PAA Logo
PAA Action News
In This Issue
PAA Action Alert
PAA News
Join Us!
PAA Chapter/Affiliate News
PAA Blog Highlights
Join Our List
Join Our Mailing List
Issue # 21
     August 23, 2012

Information and action for parents coming together to strengthen our public schools. Comments? Suggestions? Stories?  

E-mail us 

More at

Looking for regular updates on key education stories? Join the PAA News list. Email  

PAA Action Alert


Speak out for real parent empowerment!
The "Won't Back Down" movie doesn't open until September 28, but it is already being screened for special groups, and at least one reviewer raises some serious concerns about its message. PAA co-founder Rita Solnet, who saw the movie last weekend, wrote a powerful review in the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog about what it didn't show:

I didn't see parents talking to teachers to help improve the school. No sign or talk of School Advisory Councils, of PTAs, not even parent friends talking to each other over coffee about how they could organize to speak to the principal or district or board to improve the school.

A Local School Council (LSC) meets in Chicago.

PAA opposes parent trigger laws, which "inspired" the WBD movie. Our FAQ and "Just the Facts" background paper explain why.

But what's more important than all the frenzy over a movie is what we do support: a real, meaningful parent voice in school decision making in collaboration with the rest of the school community: teachers, other staff, the principal, students and community members. Here's our position paper, "The Empowerment Parents Want: The LSC Model for School Reform.

Here's what you can do

Share the LSC position paper with your networks. And, if you can, hand it out to folks attending a WBD movie screening in your area, along with copies of our parent trigger FAQ and fact sheet!

Here's the screening schedule.

Here's what at least one PAA chapter, Coalition SAUS in Austin TX, plans to do:

We plan to picket outside the theatre where the film opens/shows with signs reading things like...
Parent Trigger ≠ Parent Choice
Parents Want Public Schools, Not Charter Schools
Stop Privatization of Public Education
Charters Put Profits, Not Pupils First
Parent Trigger = Parent Tricker
        Improve Our Public Schools, Stop Investing
               in Charters 

Planning to attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte?
 Charlotte's PAA affiliate MecklenburgACTS will be linking up people and organizing activities during DNC week, September 3-6. If you plan to be in town and would like to be involved (or just want to get some tips about what to do in our town) please contact Pamela Grundy at 
PAA News

PAAers in the News

Parent leaders praise White House class size reduction report
A press statement released this week by several PAA leaders thanked President Obama for recognizing the importance of class size in his weekly address, and for releasing a report that shows how the elimination of 60,000 teaching positions since 2009 is not only unprecedented in US postwar history, but has led to class size increases that are severely damaging the quality of our public schools.

The parents' press release pointed out that the Obama administration has proposed an education budget that would cut $650M from federal class size reduction funds, and that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has also told right wing groups over the last few years that he thinks that schools should respond to budget cuts with "smartly targeted increases in class size." 
PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, founder of NYC's Class Size Matters, reports that last night, the President made another speech about the importance of smaller classes in Nevada, and he tweeted the following message:
Use the hashtag #ClassSizeMatters to share why you think our kids need more teachers in the classroom.

Hmmm. Sounds almost like a personal invitation!
Leonie reports that there have been hundreds of tweets in response to the President's message.  She asks:
I hope that all you who are already on twitter might take a few seconds to send out a message about why you think #ClassSizeMatters and copy the president at @BarackObama and me at @leoniehaimson  

For more ideas, please read PAA's fact sheet, "Why Class Size Matters." 

PAA TX affiliate leader Lorie Barzano featured
This past week, Lorie Barzano, Co-Chair of Coalition SAUS (Strengten Austin Urban Schools), PAA affilliate in Austin, TX, sat down with Tacy Stephens of the Association of TX Professional Educators (ATPE) to discuss parent involvement, democracy and public education.
Lorie at USDE Parent Leaders Meeting, April 2012

"Our Coalition is necessary," explained Barzano, "because elected officials, professional educators, the Legislature and experts on education hold all their discussions without including the two most important stakeholders in the education debate: the students and their parents."
For more on the ATPE's discussion with Lorie Barzano and Coalition SAUS activities, positions on educational issues and affiliation with PAA, read the entire article here on pp. 16-19. The article includes some detail about PAA's position supporting the Local School Council model and gives a shoutout to Leonie/Class Size Matters in New York and to Julie/Parents United for Responsible Education in Chicago.

Karran's SOS video out
PAA's New Orleans founding member Karran Harper Royal's presentation at the SOS convention earlier this month is now available here.

For more exciting news about Karran, please read the feature article, "Meet the Founders," below!  

Join Us!


Parents Across America invites existing local or statewide groups who share our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policymaking to affiliate with us. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. We are also looking for parents who are interested in forming new chapters of PAA in their states and/or local communities. Check out what we believe, and if you agree, join with us! Read more here.


PAA Chapter/Affiliate News

Welcome new PAA chapter!

We're delighted to welcome our newest chapter, PAA-Twin Cities. The new group's leader is Valerie Rittler, who is a Minneapolis Public School teacher as well as a public school parent. Twin Cities area parents or interested others, please contact Valerie at

Meet the founders!   

Since the reach of PAA has been expanding lately, two of our co-founders, Pamela Grundy and newsletter editor Julie Woestehoff, thought newsletter readers would like to learn more about some of our organization's key figures. Due to space limitations, we're publishing excerpts of the profiles here. You can find longer versions on the PAA blog. There are a lot of great people to cover, so it will take a while. Look for future installments in coming weeks!


