PAA Action News
July 11, 2013

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America.
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PAA Action Alert

Share FairTest's new infographic!


FairTest just published a 2-page summary report of testing activism around the US which refers generally to the work of several ofPAA's chapters and affiliates. A full report will be coming out soon. 


PAA and PAAers in the News

An important step for PAA

We're happy to report that the PAA Board of Directors has completed all the forms required to apply for our IRS 501c3 non-profit status.

PAA Board Secretary Julie Woestehoff signed the final paperwork in the Chicago office of our volunteer attorney, Dusty Federko, of the law firm Katten Muchin.

It was a long process, and we are very grateful for the expert help we received from Dusty and the support given throughout the process by The Law Project, a program of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights  Under Law.  
Great feature on PAA-Indiana's Delana Ivey

PAA-Indiana founder Delana Ivey, leader of PAA affiliate Parent Power in Indianapolis, was featured in this excellent cover story in NUVO, an independent Indy newspaper.     

The article details Parent Power's work with parents in the Indianapolis Public Schools. 

"Empowerment is 'heartbreaking' work, activist parents say. It entails conflict - often of the good, old-fashioned head-butting type. But the goal is to enable a constructive kind of conflict based on the various stakeholders' ability to challenge each other's actions and assertions. In study groups, Parent Power members read actual 'conflict theory' as it relates to the sociology of education. They consider the ultimate purpose of education and worry that curricular change accompanying by the rise of high-stakes testing increases the factors that cause dropouts and disenfranchisement. They discuss the ultimate purpose of education and fret that critical thinking and holistic intellectual development are suffering under contemporary status quo. " 

"The most important idea is that parents learn to use their voices. 'You see something that is upsetting or wrong, you have to say something,' Ivey says. 'Saying something and feeling powerful afterwards ... it's inspiring.' "


Philly budget cuts, school closings on Real News

Real News reporter Jaisal Noor interviewed Gerald Wright, co-founder of PAA Philadelphia affiliate Parents United for Public Education, on the national move to decimate public schools through massive closings and budget cuts as it is playing out in locally Philadelphia   
Gerald points out that at the same time school budgets are being slashed, $400 million was added to the budget for the Corrections Department in Pennsylvania. He says, "if you can find $400 million in addition to the budget that was passed to build prisons, why wouldn't you want to divert at least some of that money to schools that are clearly suffering and responsible for the well-being and the education of tomorrow's workforce and today's children?"

PAA founding member Helen Gym wrote this excellent piece on the Rethinking Schools blog about the school closing disaster in Philadelphia. She writes:

Philadelphia's school closings plan is a massive disinvestment, not only in public education, but also in vulnerable communities. Swaths of Philadelphia are now "education deserts" where no public neighborhood school option exists. Nine of the 24 schools closed are high schools, disrupting young people during their most critical years toward graduation. Parents have raised concerns that the school closings are the tipping point of a disinvestment spiral that threatens every school in every neighborhood of the city. Philadelphia's plan follows patterns well documented in other cities where mass school closures have occurred.



Sharon Higgins piece in Diane Ravitch blog

PAA founder Sharon Higgins' piece on an upcoming protest against the growing Gulen charter school network was just published on Diane Ravitch's blog. Read more about this important story below in PAA Chapter and Affiliate News.   

Join us!

If you share
our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policy making, we invite you to affiliate with us if you are an existing group, or to form a new PAA chapter. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. Here's how!
PAA Chapter and Affiliate News
We welcome two special new members to PAA leadership

We are delighted to welcome Nate Harris, a long time parent leader from
Nate and wife Carrie on a visit to Chicago
Indianapolis, as an individual member of PAA's leadership group. Nate has been in touch with PAA for quite some time, and attended the 4-state meeting PAA co-sponsored in Fort Wayne, IN last January.  

We are also very excited to welcome Lourdes Perez Ramirez, who is based in Orlando, Florida and is the president and founder of HispanEduca, which is a national education-oriented non-profit organization.

Lourdes has also been in touch with PAA for a while and is getting a new web page up and running to help educate Latino parents about education issues. We are looking forward to a productive partnership with Lourdes and her group. 

