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Parents stand up for teachers under attack

With Mayor Emanuel aligning himself with an extremist group focused on attacking teachers, a group of Chicago parents has decided it’s time to speak up in their defense.

“We’re upset with all the teacher-bashing that’s so fashionable today,” said Erica Clark of Parents For Teachers.  “It’s a complete distraction from the real issues facing our schools.”

The group, which started recently with a Facebook page, held its first action Tuesday, the first of several “phone-in days,” with members of parent and community groups calling CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard asking him to withdraw current plans to close and “turnaround” 16 schools. The group argues that a 15-year record shows that these policies don’t work.

“Whenever anyone talks about ‘school reform’ these days, the first thing you hear is some attack on teachers,” Clark said.

She points out that SB 7, which reduced teachers’ collective bargaining rights, “was heralded as the most important ‘school reform’ bill of the year – but it had nothing at all about what really matters: class size, equitable funding, less emphasis on standardized testing, a richer, more interesting curriculum.  It was all about attacking teachers.”

“If you listen to the rhetoric of so-called school reform, you would think there are no good teachers in the system,” she said.  “But if you talk to parents – if you look at the data CPS collects in the surveys where parents rate schools and teachers – there’s a lot of support for teachers.

“Parents deal with their kids’ teachers on a regular basis, they see how hard they work, they see that they are working in the trenches every day for their kids.”

Breitbart connection

Emanuel appeared in a video produced by the Education Action Group, based in Muskegon, Wisconsin.  EAG’s leader, Kyle Olson, blogs on the Big Government website of journalist-provocateur Andrew Breitbart, whose exploits include doctoring video to make U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod look like she was fomenting racial division.

Two years ago Olson was forced to apologize after he was exposed for videotaping an interview with Frances Fox Piven, the activist academic who was a frequent target of Glen Beck, under false pretenses.

LSCs and parent power

Meanwhile, Parents Across America, a national coalition of parent groups including Parents United for Responsible Education in Chicago, released a position paper on parent empowerment that holds up Chicago’s Local School Councils as a model.

Corporate school reformers have recently sought to rebrand their efforts as “parent empowerment,” a term encompassing school choice, vouchers, “parent trigger” laws, and “other attacks on public education,” according to the group.

(“Parent choice” is the major theme of the Education Action Group, which supports vouchers and charters.)

“We know that these strategies do not reflect what most parents actually want, or what works for children and schools,” PAP argues. “A 2010 Phi Delta Kappa poll found that 54 percent of Americans think the best thing to do about low-performing schools is to keep the school open with the same staff and give it more support. Only 17 percent wanted to close the school and reopen it with a new principal, and just 13 percent wanted to replace it with a charter school.”

The group notes that LSCs and parent involvement “are not magic bullets,” and that problems persist in Chicago.

“However, the research-based LSC model is a vastly superior ‘choice’ for  involving parents when included in a comprehensive set of proven reforms including equitable and sufficient funding, pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.”

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Category: CPS, school closings, school reform

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4 Responses

  1. Parents Across America is an astroturf union front group. Why do they deserve one iota of credibility on education issues?

    Haimson [founder of PAA]said the organization has plans to travel to D.C. to lobby for changes to ESEA and is also focusing on building local chapters around the country. For financial support, it is relying on contributions from its membership and from the country’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, which helped pay for the forum.

  2. Curtis says:

    I think it’s an abuse of the term “astroturf” (and probably just pure political gamesmanship) to apply it to Parents Across America, which joins together numerous genuine grassroots parents groups from Washington to Florida. One of its founding groups is Chicago’s Parents United for Responsible Education, which has fought in the trenches since the earliest days of school reform – anyone in Chicago who knows PURE would laugh if you called them astroturf.

    It’s a convenient way to dismiss their arguments. Why do they deserve an iota of credibility? For starters, see the poll numbers above, which indicate that parents in general broadly support their goals. After that, you might check the record of “school choice” in Chicago, where it has had no measurable impact on achievement over more than ten years. Finally, it seems to me the group’s research and reasoning is eminently credible, if you bother to engage it. Easier by far simply to cast aspersions.

    Interestingly, the Heartland Institute, where the Mr. Behrend is director of “school choice” (and a fierce foe of teachers unions), has decided to stop listing its funders, since doing so “allowed people who disagree with us to accuse us of being ‘paid’ by specific donors to take positions.” This is a case of someone throwing stones who doesn’t live in a glass house.

  3. […] (Recently we noted that our own mayor granted an extended interview on the glories of charter schools to an anti-teacher outfit with troubling Breitbart connections.) […]

  4. […] appear to be on the agenda of these groups.  As Erica Clark of Parents For Teachers pointed out here in February, they never talk about the issues that matter to parents – class size, curriculum, […]

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