PAA Action News
Feb. 14, 2013

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America, a network of activist parents coming together to strengthen our public schools. If you have questions, comments, suggestions or stories to share, please e-mail us at or visit
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PAA Action Alert

Respond to the State of the Union address
The 2013 State of the Union Address (Enhanced Version)

President Obama didn't have lot to say about education in the State of the Union address. His focus was on early childhood education and stronger high school preparation for work and college.

Some say that these priorities indicate that the Obama administration, burned by conflict over its K-12 policies, is retreating to safer ground.

Diane Ravitch found it less disappointing than in prior addresses. The President seems to have taken her speech-writing advice on early education but little else.   

What should he have said? What did you read between the lines?

Share your thoughts with the White House here or tweet about it using #SOTU or #WHChat. They are specifically taking comments on the SOTU speech this week, but are open for your input 24/7 via the intenet.   

Last call to register for the first PAA/Public Schools Across America Regional Action Planning Meeting!

When/Where: Saturday, February 23, from 12 noon to 5 pm ET, in Ft. Wayne Indiana.

The purpose of the meeting is to share information about local public school concerns, identify common themes, and begin to strategize about possible regional joint action. We are focusing on the 4-state region of Ohio, Indiana. Michigan and Illinois but  anyone wishing to participate and willing to travel to Ft Wayne is welcome! PAA chapters, affiliates, and prospective chapters/affiliates will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face and learn more about how PAA can support your work.    

 Details and registration here.  

PAA News

Helen Gym speaks to the press on Parents United complaint
Update on PAA Philly affiliate's school closing transparency complaint

In response to an ethics complaint filed against them by Philadelphia PAA chapter Parents United for Public Education, the William Penn Foundation suspended funding to all city agencies until the ethics board ruled on the complaint. The move potentially holds up millions of dollars in city projects.

In December, Parents United filed a lobbying complaint against the Foundation and the Boston Consulting Group, arguing that a contract between the two entities constituted an effort to lobby the School District of Philadelphia around a controversial plan to close dozens of schools, privatize District management and expand charters. The Foundation had solicited millions of dollars from private donors to pay for its contract with BCG.  


Parents United co-founder Helen Gym called the move by the Foundation an "unreasonable and unnecessary response to an important lobbying complaint currently before the ethics board." Parents United's full statement is below.  


Read more about Parents United's efforts at transparency on their blog post, "Dear Philadelphia, we are above the law."  
Statement by Parents United for Public Education:  

"We are deeply concerned and surprised to hear about William Penn's misplaced action in suspending funding to city agencies. This action is neither a necessary nor reasonable response to our ethics complaint. The complaint says nothing about funding City and City-related agencies that the Foundation has in fact funded responsibly for years, but addresses specific violations by one of their now-former officers. It makes no sense to hold libraries and gardens accountable for improper actions for which the Foundation itself should assume accountability. The irony is that if William Penn had directly funded the District, rather than a private third-party, we would not have filed an ethics complaint about lobbying. With no reasonable basis evident for this move, we have deep concerns about what the Foundation intends to achieve and what message it is trying to send with such potentially harmful action. "

Texas school district's failure to communicate

PAA Austin affiliate Coalition SAUS leader Lorie Barzano was quoted in this Austin Chronicle article about the school district's failure to communicate effectively with parents and the community on key decisions: "In video testimony submitted for the appeal, Lorie Barzano of the Coalition to Strengthen Austin Urban Schools said bluntly that 'AISD was not about coming in and having a conversation.' " 

Spreadsheet on corporate reformers: getting the usual suspects all in one place

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters in NYC created this useful spreadsheet which captures many of the key corporate reform players and their interconnections all in one place.

Leonie says. "Lots of parents are confused by the huge number of education organizations that have arisen in recent years, many of which have 'Children' or 'Students' in the title, claiming to be working in the interests of children but actually corporate-type reformers, representing the interests of privatizers, hedge funders and billionaires. 

"Today, on Diane Ravitch's blog, I wrote about how to identify these astroturf groups by their rhetoric and contradictory positions; along with linking to a spreadsheet that lists the names of these organizations, their boards and funders.  I hope this will be helpful to parents, advocates and others who are trying to discern who is who in the battle to preserve and strengthen our public schools.  Please check it out and if you have any suggestions for additions or subtractions, email us at"

More on PURE and UNO charter schools in Huffington Post
PURE's Julie Woestehoff and LSC members file complaint against charter network

Concordia University associate professor Isabel Nunez wrote about PAA Chicago affiliate PURE's exposure of  the United Neighborhood Organization's questionable finances in the Huffington Post, asking why the right-wing, pro-business think tank American Enterprise Institute would write a report praising UNO:  

"Just last week, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) and the Chicago Local School Councils met with representatives from the Illinois Inspector General to demand an explanation into (UNO's) finances....Why were Chicago parents pushing for an investigation? According to PURE, UNO has issued three bonds -- one of which is rated one notch above 'junk' status-to finance their push for expansion. UNO has $67,800,000 in outstanding debt (calculated at $12,500 per pupil), and needs millions in government earmarks to expand its charter network so that it can repay its bankers -- instead of investing in current students. I thought AEI was all about fiscal responsibility? How could the same group of debt hawks overlook UNO's unsustainable debts?"

Since PURE filed a complaint with the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General, more skeletons have fallen out of UNO's closet. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been asked if he still trusts UNO's president, who was his campaign finance chair, and UNO's founder has called their practices "improper." 

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PAA Chapter and Affiliate News
PAA-Seattle planning Michelle Rhee protest

PAA founding member and leader of PAA-Seattle Dora Taylor announced a planned protest of Michelle Rhee's book promotion stop in Seattle, at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, February 19th, in front of Town Hall.

Dora says they will bring the signs and the tape.

PAA Blog Highlights

Keep up with our blog for more news and commentary on public education from the parents' point of view.