Meanwhile, please "like" the HispanEduca Facebook page here  


Charter school push-back in Seattle

PAA President and founder of PAA-Seattle Dora Taylor writes that a coalition of parents, educators, and community groups has filed a Complaint in King County Superior Court in Seattle challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1240, Washington's new Charter School Act.

The Complaint asserts that the Charter School Act violates the Washington Constitution by improperly diverting public school funds to private organizations that are not subject to local voter control and by impeding the State's constitutional obligation to amply provide for and fully fund K-12 public education.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the League of Women Voters of Washington,  El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle-based group dedicated to social justice; the Washington Association of School Administrators, the Washington Education Association, Wayne Au, Ph.D., an educator and education advocate, Pat Braman, a former Mercer Island High School teacher and current Mercer Island School Board member and parents with children in public schools in Snohomish and Spokane Counties.

For more information, go to Washington State Charter School Lawsuit: The Details.

More protests over Gulen charter schools

This weekend, hundreds of people from all over the country, mostly Turkish Americans, will travel to Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, to protest Fethullah Gulen at his remote compound in the Poconos. Among other activities, Gulen's followers (a.k.a. the "Gulen Movement") operate a global network of schools, including the largest charter school network.
In conjunction with the Pennsylvania protest on Saturday, July 13, a small protest
Sharon Higgins
will take place at a Gulen Movement-associated charter school in Oakland, California. PAA founder Sharon Higgins will speak at that protest. The following day she will participate in a LaborFest presentation ("Labor, Ideology, Privatization & the Global Struggle for Public Education and Public Services.").

On July 10, an Associated Press report about the Pennsylvania protest was picked up by news agencies across the US. A local paper published a more in-depth piece ("Protesters expected at Saylorsburg Islamic center: West End cleric criticized by opponents of Turkish regime." Pocono Record, 7/10/2013). Both articles mention the Facebook page that was created two weeks ago to organize the event.
The Pennsylvania protest is an extension of the Turkish protests that have been drawing international attention since late May. That uprising is against a set of actions and policies of the country's leadership and Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP), the ruling party which took power over a decade ago. Fethullah Gulen and his followers are directly connected to the current Turkish regime.
As a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist wrote: "Gülen is considered one of [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdoğan's most powerful allies but is reviled and feared by much of Turkey's population." --- "Letter from Turkey: The Deep State." The New Yorker, 3/12/2013
The conclusion of an American Foreign Policy Council report pointed out: "The charter school experiment has resulted in the United States being the only country in the world where the Gülen Movement has been able to establish schools fully funded by the host country's taxpayers."
Sharon writes, "Having closely followed this situation for more than three years, I am grateful to the Pennsylvania protesters because their efforts will help draw attention to the secretive and extremely controversial Gulen Movement, its questionable and alarming practices, and its involvement in so many publicly-funded charter schools."

PAA Midwest meetings

The PAA-convened meeting of education advocates in Illinois had a great start yesterday with a presentation by long-time journalist and state education policy watcher Jim Broadway, who shared his expertise and some history with the group.

The group plans to meet again to talk about school funding and to consider some joint actions and advocacy. 

Last January, PAA co-founder and leader of Chicago affiliate PURE, Julie Woestehoff, helped organize a four-state regional meeting for public school activists in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. That meeting was quite successful, and everyone agreed to meet again in July in the same place, Fort Wayne, Indiana, where we were hosted by a very strong group of local advocates, the North East Indiana Friends of Public Education. This meeting is scheduled for Saturday, July 20.

If you are interested in more information about the Fort Wayne meeting, or about the PAA Illinois group, please contact Julie at

PAA annual meeting

PAA will hold its annual meeting in Washington DC on July 17-19. This meeting is open to PAA founders and chapter and affiliate leaders only. We are hoping to be able to share the workshops and resources from this meeting with the broader PAA membership soon after the meeting.

If you are a chapter or affiliate leader and have not received information about this meeting, please contact Julie at    
PAA Blog Highlights

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

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