Parents Across America Action News May 2, 2013

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America.

PAA Action Alert

alert-icon-red-mdHelp a student speak out against using tests to evaluate teachers

Here’s a quick action for the week:

Please sign this petition posted by a Miami University of Ohio student. As the student explains: “Standardized tests are not a sound or fair way to evaluate teachers. The higher the stakes we give these tests, the more we will see test prep and test cheating, which goes against the positive, democratic nature of public education.”

We agree! Take a look at PAA’s fact sheet, “Tying Teachers’ Salaries to Test Scores Doesn’t Work.”

PAA and PAAers in the News

Great news for PAA!

After several months of arduous work, the PAA Board of Directors has finalized our by-laws and application for our IRS 501c3 status.

We also elected officers:

Dora Taylor, Seattle, WA: President

Natalie Beyer, Charlotte, NC: Vice-President

Julie Woestehoff, Chicago, IL: Secretary

The by-laws have been sent to the PAA leadership group for feedback, then we hope to have our application in the mail.

Many thanks to our current Board for all of their hard work – to Karen Miller and Officers Dora, Natalie and Julie, and to former Board members Pamela Grundy and Karran Harper-Royal. We have had excellent advice and support from Dusty Federko, a volunteer attorney from Chicago’s Katten Muchin law firm via The Law Project, a Chicago-based group that provides pro bono legal assistance to non-profit organizations.

Congratulations to Rita Solnet on Florida parent trigger win!

RitaThe indomitable Rita Solnet, who helped beat back the parent trigger bill last year in Florida, has done it again, with the help of other parent groups and some major goofs by Parent Revolution.

The astroturfers got caught setting up front groups, forging signatures on pro-trigger petitions, and lying about a video used to show Florida legislators that there were, yes, there were some parents who supported the proposal.

Education Week reported:

“Rita Solnet, the leader of Parents Across America’s Florida affiliate (which also opposes parent trigger) was in a celebratory mood after the vote, noting that many believed that trigger legislation would pass this time.”

This is a huge win against Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, and the rest of the corporate reformers. It will resound across the country. Huge kudos to Rita who led the fight all the way.

You can read more about their tactics in Rita’s PAA post. She plans to write more about the victory soon.

PAAers expose Broad Foundation agenda

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a detailed story about the Broad Academy and its graduates, featuring two PAA leaders.

The story included this quote from PAA founding member Helen Gym, of PAA Philadelphia affiliate Parents United for Public Education:

“They run roughshod over communities, ignore data and local experiences . . . and promote a homogenized, nationalized agenda of short-term fixes in a top-down structure,” Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education in Philadelphia, said of the foundation.

“They both contribute to and profit from what educators now refer to as ‘churn,’ the short-term turnover of leaders who come with big egos, big salaries and sweeping reforms that last a millisecond before they’re off to the next city. It’s a brand of reform that’s created chaos in cities nationwide, not the least of which has been Philadelphia.”

The story also referenced “The Broad Report“, a web site created by PAA founding member from Oakland, Sharon Higgins, to track Broad activities, and quoted Sharon:

“It’s this extreme wealth where you have this one individual with his one idea, and he is able to implement what he wants without any accountability,” said Higgins.

Sharon also speaks at anti-Arne Duncan demonstration in San Francisco!

Teachers from the US and around the world picketed US Education Secretary Arne Duncan on April 30, 2013 at the national convention of the American Educational Research Association which was meeting in San Francisco.

Steve Zeltzer, a local labor activist, filmed a protest against Arne Duncan which took place on Tuesday, April 30, outside the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco where the AERA meeting was taking place. Duncan had been invited to speak.

Zeltzer also interviewed a number of people who were protesting, including PAA founding member Sharon Higgins.

Sharon’s segment starts at 31:20 min. and ends at 43:21 min. She covers a LOT of ground on corporate reform, including charter schools, Duncan’s poor education resume, Michelle Rhee, and the reasons why PAA was founded (at 34:30)

Sharon says that she also handed out flyers, and a lot of people who took them verbalized strong support for the protest.

Great job representing PAA, Sharon!!!

Explosive NYC town hall meeting on student data privacy

Leonie Haimson speaking at the Town Hall meeting.
Leonie Haimson speaking at the Town Hall meeting.

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, of PAA affiliate Class Size Matters in NYC, reported on the town hall meeting she organized this week about the state and city plan to share personally identifiable student information with a corporation called inBloom Inc. and other third party vendors:

The city and state have already shared confidential student data with inBloom. They don’t know how much they will have to pay for inBloom’s “services” starting in 2015. If there is a data breach from inBloom (as many people believe is nearly inevitable) the state will be legally and financially liable, since the Gates Foundation has insulated itself and inBloom from responsibility.

