Archives for category: Parent Groups

The latest ploy of the billionaires pushing their version of “reform schools” is to fund faux grassroots parent organizations, like the “National Parents Union.” The media refer to them as “family-led.” Like the Walton family? In Rhode Island, as Massachusetts professor Maurice Cunningham demonstrated, a parent group demanding charter schools suddenly popped up, called “Stop the Wait, Rhode Island.” These moms somehow had the money to commission a statewide poll.

In her latest post, Mercedes Schneider probes the latest “grassroots” group of parents, who somehow have the funding to intervene in litigation. It calls itself “Parents Defending Education.” She refers to this group as “prefab grassroots.”

The post is vintage Mercedes, who utilizes her considerable investigative skills to follow the money behind the facade.

Maurice Cunningham is the Master of the Mysteries of Dark Money. In this post, he traces the shifting membership of the board of directors of the Walton-funded “National Parents Union.” You know what NPU wants: charter schools. After reading the story, you will understand who pays the bills: the Waltons and Charles Koch. They are parents too! Be sure to read Christine Langhoff’s comment.

Denisha Jones explains here what happened at a televised event in Pittsburgh when she asked candidate Joe Biden if he would eliminate standardized testing. Denisha is a highly accomplished woman and a champion for children.

Biden’s Broken Promise: Time to Opt Out! 

On December 14, 2019, I asked President Biden a question about standardized testing. Seeking the Democratic nomination, he had joined other presidential candidates at a Public Education Forum, the creation of a collective of organizations, including the Schott Foundation, Network for Public Education, and Journey for Justice, live-streamed and moderated by MSNBC.

I had all day to frame my question–Biden was last in the lineup. Given the widespread havoc that standardized testing has wreaked, I had to cover a lot of ground. I wanted to demonstrate the negative impact of standardized testing on teacher autonomyand early childhood education. I needed to emphasize the racist history of standardized testing to remind everyone how we got to this point.  

“If you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools?” I asked.   “Yes,” said Biden. He told me that I was preaching to the choir and assured me that he was well-informed about the over-reliance on standardized tests to evaluate teachers and students.  He agreed that we need to give teachers the power to determine the curriculum and build children’s confidence. 

“When testing is the measure of whether or not the student is successful…teaching to a standardized test makes no sense,” he said. The question went viral, with many educators hopeful that this dark cloud would finally evaporate under a Biden presidency.  At the time, I didn’t believe him, and though I voted for him, I had no faith that he would keep his promise to me and America’s teachers.

I knew that Democrats were too deeply aligned with neoliberal education reform policies to end standardized testing. Some thought otherwise, hoping for a positive influence from  Dr. Jill Biden, a teacher. Democratic presidents may publicly speak out against such assessments while filling their administration with people who support them.   I remembered that President Obama also had delivered a critique of testing and then ramped it up with his Race to the Top program.  Biden could have selected Dr. Leslie Fenwick, with a proven track record against standardized testing, as his Secretary of Education. Instead, he chose a moderate, unknown candidate, Miguel Cardona.  

I was right.

On February 22ndChalkbeat reported, “States must administer federally required standardized testing this year…” the administration announced. While schools will not be held accountable for scores and can administer the test online and shorten it, states will not receive an exemption through federal waivers. 

Of course, when Biden made his promise to me, we had no idea that COVID-19 would upend public education as we know it, plunging teachers, students, and families into the world of remote teaching and learning. Now would be the perfect time for Biden to make good on his promise. Last year’s tests were canceled. As the pandemic rages on and districts struggle to move from remote to hybrid and fully in-person, why should Biden insist on keeping the standardized tests he claimed made no sense in a pre-COVID world?

Everyone is asking me what we should do now. Fortunately, parents and students have an excellent tool at their disposal.They can opt out. 

