the charter industry. It has for-profit charters and cyber charters, but not enough to satisfy the profiteers.

Who won? Public schools.

Who lost? Jeb Bush. Michelle Rhee. The charter industry.

A report from Melissa Westbrook, parent activist in Washington State:

“Here in Washington State, our state PTA is joining with…McDonald’s. We are supposed to believe that because McDonald’s now has apple slices that all their food is good for kids. They are even allowing the McDonald’s Director of Nutrition to speak at the state convention.
One other interesting thing is that several of our Seattle schools PTAs are weighing whether to leave the organization altogether and become PTOs (Parent Teacher Organizations). They just don’t support the state and national PTA actions and want to see their hard-earned fundraising dollars go to their school.”

Florida parents are united in opposition to a “parent trigger” bill that would advance the interests of charter corporations. Florida already has hundreds of charter schools, many of them run by for-profit corporations. Thus far, the Florida legislature has heard testimony from the California organization Parent Revolution (heavily funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family Foundation), but not a single Florida parent organization supports the “parent trigger.” It would be fair to call the bill the “Corporate Charter Enrichment Law,” because it will create more economic growth for charter corporations.

Florida parents are wise to what the game is.

Para Espanol, oprima el “click”The Parent Trigger controversy continues.  This Thursday, SB 862 Parent Empowerment/Parent Trigger by Sen. Kelli Stargel is on the agenda in the Senate Ed Appropriations Committee.

Click here to take action against the Parent Trigger right now.

Thanks to you, oposition to Parent Trigger is growing.   No Florida parent group supports Parent Trigger.  The alliance of over 1 million parents who oppose this divisive scheme are more committed than ever. Florida parents are standing shoulder to shoulder in rock solid opposition to Parent Trigger.

We will not be used to blindly pull the trigger with no guaranteed outcome just to transfer a valuable public asset to for-profit charter chain investors.

Florida Politicians stand alone in their desire to pass the Parent Trigger. They have misjudged us.

Tell Florida politicians to drop the Parent Trigger.  Tell them to stop talking about getting us a seat at a table that we already own lock, stock and barrel. 

Our children and their schools need us to take a stand against the divisive Parent Trigger scheme.

Your voices spoke truth last year and defeated the Parent Trigger.  It’s time to do it again.

Michelle Rhee will be speaking at New York City’s Cornell Club, to promote her new book “Radical”, on Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013 at 6 PM. (6 East 44th St (between 5th and Madison, map here.) ,

New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, Class Size Matters and other pro-public education parents and advocates will be there to protest Rhee’s destructive policies and proposals, including her push to eliminate ANY caps on class size. More on how Rhee wants to undermine and privatize our public schools, see the parent Rhee-port card here.

For more information about the rally by pro-education advocates, email info@classsizematters.org .

New North Carolina Champions Investment in Public Education

Raleigh, NC—February 4, 2013—Public Schools First NC, a new statewide, non-partisan, grassroots advocacy group committed to high-quality public schools for North Carolina, has formed out of deep concern about the growing threat to privatize and weaken North Carolina’s public schools.  Despite the fact that most North Carolinians regard public education as the foundation of North Carolina’s economic future and our best investment, public school funding has declined year after year and our children are bearing the brunt.

“We believe that North Carolina’s families deserve a public education system that is inclusive, innovative, responsive, and flexible—a system that operates within a framework of fairness, sound planning and local public accountability for tax dollars,” said Nick Rhodes, Public Schools First NC Board of Directors. “Adequate and equitable funding for all schools, effective teacher and principal recruitment, retention and support, and rich educational experiences will allow North Carolina to keep its rightful place as a state that leads the nation in excellent schools.”

Public Schools First NC supports:

  • Adequate, equitable funding reflecting at least the national average for each of North Carolina’s 115 school districts.
  • Increased funding for pre-school, because research demonstrates that high quality, early childhood education is a wise investment for communities and has lifelong, positive results for children.
  •  Excellent educational environments that are partnerships between schools, families, teachers and the community.
  •  Programs that encourage the retention of professional experienced teachers.
  •  A limited number of truly innovative charter schools designed to work with local school districts, managed with careful local and state oversight.
  •  A broad education—including literature, mathematics, the arts, history, civics, science, foreign languages, physical education, vocational education and new technological innovations—that allows students to thrive in a challenging, changing, and competitive global economy.

Public Schools First NC opposes:

  • Vouchers, tax credits, education savings accounts or other similar plans that take resources from our public schools—with little public oversight and even less evidence of success for students.
  •  Overuse and misuse of high stakes testing. Time and resources should be spent on hands on learning, creative problem solving, and a holistic curriculum. Test scores should not be used to punitively grade schools or evaluate teachers but as one of many tools that inform instruction.
  •  Educational “strategies” that ignore the impact of poverty on student success and blame teachers and schools.  We will hold our elected officials accountable f or addressing the growing rates of childhood poverty in North Carolina.

As our history shows, North Carolinians understand that education is the “great equalizer” for our citizens, and each child’s right to an excellent public education is guaranteed in our state constitution.

Public Schools First NC will be a voice to remind us all that our public schools are our first and best investment for North Carolina’s future.

###

About Public Schools First NC:

Public Schools First NC (PSFNC) is a group of citizens, parents, teachers, businesses and organizations joining together to advocate for a first-rate public education system for all North Carolinians. To learn more or to join our organization, please visit: www.publicschoolsfirstnc.org

 

New Jersey Save Our Schools reminds us that “school choice” was closely associated with resistance to court-ordered school desegregation in the South. Not only vouchers but segregation academies (“schools of choice”) were havens for whites fleeing contact with blacks.

