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Issue # 25
     Sept. 20, 2012

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

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PAA Action Alert


Send a message to your local movie reviewer 


PAA sent a message out to a number of movie reviewers, entertainment reporters, and talk show hosts as the public relations machine for the "Won't Back Down" movie revs up.


Please copy and send it to your local movie and entertainment reporters:

In case you are preparing to interview the stars of the controversial new film "Won't Back Down," or review the movie, Parents Across America would like you to be aware of the following facts:

1.       Walden Media which produced the film also co-produced the movie "Waiting for Superman".  The people at Walden Media have admitted that they had a specific political agenda in making this film.  In an interview in the NYT, Walden's CEO said they realized "there were inherent limitations of the documentary format," of W4S, and they wanted to reach a larger audience through characters who struggle with issues that are "ripped from the headlines."

2.       While the film doesn't mention the "Parent trigger" law by name, the ads describe the film as being "inspired by actual events" and depict parents signing a petition to take over a struggling school.  Michelle Rhee and others have been showing the film in screenings around the country to promote the Parent Trigger legislation, which calls for similar measures.  In PAA's FAQ on the WBD movie, we provide some background about how the Parent Trigger legislation was first developed, how it has been disseminated by the right-wing group ALEC, and how it has never successfully worked to bring about true parent empowerment and why it is unlikely to do so in the future.

3.       There are many grassroots parent groups throughout the country involved in real-life "Won't Back Down" struggles: protesting to strengthen rather than close their neighborhood schools, fighting for the right to opt their children out of high-stakes testing, and opposing budget cuts and increased class sizes.  If you would like to know more about these stories, or if you have questions about the Parent Trigger, feel free to contact Parents Across America at  or the following PAA members:

Leonie Haimson, NY
Dawn Collins, Louisiana 
Caroline Grannan, CA
Rita Solnet, FL
Pamela Grundy

Here's the same message on our web site. 


PAA News


PAA/ers in the News

Same two big stories had PAAers in the news again this week.

Chicago teachers strike
All breathed a sigh of relief as the Chicago teachers went back to work. PAA members and affiliates continued to be prominent in local and national media reports. This Chicago Sun-Times story featured co-founder Julie Woestehoff, who said:

I think the children are going to benefit from teachers who are newly invigorated and excited about the work that they do. It's not just that they have been able to come together as a profession; they've seen the outpouring of support from parents and students and other community members that I think has really lifted them up, and I think they'll take that into the classroom when they come back. 

Julie was also quoted in a Christian Science Monitor feature on CTU president Karen Lewis and answered the provocative question "Could the Chicago strike hit Obama?" on

The continuing Won't Back Down saga

PAA founding member Caroline Grannan from Oakland CA said in this Business Week article:

"(T)he idea that busy parents can simply take over and run a school in their spare time is obviously magical thinking." She points out that charters overall don't outperform public schools and suggests that instead of pulling the trigger, parents should assert their voices by voting in good school board members, getting to know administrators, and getting involved in schools.  

Pamela Grundy, PAA founding member and co-founder of PAA North Carolina affiliate Mecklenburg ACTS, was quoted in this excellent article in "Las Vegas City Life":

"Our real concern is that the movie, which is a Hollywood movie, is being used as the opening to say, 'you need to pass parent trigger legislation so the same thing can happen in your community,'

Several more PAA members have just attended or will attend pre-screenings of the WBD movie, which officially opens next Friday, September 28. PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson was on a panel leading a post-screening discussion last night in New York City.

Look for more PAA reviews in the days to come

We're pleased to see that PAA's FAQ and other WBD materials are being used by parents and others as this discussion broadens. See, for example, the comments to a related article in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.

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

Meet the founders: Julie Woestehoff 

For PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff, the high point of the recently concluded Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike was the solidarity she saw between teachers, parents, students and community members.  

"We showed a very powerful united front," she said. "It wasn't just teachers - it was the whole community. We all felt that we were speaking out in favor of a better vision of education."  

Julie has worked for decades to bring Chicago teachers, parents and communities together. She currently heads up Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), a parent organization which is about to celebrate its twenty-fifth year.



Working through PURE, Julie focused many of her early efforts on the development of Local Schools Councils (LSCs), which were created by state law in Chicago in the late 1980s (and which PAA uses as one model of effective parent involvement).


But although parents were eager to help run their schools, and studies indicated that the efforts were producing results, progress wasn't fast enough for Mayor Richard M. Daley. In 1995, Daley took over the schools and installed his city budget manager, Paul Vallas, as chief executive officer.


An early proponent of a "business" approach to education, Vallas had a special interest in high-stakes standardized testing. By the time he was replaced by Arne Duncan, corporate-style "reforms" had become fashionable nationwide. "Reformers" in Chicago and across the country ramped up testing, closed neighborhood schools and expanded charters. Grassroots parents groups such as PURE saw their funding dwindle.


While Duncan was eventually tapped to become Barack Obama's Secretary of Education, many Chicago parents and teachers believed his approach had done far more to disrupt schools than improve them - frustrations which surfaced in the recent strike. In addition to addressing salaries and benefits, Julie noted, participants "worked very hard at sending a message about what public education should really be about."


Besides running PURE, Julie has become a mainstay of Parents Across America, where her tasks have included putting out the weekly newsletter and working on the website, along with other administrative duties.  

"I hope that we can do what we've been doing and do more and do it better," she said of PAA and its future. "Given the millions of dollars that have been poured into fake parent groups that mouth the corporate agenda, I think we've filled a real need for a national parent voice that's authentic and tied to the issues that matter to parents in communities around the county."

SOS-Oregon update from Susan Barrett 

"We recently had legislators submit legislative concepts on data privacy, local control, testing, and funding. This is only a very first step and the concepts now get put through process of legal language development that could distort them completely. When the concepts come back in early December, we will work with legislators on any needed amendments. We also plan to start working on a plan in between to educate folks (public and elected) on these topics." 
PAA Blog Highlights

Watch for new blog posts next 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.