Archives for category: Parent Groups

Leonie Haimson lists here the best and worst education events of 2014.

She cites the demise of inBloom as one of the best and the Vergara decision as one of the worst.

What would you add to her list?

Apparently Congress doesn’t care about the privacy of student data and doesn’t think that parents need to know which vendors are getting their children’s confidential records.

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy issued this statement:

JULY 30, 2014 ADMIN

For immediate release: July 30, 2012

Rachael Stickland, 303-204-1272;
Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329;

On the Markey/Hatch student privacy bill

Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said: “Though we appreciate the effort that Senators Markey and Hatch have undertaken on behalf of better privacy protections for students, their proposed legislative fix falls short of what’s needed; it sets no specific security standards for the storage or transmission of children’s personal information, allows unlimited disclosures and redisclosures to for-profit vendors and other third parties without parental consent as long as the data isn’t used for marketing purposes, and doesn’t even require that schools and districts inform parents as to what personal information is being shared with which particular vendors. Thus the clause that requires that parents be able to amend the information held by the vendor is nonsensical as its unclear how they would even know who to contact.”

Said Leonie Haimson, the other co-chair of the Parent Coalition, “Nothing in this bill would have stopped the outrageous data-grab of inBloom, or any of the other companies set to take its place. We need a far stronger bill to do the job that parents are demanding: protecting their children’s privacy and safety from breaches and unwarranted data-mining.”


You are invited to a major event honoring Leonie Haimson, a brilliant, fearless leader. Please make plans to attend and meet her and other allies in the fight for better education! Haimson led the fight to block inBloom from gaining access to the confidential records of millions of children. Thanks to her leadership, inBloom went out of business even though it was backed by the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and Rupert Murdoch’s Corporation. One principled woman defended the privacy rights of children and families, and she won! She showed all of us the power of one person.

Join Parents Across America at its first annual Parent Voice Award Dinner honoring PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, leader of New York City-based Class Size Matters in DC on July 28.

This year, Leonie nearly single-handedly organized parents around the U.S. to oppose the impending commercialization of student information by the inBloom company, which ultimately went out of business after every state on its original clientele list pulled out of the program. Leonie is also the founder of NYC-based Class Size Matters, a group dedicated to promoting smaller class size – a proven, effective school reform strategy. Leonie started the New York Public School Parents’ Blog and has been a leader in challenging school privatization, misuse and over use of standardized tests, and, most recently, the threat to student data privacy.

The 2014 PAA Parent Voice Award Dinner is being hosted by the National Education Association at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Tickets will include cocktails and a buffet dinner — and are only $20!

Proceeds from the dinner will support PAA’s programs and the work of our chapters around the U.S.

The registration form also includes an option for those unable to attend who would like to make a fully tax-deductible contribution to PAA in honor of Leonie, or anyone who can attend and would like to make a tax-deductible donation to PAA over and above the cost of the ticket.

Thank you!

In response to a post by Peter Greene (“The Arne Duncan Drinking Game“), this reader describes the National PTA convention in Texas. The National PTA has received $2.5 million from the Gates Foundation, including $500,000 specifically for Common Core. Also, the National PTA provided a screening of the anti-public school “Waiting for Superman” at its annual convention in 2011. Odd.

She writes:

“I was at that PTA convention in Texas and I bit my tongue through his entire speech. I wanted to throw up. I have lost faith in the PTA. While I love what PTA does at a local level for our schools, I am sickened by what I see at the state and National PTA levels. Our voices as members have been sold out to corporate interests, and the top leadership is out of touch with parents today. Most of the top leaders dont even have children in public schools anymore so they think we are overreacting about the excessive testing and problems with common core. The leaders enjoy the power and prestige of their office and won’t listen to parents and teachers.

“Even more alarming, the general meetings at the national PTA convention were sponsored by Discover Card, Microsoft, and Pearson. During the general meetings, attendees were forced to sit through 15 minute commercials about their corporations and hear about their “partnerships” with PTA. The week before the convention, delegates received emails from PTA with advertisements for Pearson, telling us to be sure to stop by Pearson’s booth in the exhibit hall. How much did PTA get to spam our inboxes with marketing? We paid a lot of money to attend that convention, I don’t appreciate my email address being sold like that, especially to Pearson.”

Stephanie Simon writes in about how parents organized, lobbied, agitated, and brought down inBloom.

Simon writes:

“You’ve heard of Big Oil and Big Tobacco. Now get ready for Big Parent.

“Moms and dads from across the political spectrum have mobilized into an unexpected political force in recent months to fight the data mining of their children. In a frenzy of activity, they’ve catapulted student privacy — an issue that was barely on anyone’s radar last spring — to prominence in statehouses from New York to Florida to Wyoming.”

Most shocking of all is that the Obama administration is prepared to spend $1 billion (half from the federal government, half from the states) to track the movements of every child:

“Now, parents are rallying against another perceived threat: huge state databases being built to track children for more than two decades, from as early as infancy through the start of their careers.

Promoted by the Obama administration, the databases are being built in nearly every state at a total cost of well over $1 billion. They are intended to store intimate details on tens of millions of children and young adults — identified by name, birth date, address and even, in some cases, Social Security number — to help officials pinpoint the education system’s strengths and weaknesses and craft public policy accordingly.

“The Education Department lists hundreds of questions that it urges states to answer about each child in the public school system: Did she make friends easily as a toddler? Was he disciplined for fighting as a teen? Did he take geometry? Does she suffer from mental illness? Did he go to college? Did he graduate? How much does he earn?

“Every parent I’ve talked to has been horrified,” said Leonie Haimson, a New York mother who is organizing a national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. “We just don’t want our kids tracked from cradle to grave.”

Why does the Education Department want so much information about every child? What is the rationale for assembling Big Data about our children? Does Congress know about this? Is there any other government in the world that is data mining its children?

Will parents mobilize to stop the federal government from mining their children’s personal data?

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:

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.”


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