I cannot imagine a more opportune time for parents to refuse to have their children participate in a standardized test.  The last thing our children need is the added pressure of a test that won’t count, but they are still required to take.  Our focus should be on helping children build the resilience they need, not just tosurvive the trauma from this pandemic but to thrive in this new education landscape.  Jesse Hagopian passionately reminds us,  

“While corporate education reformers prattle on about a need for more high-stakes testing to evaluate ‘learning loss,’ what students truly require is the redirection of the billions of dollars wasted on the testing-industrial complex toward supporting educators and students: to gain access to COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations, as well as psychologists, nurses, social workers, trauma counselors, after-school programs, restorative justice coordinators, and more.”

Opting out of standardized testing is a parent’s choice and right, despite administrators’ push back. Pre-COVID 19, some schools tried to force children to sit and stare for hours while their classmates took the exam. Now that testing has gone virtual, some parents had to give up their right to opt out when they signed up for online schooling. They can make you logon to the testing platform, but no one can force your child to answer the questions.  

I am not alone in my calls for widespread opt out. On Thursday, February 25th, the recently resigned Chancellor of New York City Schools, Richard Carranza, called for parents to refuse the tests. NYC Opt Out and Integrate NYC hosted a town hall to strategize opting out of spring testing.  You can sign the Integrate NYC petition here

Opting out will not hurt schools, but it will hurt the testing corporations, desperate to prove that these assessments can survive in virtual schooling and protect their bottom line. Two years in a row without standardized testing would clear the way to finally dismantle this racist practice–the likely rationale forhis broken promise. The time has come to banish this obsolete relic of a painful past.  

For more information on the opt out movement, visit http://www.unitedoptoutnational.org/

You can also read my blog, Five Myths About the Standardized Testing and the Opt Out Movement

Full Text of My Question

Good afternoon. My name is Denisha Jones, and I am the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Today I’m here representing the Network for Public Education Action, Defending the Early Years, the Badass Teachers Association, and The Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action National Steering Committee. 

Teaching has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Instead of being allowed to use their expertise to develop creative,engaging, culturally relevant lessons, teachers are often forced to use a scripted curriculum and move students along even when they need more time. Many teachers feel more like a test prep tutor than a teacher of children and are concerned that both teachers and students are evaluated too heavily based on test scores. Beginning in kindergarten, young children are losing time for play and discovery and instead forced into developmentally inappropriate academic instruction in an effort to get them prepared for tests. Although formal testing does not begin until 3rd grade, younger students are bombarded with practice tests that narrow the curriculum and often leave many of them hating school.

Given that standardized testing is rooted in a history of eugenics and racism, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized tests in public schools? 

VIDEO: Watch Biden’s response here

BIO

Denisha Jones is the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a former kindergarten teacher and preschool director who spent the past 17 years in teacher education.  Denisha is an education justice advocate and activist. She serves as the Co-Director for Defending the Early Years, the Assistant Executive Director for the Badass Teachers Association, an administrator for United Opt Out National, and the Network for Public Education board. Since 2017, she has served on the national Black Lives Matter at School steering committee. In 2020 she joined the organizing committee for Unite to Save Our Schools. Her first co-edited book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, was published in December 2020 by Haymarket Books. She is an attorney.

New York State Allies for Public Education has led the successful opt out movement in their state for years. As much as 20% of all eligible students have refused the annual tests in most years, in some schools and districts, a majority of students don’t take the test.

They reacted angrily to the news that the Biden administration plans to require annual testing after Joe Biden publicly promised not to.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2021More information contact:Lisa Rudley (917) 414-9190nys.allies@gmail.com

Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228nys.allies@gmail.com

NYS Allies for Public Education – NYSAPE

The Biden Administration Fails to Put Children First; NYSAPE Urges Parents to Opt Out

In a recent letter released by Ian Rosenblum, Acting Secretary of Education and former Executive Director of the reformer organization Education Trust NY, the USDOE and the Biden Administration have signaled that testing waivers submitted by the states will be denied this year. Although the ESSA accountability measures will be granted waivers, the insistence on forging ahead with ESSA-mandated student assessments completely ignores the damaging impact that administering state assessments in the midst of a pandemic will have on our children. 

