Irony Alert — Walmart Sponsors Concert To “Salute Teachers” & Support Anti-Teacher “Parent Trigger” Movie

It’s a cliche, but sometimes truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

Walmart is sponsoring a concert to “salute teachers” and benefit Teach For America, where they’ll also show scenes from an upcoming anti-teacher movie on the “parent trigger.”

I’ve previously written several posts about the movie, and here’s the trailer:

Thanks to Leoni Haimson for the tip on the concert.

Stealth Parent Trigger Effort In Washington State

I just saw this tweet from Ken Libby:


Washington State is preparing to vote on an initiative to support the creation of charter schools, an effort that has been voted down three times in the past.

Here’s an excerpt from an article about the initiative, being bankrolled by folks like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and John Walton:

In addition, I-1240 enables an existing public school to be converted to a charter school if the applicant has majority support of the parents or of the teachers. The resulting charter school would not pay rent to the public school district that owns the facility.

Thanks to Ken for highlighting this point….

California PTA Makes Huge Political Mistake

As regular readers know, I’m a big supporter of the PTA and the role it plays, and the potential role it can play, in helping families, schools and neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, as I’ve written before (see Molly Munger, The PTA & The Shoe Button Complex), the California PTA has made a huge political miscalculation by becoming just about the only ally billionaire Molly Munger has in her doomed-to-fail state initiative to raise taxes to support schools.

And the PTA has continued its support of Munger even when she tries to torpedo Governor Brown’s competing initiative to support schools (which is supported by just about everyone else in the education community). Happily, today the courts ruled against Munger in her latest attack on the Governor’s plan.

Every poll shows the Governor’s initiative is holding a lead, though a tenuous one, though just today the consulting firm that led the successful fight last month to defeat a tobacco tax increase announced they would lead the campaign against the Governor’s initiative. And every poll shows that Munger’s initiative is losing and has absolutely no chance of winning.

Everyday the California PTA gives Munger political “cover” means that the PTA will lose political credibility for years to come.

If they dump Munger now, though, even though it’s unlikely someone like her would fold her tent and walk away, it would at least take the wind out of her sails and minimize the negative political impact her campaign will have on the Governor’s initiative.

What can the California PTA be thinking?

Does Arne Duncan Support The Parent Trigger?

I’ve often published posts here and guest columns elsewhere criticizing the parent trigger.

However, I hadn’t heard until today that Education Secretary Arne Duncan supposedly supports it.

Alexander Russo tweeted out a Reuters article saying:

“The Obama administration backs parent trigger.”

Since that was new to me, I searched online to see if there were actual quotations documenting that support, but I wasn’t able to find any.

A pro-trigger group in Florida says:

“US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spoken several times in favor of the Parent Trigger movement across the United States.”

However, they didn’t provide any documentation to that claim.

Based on the other policies Secretary Duncan has pushed, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he supported it. But I am surprised that I hadn’t heard of it, and that I can’t seem to find any reliable documentation of it.

Does anyone know if those claims accurate? Does he indeed support the parent trigger?

PTA Wisdom Shines Through Cloud Of Privatization At Congressional Hearing Today

Today, the Congressional Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on “Exploring State Success in Expanding Parent and Student Options.” In the midst of parent trigger and voucher advocates, Dr. Maria Fletcher, president of the New York State PTA, provided some important wisdom. Here’s an excerpt from her testimony:

Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question – instead of asking how to empower parents by providing alternatives to their neighborhood school, why aren’t we empowering parents by engaging all stakeholders to ensure that every neighborhood school lives up to the quality promise we’ve made to educate all students? All public schools – traditional, charter, magnet – must have the capacity to build and capitalize on effective school-family partnerships to increase student achievement.

We should empower parents by preparing our teachers and leaders in research-based and culturally competent family engagement practices that have demonstrated positive impact on student achievement and school climate. We should empower parents with real, tangible tools to supplement student learning at home coupled with accessible, understandable, and actionable student and school data that serves to inform and support instruction and learning. “Your school is broken – send your child here instead” isn’t tantamount to effectively engaging parents in education.

You can read the less wise testimony today from others here….

“Molly Munger puts $2 million more into California tax measure”

The multimillionaire (billionaire) supporting an ill-advised tax initiative for California’s November ballot just put up another $2 million for signature gathering.