Save Our Schools NJ Statement on School Choice Week

This week, there will be a concerted national effort to use the idea of parental school choice to advance an entirely different agenda.

We want to remind our legislators and those marketing school choice that legitimate school choices:
• Ensure every child has access to a high-quality public school education;
• Do not segregate or discriminate against our children on the basis of income, English proficiency, special needs, race, gender, religion or sexual preference;
• Are transparent in the sources and uses of their funding and in their educational outcomes;
• Are democratically controlled by local communities.

Unfortunately, what is being promoted by “choice” advocates does not come even close to meeting these standards.

Vouchers arose in Southern states during the 1960s, as a method of perpetuating segregation. To prevent children of color from attending their all-white schools, some districts actually closed those public schools and issued vouchers to parents that were only good at privately segregated schools, known as segregation academies.

The more recent history of voucher use in other states confirms that they continue to increase segregation.

Unfortunately, many charter schools have the same segregating effect.

For example, the recent Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study of New Jersey charter schools found that New Jersey’s traditional public schools served four and a half times as many students with Limited English Proficiency and one and a half times as many special-needs students as did the charter schools. Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker has documented that this segregation also includes income, with charter schools serving a wealthier population of students than comparable traditional public schools.

New Jersey Department of Education statistics confirm that a number of New Jersey charter schools are also segregated by race and ethnicity.

Until school choice advocates can ensure that greater options for some parents do not equal more segregation for all of our children, their claims of looking out for the needy do not ring true.

Joining an all-white country club is also a choice, but not one that we would ever support.

——-

Save Our Schools NJ is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of parents and other concerned residents whose more than 10,000 members believe that all NJ children should have access to a high quality public education.

CPS Parents File Formal State Complaint Against UNO Charter Schools Updated

January 18, 2013 5:35pm | By Ted Cox, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

(DNAinfo/Ted Cox)

CHICAGO — Education-reform groups, including the president of a Pilsen Local School Council, have filed a formal complaint with the state against the UNO Charter Schools Network.

Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, and Rosemary Sierra, president of the Pilsen Academy LSC, filed the complaint in Chicago Thursday asking Illinois Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza to probe UNO’s school finances.

The complaint charges that the United Neighborhood Organization, a Hispanic community group since the 1980s, has overleveraged its charter schools and is using more than $70 million in state-approved tax-exempt bonds in part to pay off private loans rather than fund education.

“I wondered what they were doing with all that money,” Woestehoff said Friday. “We found that they’re very overextended in their debt.”

The complaint cited $17.3 million in bonds for UNO and the Noble Charter Schools arranged through the Illinois Finance Authority in 2006. The IFA approved another $15.8 million in bonds for UNO in 2007 and an additional $35.9 million in 2011, which Woestehoff suggested went in part to pay interest on a reported $65 million loan UNO arranged with the help of Ald. Edward Burke (14th) in the darkest days of the financial collapse in 2008.

According to official nonprofit filings by UNO Charter Schools in 2011, it posted $69.6 million in overall assets and $71.2 million in liabilities for a net debt of $1.7 million. It claimed $61.9 million in mortgages and notes owed to third parties, with $2.9 million in interest paid for the year.

UNO has 13 charters in the Chicago Public Schools, and 12 received funding increases in the 2013 budget for a total outlay of $55.6 million. That’s tied directly to school attendance, but Woestehoff suggested that’s part of the problem, that UNO uses students as “collateral” in its loans.

Standard & Poor’s report in September 2011 gave the school bonds a BBB- rating, warning of “considerable growth risk with two schools opening.” It made clear that UNO’s ability to repay was based on school population.

“That money they’re getting that’s supposed to be for children is being used to pay their debt,” Woestehoff charged. “That doesn’t seem like a healthy situation.”

Asked to comment, UNO spokesman Ray Quintanilla invited media to visit the construction site of a new UNO high school on the South Side on Tuesday. “We will be happy to expand on other concrete measures UNO has taken to address student overcrowding at that time,” he added by text.

Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) is an UNO co-founder, and the agency has abundant political ties.

As a nonprofit agency, UNO is not allowed to play a role in political campaigns, but Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangel has skirted that by saying he makes endorsements as a private citizen, not as an UNO representative. He was co-chairman of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign in 2011, and he backed Burke’s brother, Dan, in his state representative campaign against Rudy Lozano, Jr., with Rangel citing Lozano’s opposition to charter schools.

According to 2011 non-profit filings, Rangel has a salary of $207,000, and UNO’s chief operating officer, senior vice president, vice president and director of operations all make more than $100,000 each. They’re cited as officers with the UNO Charter Schools as well, which also pays two school directors over $100,000. The filing for UNO that year also posted $125,000 paid to the Edelman public relations firm for consulting.

UNO received $98 million from the state in 2009, the largest taxpayer subsidy to a single charter network. “There are no other charter networks getting anywhere near that money,” Woestehoff said.

According to Woestehoff, UNO was up for another $35 million state grant during the recent lame-duck session of the General Assembly, but it didn’t go through, although it’s pending. She said her complaint was filed in part to draw attention to UNO and encourage legislators to reconsider their support.

Cole Kain, chief of staff in the Office of Executive Inspector General, said he was forbidden to comment on any complaint filings or ongoing investigations.

“We have watched them grow into a political powerhouse,” Woestehoff said of UNO. “We looked at how they started and got into the charter school business, and when I say business, I mean business.”

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