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration believes that traumatized children, including those who have yet to set foot in their school buildings since last March, will be best served preparing for and taking standardized tests, even though this will only add to the stress they are already experiencing. 

However, parents are not without recourse. New York State parents can, and will, exercise their right to refuse to allow their children to participate in the grades 3-8 state assessments. NYSAPE’s New York State Test Opt Out parent letter can be found here.

NYSAPE applauds the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for announcing “Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDOE”.

NYSAPE now calls on the New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department to take immediate action to demand any and all flexibility on ESSA regulations, and provide clear guidance to school districts that they must inform parents of their right to opt out of the state assessments and prohibit any mixed messaging to coerce parents otherwise. 

NYSED led by Commissioner Betty Rosa & the Board of Regents are leading the way in putting our children’s needs first. 

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 70 parent and educator groups across the state.

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Parents in Texas got disgusted 15 years ago when the Legislature almost passed a voucher law. They organized the Texas Parent PAC, which is a highly effective voice on behalf of public schools and more than five million students.

The website of Texas Parent PAC has a list of the endorsed candidates, both Democrats and Republicans.

Their guiding principles are a model for parents, grandparents, and civic activists in other states.

I recently heard from Dinah Miller, co-founder and co-chair, who explained the PAC’s origins. She wrote:

Texas Parent PAC formed in 2005 after taxpayer-funded private school vouchers failed to pass the Texas House by only one vote. Five PTA moms called a press conference during PTA Summer Seminar in Austin and announced we were forming a political action committee to elect better talent to the Texas House who would oppose vouchers and support public schools. We recruited Diane Patrick from Arlington who had local and state school board experience to run against hostile Texas House Public Education Committee Chair Kent Grusendorf who had been in office 20 years. We beat Grusendorf in the primary along with others and then knocked off another hostile education committee member in the general election. Those races put us on the map.

From our website: Texas Parent PAC is a bipartisan political action committee for parents, grandparents, parents-to-be, and anyone who supports high quality public education. The PAC has a track record of success, helping to elect over 63 current members of the Texas Legislature, and defeat 23 incumbents who were hostile to public education.

Endorsed candidates reflect traditional mainstream American values that honor and support children and their families, quality public education, strong communities, unlimited opportunities, and maximum citizen participation in our democracy. All endorsed candidates support the Texas Parent PAC Guiding Principles.

Fifteen years later, our volunteers are still fundraising for our endorsed bipartisan candidates for the November 3, 2020 election. Our website is www.txparentpac.com

Sincerely, Your Fan,

Dinah Miller

Co-chair and Co-founder

Texas Parent PAC

Jan Resseger describes a grassroots effort to stave off the persistent assaults on public schools by the Republican-controlled legislature and state officials. Ohio has a large and low-performing charter sector, as well as a well-funded voucher sector that has produced no gains for students.

The privatization movement has harmed the public schools that most students attend without providing better schools. While the nation has struggled to survive the pandemic, Ohio’s legislators have remained focused on expanding their failed choice plans.

Resseger describes the work of the Northeast Ohio Friends of PublicEducation and their decision to create a website to educate the public.

Resseger writes:

In this leaderless situation with schools struggling everywhere, no matter their efforts to prepare, questions of policy have just sort of faded away—except that the privatizers are doggedly trying to co-opt the chaos in every way they can. In Ohio, the Legislature has taken advantage of the time while the public is distracted by COVID-19 to explode the number of EdChoice vouchers for private schools at the expense of public school district budgets, to neglect to address the injustices of our state’s punitive, autocratic state takeovers of the public schools in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland, and to put off for over a year discussion of a proposed plan to fix a state school funding formula so broken that 503 of the state’s 610 school districts (80 percent) have fallen off a grossly under-funded old formula.

