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What the movie Waiting for Superman did for charter schools,  a new movie called "Won't Back Down" hopes to do for the parent trigger movement.  That is a national movement started by charter companies to organize parents to take over their schools.  

That is quite a risky business in my opinion since those groups of parents actually want to turn the public schools into charter schools.  I fear it will cause a school to cave in to parents who are not educators, who are not informed as to effective teaching skills, and who might be using such an effort to avoid responsibility for their children as students.   They are being manipulated by the billionaire education reformers.  

The cast and the backers:

Is Education Reform Hollywood Box Office Gold?

How far teachers have fallen since the “Lean on Me” days.Due to be released in September, “Won’t Back Down” stars Viola Davis as a Pennsylvania teacher who joins with unexpected parent advocate Maggie Gyllenhaal in the push for a parent takeover of their school. Apparently the story hinges on so-call parent trigger laws, which allow parents to turn public schools into publicly funded charter schools if they can prove the teachers, administrators and curriculum are not serving the students. In real life, a handful of states have parent trigger laws on the books. To date, no trigger laws have turned a school over to parents, though today officials will decide whether to allow for just that at a desert school in Adelanto, Calif.

Parent trigger laws have many big corporate backers, including the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. This movie is being financed in part by Walden Media, which is backed by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz. Walden Media also helped finance the making of “Waiting for Superman,” the 2010 documentary that made the term “charter school” as household name and also promoted teacher testing and an end to teacher tenure.

Talented and popular actors like Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, plus a plot as riveting as “Silkwood” or “Erin Brockovitch,” will make this a tempting movie to see, it’s pretty clear there’s a political agenda behind the story.

Indeed it does have a political agenda.  I am going to quote Diane Ravitch, the former assistant Secretary of Education under George HW Bush.

The Trouble with the Parent Trigger

Supporters of the Parent Trigger say it empowers parents, especially poor parents, and gives them a tool with which to change their school. They say that it enhances not only parent power, but school choice.

But consider who created the Parent Trigger. The promoter of the legislation was a group called Parent Revolution, which is funded by charter school operators (it has some affiliation with Green Dot, whose chief executive officer sits on the board of Parent Revolution) and by venture philanthropists (including the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation). Its executive director, Ben Austin, a lawyer, was appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to California's state board of education (and removed by Gov. Jerry Brown when he took office in 2011).

Parent Revolution is what is known as an "Astroturf" group, an organization pretending to be representative of ordinary parents, but actually promoting a charter agenda.

Here is more about the movie.  The article questions the wisdom of promoting a tool to enable parents to do what should be based on research and data.  I agree.

Parent Trigger: The Movie?

It's called "Won't Back Down" and starts Academy Award nominee Viola Davis ("The Help") in a fictional story of a parent trigger fight in Pennsylvania. The fight is fictional because the parent trigger has not successfully been pulled anywhere in the United States -- the tool is too new. The backer of the film is a company owned by Phil Anschutz, best known in California for his firm AEG, which runs the Staples Center in LA and is trying to bring NFL football back to the city.

Hollywood's embrace of the "parent trigger" says a lot about this particular school reform tool. The idea of having parents take over failing schools is dramatic, even cinematic, but in practice, it's a tricky business -- so tricky that the trigger itself is unlikely to become a widely used tool for school reform.

A movie about the parent trigger runs the risk of putting too much emphasis on an uncommon tool -- and distracting us from the difficult, long-term task of raising standards in schools. That work should be based on research and data -- not the silver bullet of parent takeovers.

In one California school it is dividing parents.  Some feel they signed a petition that was misrepresented to them.

Parents question 'Trigger' effort

“I don’t think parents need to have that much control,” said Yuan, whose first- and third-graders attend Desert Trails. “I understand that as a group we should have a voice in our children’s education, but I don’t think that necessitates power over a school. And I think that we have a board, a principal, staff in place that if we did have legitimate concerns that we raised, they would be addressed sufficiently.”

The current principal, David Mobley, only arrived in October. Yuan questions why parents wouldn’t wait to see if he’s able to implement changes as a new leader before resorting to the forced reform.

But parent union leader Doreen Diaz, who said she found out her fifth-grade daughter with special needs was reading at a second-grade level, argues big changes are necessary to cultivate a culture of excellence at the school, now ranked in the bottom 10 percent in California.

Yuan questions the power struggle that may be at play in attempts to force reforms, and whether well-meaning parents have the expertise and knowledge to help run a school. She joined with members of the California Teachers Association at some recent meetings for interested parents to learn more about the Trigger law, charter schools and rescinding signatures.

The article points out that the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation are helping to fund the Parent Revolution, providing a place to house their headquarters.

Teachers in the public schools do not have the kind of money and power to fight back against such groups.  They don't a voice in the media either when such movies like this and Waiting for Superman get a big glitzy splash.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Has anyone told these parents, especially (8+ / 0-)

    the low-income and poor ones, that how well their kids do in school is more a function of what does and doesn't happen at home than in school?

    Wonder how many of these parents could pass a parenting class.

    •  If parents expended as much energy instilling (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie

      a love of learning in their children as some now spend trying to tear the school systems apart, we would have children who excel.

      My dad read the comics to my brother and I, we had books, we went to the library.  My dad never stopped learning or wondering at what went on.  He drove us out to Boeing Field one night, just to watch the planes land ( it had to be late 40's after the war).  He was born in 1897 and would be 115 years old today and, if alive, he would have his head planted in a computer all day long.