The only reason this initiative has the little public credibility it has is due to the California PTA supporting it. I’ve previously posted about what a big mistake they’re making (see Mutual Assured Destruction Is Not A Good Political Strategy For School Funding and Great Parent Engagement Idea — Not So Good Execution) . There is still time for them to back-out. I can only hope….

Great Parent Engagement Idea — Not So Good Execution

I think it’s great that the California PTA wants to be a political leader in getting more funds for schools. In California, they’re a major backer of a tax initiative that’s hoping to be on November ballot.

Unfortunately, they are competing with two other efforts — one led by Governor Jerry Brown (with support from The California Teachers Association) and the other by the California Federation of Teachers — that want to also place tax measures for schools on the same ballot. And the one supported by the PTA is polling substantially worse than the other two.

There’s a community organizer axiom that says you never try a ballot measure unless you’re pretty darn sure you’re going to win. That’s because if you try and lose, you end up considerably weaker politically.

I am not aware of The PTA being this explicitly political in the past, and I think moving in that direction is excellent. However, since it is relatively new to the organization, if I were them I’d want to make sure that members had a very positive experience — defeat is not the most energizing experience for people new to the political process, and is not the result that is going to generate long-term enthusiasm for parent engagement in schools.

Plus, if all three get on the ballot, that dramatically increases the odds of them all failing and schools getting nothing.

I hope that the PTA decides, instead, to make a deal with Governor Brown and the CTA — the PTA drops support for their own initiative in return for something (perhaps earmarking some funds for increased parent engagement support). That would be “half a loaf” and not “half a baby” — and then everyone wins, including our students.

Southern States Targeting Immigrant Children

Alabama is joining North Carolina and Tennessee is going after immigrant students (though Alabama is targeting immigrants in general, too). Alabama’s new law:

…bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school.It obliges public schools to determine the immigration status of all students, requiring parents of foreign-born students to report the immigration status of their children. The bill requires Alabama’s public schools to publish figures on the number of immigrants — both legal and illegal — who are enrolled and on any costs associated with the education of illegal immigrant children.

Among other consequences, none of these measures are going to help increase parent engagement.

What is going on in the South?

House Committee Votes To Retain Funding For Parental Information & Resource Centers

A House committee voted today to retain funding for the Parental Information & Resource Centers (PIRCs).

I haven’t been following this issue that closely, but I have to say that I’m surprised. I’m not sure if the National PTA was the primary lobbying force behind it or not but, if whoever was appears to have done a pretty darn impressive job.

Family Engagement in Education Act of 2011 Introduced

The Family Engagement in Education Act of 2011 was introduced in Congress this past week.

The PTA has been pushing the bill, and you can read their press release about its introduction. Here is an excerpt:

The bill would provide incentives to districts and schools to implement best practices, such as parent leadership academies, place family engagement coordinators in schools, and provide professional development for educators on how to partner with families.

When I tried to see what the bill actually said, the sponsors’ congressional offices said they were still waiting to get official copies from the Government Printing Office. I don’t quite understand why they need it before they publish it online, but our government can work in strange ways…

I also have no idea about its likelihood of passage.  Would anybody like to hazard a guess?

Annenberg Starts “Center For Education Organizing”

Earlier this month, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform announced the formation of the Center for Education Organizing. This is how they describe their purpose:

…the center will focus on providing policy and strategic support to community organizations that increases the capacity of low- to moderate-income parents and students of color to lead and participate in the process of transforming America’s urban schools. It will concentrate on strengthening relationships among and between education organizing and civil rights groups, advocacy organizations, reform support organizations, and education researchers, as well as exploring ways to facilitate alliance building between community groups and teacher unions. Furthermore, it will help build a strong research-based policy agenda for reform that reflects the community’s aspirations.

You can read more about the new center here.

Annenberg has done some excellent work in this area. Organized Communities, Stronger Schools is THE study on how community organizing can be an effective strategy with schools, and I cite it often in my book and on this blog. And, of course, Anne Henderson is THE researcher on parent engagement efforts, and works closely with Annenberg.

Even with that “street cred,” I have to admit I’m a little wary of this new undertaking (and I recognize that there may be a lot about it I just don’t know). During my nineteen year community organizing career, it was not unusual to see “technical assistance” groups of varying quality suck-up foundation money that might ordinarily be available for grass-roots organizing. With a fair number of already high-quality progressive education “think tanks,” I’m not sure another one is needed. And I wonder how they’re going to determine which community organizing groups are more “astroturf” (like Parent Revolution) than “grass-roots.”

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out…