In recent years, most Ohio school districts have been getting exactly as much state funding as they got last year and the year before that and the year before that even if their overall enrollment has increased, the number poor children has risen, or the number of special education students has grown. And all this got even worse under the current two-year state budget, in which school funding was simply frozen for every school district at the amount allocated in fiscal year 2019. That is until this past June, when, due to the revenue shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor cut an additional $330 million from the money already budgeted for public schools in the fiscal year that ended June 30, thus forcing school districts to reduce their own budgets below what they had been promised. With much hoopla in the spring of 2019, the new Cupp-Patterson school funding plan was proposed. A year ago, however, research indicated (see here and here) that—partly thanks to the past decade of tax cuts in Ohio and partly due to problems in the new distribution formula itself—the new school funding proposal failed to help the state’s poorest schools districts. The analysis said that a lot of work would be required to make the plan equitable. New hearings are planned this fall, but nobody has yet reported on whether or how the Cupp-Patterson Plan has been readjusted.

In this context, discussions in the Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education focused on our need to help ourselves and the citizens in our school districts find our way. What are the big issues? What information will help us explore and advocate effectively for policies that will ensure our schools are funded adequately and that funding is distributed equitably? In Ohio, how can we effectively push the Legislature to collect enough revenue to be able to fund the state’s 610 school districts without dumping the entire burden onto local school districts passing voted property tax levies? How can we help stop what feels like a privatization juggernaut in the Ohio Legislature? And how can federal policy be made to invest in and help the nation’s most vulnerable public schools?

The idea of a website emerged, with the idea of highlighting four core principles—with a cache of information in each section: Why Public Schools? Why More School Funding? Why Not Privatization? and Why Educational Equity? Although we have noticed that much public school advocacy these days emphasizes what public school supporters are against, we decided to frame our website instead about what we stand for as “friends of public education” even though our opposition to charter schools and private school tuition vouchers is evident in our website.

Educating the public is a crucial step in reclaiming the narrative from entrepreneurs, libertarians, and cultural vandals.

When Governor Cuomo got the blowback from parents and educators who were outraged at the idea that he invited Bill Gates (and now Eric Schmidt of Google) to “reinvent” education in the state, he pretended he didn’t say it.

He (or someone on his staff) wrote a message yesterday on his Facebook page:

“Teachers are heroes & nothing could ever replace in-person learning — COVID has reinforced that.

The re-imagine education task force focuses on using technology most effectively while schools are closed & to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are.

This will be done in full partnership with educators and administrators — that’s the only way it could be successful.”

Bringing in Bill Gates only to re-imagine education during the time that schools are closed?

Wait a minute. Blogger and education activist Peter Goodman (who attends every meeting of the state education board, the Board of Regents) reprinted the original announcement by Cuomo’s office:

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal. As New York begins to develop plans to reopen K-12 schools and colleges, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, including:

How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;
How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;
How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;
How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;
How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;
How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and Colleges and Universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and
Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?
The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed.

Does this sound as though the Gates’ reinvention is about “only while schools are closed” or is Cuomo asking Gates and his team of “experts” to devise what the state’s schools “look like in the future”?

Does Cuomo think the public is stupid?

Goodman quite rightly reminds us that Cuomo is not in charge of the schools. The Board of Regents are. That’s what the state constitution says; that’s what state law says.

Cuomo should back off and tell Gates to stay in Seattle with his team of “experts.” They have done enough damage to New York State’s schools with their Common Core standards, testing, teacher evaluations, inBloom, etc.

New York parent leaders are all over this deal. Expect a revival of the Opt Out movement if the Gates’ takeover goes forward.

Well, that was fast!

Only minutes after news broke that Governor Cuomo had asked Bill Gates and his foundation to help “reimagine” education in New York, parent groups responded with a loud NO!

Don’t mess with New York parents! Remember, they started the biggest opt-out from state testing in history.

Here is their public letter:

May 5, 2020

To Governor Cuomo:

As educators, parents and school board members, we were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on “reimagining” our schools following the Covid crisis. Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state.