Karran Harper Royal's articulate, impassioned advocacy for children has made her a familiar figure in her hometown of New Orleans and a sought-after speaker on the national scene. She cuts straight through the puffery that so often characterizes education "reform," asking hard questions and describing the experiences of her city's most vulnerable children in eloquent detail.


Karran's activism began back in the 1990s, when her oldest son encountered difficulties in kindergarten. She became his full-time advocate, and learned to negotiate the complications of educational policies and bureaucracies at local, state and federal levels. She then expanded her advocacy to other children and families.


After Hurricane Katrina devastated her city, Karran served on the Recovery School District Advisory Council. She had been concerned for years about the quality of public education in New Orleans, and hoped that the state's control of schools would be a positive move. But she watched with growing dismay as the state used Katrina as an excuse to replace most New Orleans schools with charter schools.


Karran quickly saw the flaws in the system, especially for the children with disabilities whose families she advised. While traditional public schools were required to meet the

needs of challenged students, most charter schools preferred to simply kick them out. In a city with few traditional public schools left, children who were expelled or pressured out of charters had only deeply troubled schools as options. And even in the charter sector, many schools were failing to deliver on the educational miracles they promised.


Karran joined Parents Across America because her local work taught her the importance of working to improve education policy on a national level. As she pithily put

it, "It's from those policies that actions occur that impact children at school. If you have crappy policy, you're going to have crappy action."


At home, Karran sees herself as an "information sharer" in the communities she works with, helping parents and community members to understand their rights and sharing with them strategies to participate effectively in their children's education. "I can't solve everybody's problems," she noted. "I want to give parents the information they need so they can solve their own problems and be strong advocates for their children."


She is currently seeking to expand her political influence, by running for the District 3 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board. 


PAA Affiliate SOS-Oregon in high gear 


Read their latest blog post on the Oregon NCLB waiver. Now check out their plans, as reported by leader Susan Barrett, and be inspired!

1) We have a Policy Committee working to craft legislative concepts for our January legislative session. We meet on 8/20 and 8/28. Those are due 9/17.

2) We have formed (or re-formed) our Opt Out committee and will be working to start an Opt Out movement. That committee will meet again on 9/6.


3) We are working with a broad, statewide coalition to pass what is called Corporate Kicker Reform (a silly law) and to vote down a repeal of an estate tax. 

4) We met with a coalition on 8/22 that wants to mobilize a large action on austerity measures (student debt and school cuts). 

5) We are meeting with our new Chief Education Officer, Rudy Crew on 8/29. This is a new position for Oregon. We now have one statewide superboard that oversees all of public education. We have been very outspoken about these statewide changes that were spurred on by Stand for Children, the Chalkboard Project, and the Oregon Business Association. We have testimony up at our website (blog): 

6) We are VERY pleased to have been reading about the LSCs in Chicago (thanks, Julie!) and the PAA white paper on LSCs as we are working to craft our positive education vision for Oregon. We have things here and there, but not compiled in one spot with cohesive, succinct messages. 


7) One of our members, Susan Mach, has a play called A Noble Failure that will be professionally and locally produced and showing in January. There are some funds from the theater company to bring out some speakers associated with this. (Your suggestions are appreciated.) We saw the play when it was still in draft mode (or whatever the theater term is). It was EXCELLENT! In fact, it is perhaps a bit more relevant to those of you in areas with a number of for-profit charters, as Oregon is (at the moment) not as overwhelmed by those, but the message is still very pertinent for Oregon.

8) We are leading two workshops at the October 20th Northwest Teachers for Social Justice Conference that will be in Portland. This is a Rethinking Schools event. Both of ours are for advocates. One is about recent changes in Oregon education policy and what we can do about it, and the other will be about data, data, data, and the privacy infringement on our kids and teachers. (We have loosely talked about having a "Go to School Naked" campaign to highlight how exposed everyone will be. We figure a campaign with that name would surely bring attention to what is kind of a dry topic.)

9) Our group meets every 2nd Sunday for our regular organizing meetings. We have grown to have people outside of Portland metro and have people that drive as much as one hour to attend our meetings. So, we are moving forward. It just always seems like one thing after another, and like the hill keeps getting higher!    


Good news from Texas


PAA founding member Karen Miller reports that  the Texas Education Agency will now release charter applications before they are approved by the State Board of Education. Previously they were not considered public documents, and some applications had serious flaws, such as one by the largest for-profit education management organization (EMO), Imagine Schools. Imagine had "borrowed" the tax exempt status for two Texas applications from Ft. Wayne Indiana's Imagine Academy in 2008.

Considerable media coverage ensued in Texas and Indiana papers as well as the New York Times, resulting in placing the Indiana charter on probation, reconstituting its board, mandatory board training, cancellation of additional charter. One Texas charter board severed their ties with Imagine, four of five members resigned from the other board and contract negotiations with the remaining charter continued for a considerable time until Commissioner Scott approved the management  agreement in May 2011. The school will open this month.

PAA Blog Highlights

In addition to the blog posts mentioned above was this new PAA blog post this week:
Parents Across America (PAA) is a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that connects parents and activists
from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together  
on improving our nation's public schools.    

PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school par­ents - and common sense - to local, state, and national education debates.