If this highly sensitive information leaks out, it could lead to class action suits against the state for many millions of dollars. Just yesterday, it was reported that LivingSocial suffered a massive breach from a data cloud. Living Social is partially owned by Amazon, which will host the inBloom data cloud. Why is NY State — the only inBloom participant currently committed to sharing student data from throughout the state — insisting on gambling with millions of children’s privacy and security along with all these financial risks?

Here are some newsclips that capture the intense anger expressed by many parents:

Village Voice: NYC Parents Grill Department of Education Over Private Student Data Cloud ; EdSurge: NYC Parents Raise Questions About InBloom; The Indypendent: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations Are Data Mining Our Schools; WINS radio/CBS: Parents Irate Over NYC DOE Plan To Give Student Data To Nonprofit Organization ; Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Parents eye city plan to give individual student records to private biz.


PAA-square-logo--300x225If you share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policy making, we invite you to affiliate with us if you are an existing group, or to form a new PAA chapter. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. Here’s how!

PAA Chapter and Affiliate News

Welcome new chapter in Virginia!

We’re so happy to welcome another new PAA chapter in Virginia- PAA–Richmond Metro/Virginia. The chapter leader is Catherine Clements and you can contact her at Welcome, Catherine!

And it’s a milestone of sorts – PAA-Richmond/Metro Virginia is PAA’s 50th chapter or affiliate!

FOIA win in Philly

PAA Founding Member Helen Gym
PAA Founding Member Helen Gym

PAA Philadelphia affiliate Parents United for Public Education recently won an open records case around a secret list of school closings generated by a consultant hired by a private foundation and anonymous donors. According to District filings, the list of 60 schools by the Boston Consulting Group had been used by the District in determining the final list of 24 school closings in Philadelphia which caused enormous community protest in March.

As Parents United co-founder Helen Gym writes to us:

“The closing of 24 public schools was THE issue of the year. Throughout most of the decision-making process the public was kept purposefully in the dark. Who had influence in that process should matter deeply to all of us.”

Read more here.

New website for PAA South Carolina affiliate

word cloud

PAA affiliate Charleston Area Community Voice for Education announces their new web site, which they just opened to the public and PAA members. People can read or even register.

Leader Peter Smyth explains, “We’ve just really started it, but really need a better platform than Facebook.”

PAA Austin TX founding member exposes Parent Revolution fingerprints on parent trigger proposal

PAA founding member Lorie Barzano, head of PAA Austin Texas affiliate Coalition SAUS, was able to help expose the Parent Revolution face behind the parent trigger push in the Texas legislature. Here’s her story:

Ready for a good laugh folks? We don’t often get chances to laugh like this in our struggle… So yesterday I headed to the Capitol to testify against a “Trigger” bill in a House hearing. The is sponsored in the TX House by Representative Naomi Gonzalez.

During my testimony, I made several good points about sham of trigger laws and the well-funded corporate-backed groups (like Parent Revolution) pushing such laws. I also made note of the fact that one month ago, I testified at a Senate hearing on the companion trigger bill in the Senate. I noted that at the Senate hearing, Doreen Diaz-an employee of Parent Revolution-testified, introducing herself as “simply” a concerned mother who lead the effort to pull the trigger at her daughter’s failing public school, Desert Hills Elementary in Adelanto, CA. Never mentioning that she was an employee of Parent Revolution. I noted this to PAA group when it happened. In fact, in follow-up questions of Diaz at the Senate hearing, she insisted that they were just parents leading the charge against failing public schools and no one helped them pull the trigger on Desert Hills Elementary.

So after I testified yesterday, Representative Gonzalez called a woman up to the podium to question in retort. She called up none other than Doreen Diaz, who again introduced herself as the parent who lead the effort to pull the trigger on Desert Hills Elementary in Adelanto, CA. And then, get this, Rep. Gonzalez asks her point blank, “Do you work for Parent Revolution?”

Diaz hesitates and then responds, “Yes.”

The room broke into mayhem. Half the Representatives on stage went pie-eyed. The other half covered their eyes and slumped in their seats. Representative Gonzalez fumbled for follow-up questions (to try and save her point that parents, not Parent Revolution, pushed the trigger law), but it did not matter. No

one heard another word she said. They were too busy gasping, chuckling and chattering amongst themselves. I don’t know if this will kill the bill, but it sure undercut its legitimacy and added some welcomed levity to an otherwise long afternoon and evening at a tedious House hearing.

I have to admit, I laughed the whole way home late last night.

Testifying for the length of a day in House of Reps: 8 lost hours of my life. To hear a Rep ask the question that only proves your point: priceless!

I hope you get a good laugh out of it too.

You can read Lorie’s testimony here.

-Julie Woestehoff, Secretary