Whether that be the high-handed push by the Gates Foundation for the invalid Common Core standards, unreliable teacher evaluation linked to test scores, or privacy-violating data-collection via the corporation known as inBloom Inc., the education of our children has been repeatedly put at risk by their non-evidence based “solutions”, which were implemented without parent input and despite significant public opposition. As you recall, these policies also sparked a huge opt-out movement across the state, with more than twenty percent of eligible students refusing to take the state exams.

We urge you instead to listen to parents and teachers rather than allow the Gates Foundation to implement their damaging education agenda once again. Since the schools were shut down in mid-March, our understanding of the profound deficiencies of screen-based instruction has only grown. The use of education tech may have its place, but only as an ancillary to in-person learning, not as its replacement. Along with many other parents and educators, we strongly oppose the Gates Foundation to influence the direction of education in the state by expanding the use of ed tech.

Instead, we ask that you fund our schools sufficiently and equitably, to allow for the smaller classes, school counselors, and other critical services that our children will need more than ever before, given the myriad losses they have experienced this year.

Yours sincerely,

New York State Allies for Public Education

Class Size Matters

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Cc: Board of Regents and Acting NYSED Commissioner Shannon Tahoe

https://www.nysape.org/nysape-pr-opt-remains-strong.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2019
More information contact:
Jeanette Deutermann (516) 902-9228; nys.allies@gmail.com
Kemala Karmen (917) 807-9969; nys.allies@gmail.com
New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)

Opt-Out Remains Strong Despite the former Commissioner’s Scare Tactics; Room Continues to be Made for Whole-Child Initiatives

The New York State Education Department released this year’s grades 3-8 test scores and opt out numbers at the end of August. Once again parents and educators searched in vain for justification for the millions of dollars spent on a testing system that has done little to improve student success or restore confidence and trust in our state’s education department.

After decades of testing, there remain significant gaps in results between Black and Hispanic students and their White and Asian peers, between economically disadvantaged and economically advantaged students, and between students with disabilities and nondisabled students. Continuing for another few decades on the same exact path of expensive and excessive tests hoping for different outcomes is a disservice to children and our society.

Although the outgoing Commissioner was able to slightly reduce the rate at which parents refused participation in the assessments, she accomplished this through fear and intimidation, urging district administrators to use whatever tactics necessary to increase participation rates. We documented these abhorrent tactics as we learned about them, here. In the end, these tactics didn’t work as most schools did not meet the 95% participation rate.

“The gap is still growing after far too many years. It’s time to own this and admit that annual testing in two subjects with draconian stakes attached haven’t helped the kids whom the tests are supposed to help. Instead let’s look to create real ways to help kids in underserved groups — with proven actions, backed by research. Let’s take the enormous taxpayer funds spent on destructive testing and invest instead in what we know works: food programs, after school care and programs, small classes, fully staffed school health offices—and so much more,” says Lisa Litvin, parent, former President Hastings-on-Hudson Board of Education and former Co-President Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA

Kemala Karmen, a founding parent member of NYC Opt Out, adds, “Not only does the so-called achievement gap remain, the whole notion is controversial and backward. To quote Ibram X. Kendi, historian and author of How to Be an Antiracist, ‘What if different environments actually cause different kinds of achievement rather than different levels of achievement? What if the intellect of a poor, low-testing Black child in a poor Black school is different—and not inferior—to the intellect of a rich, high-testing White child in a rich White school? What if the way we measure intelligence shows not only our racism but our elitism?’ Our state would do better to focus on ensuring that all students start with equal opportunities rather than annually trot out test scores that merely reflect an uneven starting line.”

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters points out that “with all the considerable money and time spent on these tests, and the anxiety they have provoked in children, the state hasn’t been able to devise a valid or reliable assessment that gives any useful information either to districts or teachers about how to improve instruction or the conditions of learning.”