      It isn't the school or the teachers, I had both good and bad, but a love of learning and a thirst for information can overcome all of that.    

    •  Maybe these (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stude Dude, Catte Nappe

      are the concerned parents, doing all the right things at home, getting blown off by school admins, finally seeing a way to take charge. Whether they are being duped or not, why are they this pissed to start with?

  •  The only reason why there even is public educaton (14+ / 0-)

    is because, before that, we tried private education and it failed. Exclusively private education can and will produce only a permanent underclass. If everyone rich was bright, and everyone else stupid, well, then maybe.

    In the real world, however, intelligence is plentifully distributed evenly across the gene pool, and yet is still not sufficient enough that we can afford to squander any.

    And certainly not solely in the name of reducing the tax burden of the 1%.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 08:38:37 PM PST

    •  Feature, not bug (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md
      Exclusively private education can and will produce only a permanent underclass.
      That's their goal.

      Ask the homophobes against marriage equality this: "Would you rather see two gay men marry each other or one closet case marry your daughter?"

      by spacecadet1 on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 10:12:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, and, sadly, even to their own detriment. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        spacecadet1

        That's why I mention that not every 1%er is the brightest bulb in the pack. After a few generations of trust fund living, complacenecy evolves to entitlement.

        There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

        by oldpotsmuggler on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:12:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  i would love to see (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, TDreamer

    such entitled parents take over the classroom for a month or six.

    let them deal with their very own precious,  entitled, rebellious, unteachable , media addicted little brats.

  •  Ugh. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 10:24:10 PM PST

  •  There's one gaping problem with "parent trigger" (6+ / 0-)

    If enough parents were actually informed and involved in their kids' education to form a majority needed for a "parent trigger," the school would be successful and would not need a "parent trigger." One of the biggest problems teachers I have talked to in struggling schools cite is that parents — usually single mothers — are not engaged in their children's education. So parents of kids in failing schools will tend to be less aware of what is going on and more susceptible to propaganda and too-good-to-be-true solutions.

    Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

    by anastasia p on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 10:58:08 PM PST

    •  To what do these teachers (0+ / 0-)

      attribute this lack of engagement?

      Surely not every single mother is disinterested in her child's education.

      Why have things gotten to this point?

      •  The uninvolved parents I know (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alizard

        Are not at all disinterested. They don't have the time to be as involved with either the school or their children's progress that would be desirable. And they don't have the skills to be effective in supporting their child's education.

        from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

        by Catte Nappe on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 09:30:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Time. . . skills. . . money. . . resources. .. (0+ / 0-)

          And the schools are doing what to help bridge these difficulties? How do some of these parents have time and skills and money to support a charter movement and not to get whatever it is they want from the current school?

          If they are being duped, who is educating them? If the school could do better, work with the parents to solve the problems they are complaining about, how are they doing that?

          •  Is that the school's job? (0+ / 0-)

            Bridging those difficulties? Getting mom a decent paying job, with decent hours, closer to home than a 90 minute bus ride each way; for example?

            As for this:
            "How do some of these parents have time and skills and money to support a charter movement and not to get whatever it is they want from the current school?" They can't get what they want from the current school because it has too many of "those" kids. The kids whose moms are working two jobs and spending three hours a day on the bus, and the kids who are......tannish. You know -"those" kids.

            from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

            by Catte Nappe on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 01:17:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Is that (0+ / 0-)

              supposed to be a satisfactory answer to the parent who is unhappy with the way her child's school is (not) working for her child? If so, try again. Otherwise, she's going to head over to that charter school meeting where they will promise her the sky. (Delivery not necessarily included.)

  •  Sheesh... Follow the money - Astro turf fakery (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard

    you would think that the dupes who the big money right suckers every time might begin to notice they are being played by interests who have their bottom line in mind and not these people's children's best interests...

    the "parent trigger" more like a parent trap, with people induced and propagandized into doing what is actually bad for their families.

    Funny how in the minds of the corporate 1% what is good for middle and lower income people is always what is also very good for the bottom line of the would-be unnecessary middlemen with their hands in the public trough...

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 03:12:26 AM PST

  •  The two great public troughs the oligarchs want (4+ / 0-)

    to plunder for private profit - Social Security and public education.

    If they were truly interested in just improving the quality of education, they wouldn't follow policies that tend to improve profit profiles like hiring young inexperienced teacher for pennies.

    Charter schools are all about the money. Take those billions of dollars of public education money and divert them to connected pockets.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 04:26:00 AM PST

    •  side benefit: an uneducated populace is easy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md, alizard

      to sell crap to.

      NOW SHOWING
      Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
      Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

      by The Dead Man on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 05:42:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  where are the educated people (0+ / 0-)

      which are required to keep a technological society operating coming from in this scenario?

      A great many skilled professional positions aren't all that much fun and don't pay all that well, so the idea that the entitled wealthy educated in real schools will do all that which has to be done in order to protect their ability to have luxury is just plain ridiculous.

      To use an analogy, the wealthy live in the penthouse of the building we all live in, and the idiots are selling off the foundations they don't own for scrap metal, not understanding that if the building collapses, they go down with it.

      Peak Oil is NOW! Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Thu Feb 23, 2012 at 02:04:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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