“Consider the harm to our students with special needs and to English language learners,” reasons Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School (Bronx, NY) and candidate for Congress for the 16th district. “Well over half are considered ‘far below grade level’ each and every year. These tests are flawed single measures that do not consider the complexity and diversity of intelligence. Our kids are so much more. Let’s create a system of progressive pedagogies like Montessori and Reggio Emilio that helps them to prove it.”

Jeanette Deutermann, parent of two, and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, “The New York State Assembly bowed to unexplained pressure exerted by the NYSUT Leadership and blocked legislation–that the Senate had already passed–that would have codified protections for students who opt out. In doing so, they failed to ensure even the most basic protections for student and parental rights; ALL parents have the right to decide whether to allow their children to participate in high-stakes testing without fear of district retaliation. We urge NYSED and the Board of Regents to use the opportunity for a new Commissioner and new direction to move away from test-based education policies, and call upon elected officials to act now to protect students and parents who choose to opt out in EVERY district across New York State.”

Jake Jacobs, co-administrator of the NY Badass Teachers Association, sums it up: “New York’s testing policy is still highly flawed and scientifically invalid for high-stakes decisions. Students are trained to guess at answers they don’t know, eliminating bad choices and then basically just gambling. Each year, thousands of scores fall right on the borderline of passing/failing, meaning lucky or unlucky guesses determined all these outcomes. Because the tests also do not account for home circumstances, from private tutors to neglect or abuse, they are not a reality-based method for diagnosing or improving obstacles to learning. Most absurd of all, the state is still using test scores in math or ELA in the evaluations of teachers of other subjects. I teach art, but have had math scores in my annual evaluation since 2013 as part of district-based ‘compliance’ agreements. And as ever, the formulas used to calculate the scores are secret, as is the process by which the proficiency levels are set, aka the ‘cut scores.’ Who cares about minor fluctuations in scores when the tests are still unverifiable, still grossly inaccurate, and still ignoring the factors that matter most?”

Please click on these links to download the 2019-2020 Opt Out Letter:
English version & Spanish version

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition of over 70 parent and educator groups across the state.

Gay Adelmann, founder of the parent activist group called Dear JCPS, recently requested the financial records of the Kentucky PTA. The PTA refused to turn them over, although they are supposed to be a matter of public record. (Jefferson County is synonymous with Louisville.)

Dear JCPS co-founder, Gay Adelmann recently made a routine records request of the largest school district in Kentucky (27th largest in the nation), to obtain copies of local PTAs’ financial records for the past 5 years. These records, which, according to the “Redbook” are required by Kentucky law to be filed annually with each school’s year-end audit, consist of a preliminary budget and a one-page year-end financial review. Her hope was to identify schools that might benefit from a little extra help with programming or fundraising and raise community awareness so that these disparities could be taken into consideration while the district is actively tackling the bigger picture issues.

As often happens when records are held in multiple locations, or when district personnel are unavailable during summer break, the district notified Adelmann that additional time would be required before these records would be made available to her. They informed her she would receive the documents on August 30.

On August 12, Adelmann received an email from Kentucky PTA attorney Coy Travis informing her that his client had filed a complaint in district court to seek injunctive relief in order to prevent the district from turning these records over to her. A hearing was set for August 15 in which she was invited to appear.

After some skirmishing, the judge in the case ordered the PTA to release the documents. It must do so or file an appeal by September 16.

Adelmann writes:

At a time when privatizers are trying to get in through every nook and cranny, influential entities such as Kentucky PTA should be dedicating resources toward revealing predators and exposing their influence. This lawsuit does the opposite.

How much money and time is this lawsuit costing their dues-paying members and taxpayers? More importantly, where was this level of activism when charter schools, vouchers and loss of local parental voice on SBDMs were on the menu? In the past 10 years, only one resolution has been passed at the Kentucky PTA annual convention, and it was one that was initiated by Adelmann.

Transparency is integral to accountability. Bill Gates gave millions to the National PTA to win its support for Common Corea nd its silence on charter schools. Show your cards.