PAA Action News
July 25, 2013

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PAA Action Alert

Tell Congress to listen to parents!

We're coming up on the last week before Congress goes on its August break, so PAA took the opportunity to send out a legislative fax about the new AFT survey on parents' attitudes toward school reform.

Read the fax below, then download it here and either e-mail now it to your Congressional representatives and Senators, fax/mail it, or bring it to their local offices in person while they're home in August.

The House passed an ESEA bill last week (see PAA annual meeting story below for more) but the Senate is still fighting over the details of their version. If they manage to pass a bill, it will still have to go to a joint House and Senate  committee for a compromise version, which we hope will include more of what parents really want from federal education law. 

Listen to Parents!

Parent Voices Weekly Education Fax

July 25, 2013


Survey: Parents oppose testing, school closings and "choice"


American Federation of Teachers survey shows most parents want less testing, charter schools and school closings and more support for neighborhood public schools.


From the AFT press release:


Most parents with children in public schools do not support recent changes in education policy, from closing low-performing schools to shifting public dollars to charter schools to private school vouchers, according to a new poll released Monday by the American Federation of Teachers. Support for strong public schools over expanded vouchers and charters is widespread, with 77 percent supporting this approach, and that support cuts across political and class lines.


Public school parents also soundly reject the austerity-driven policies being pushed in schools. More than two-thirds of parents see the following as reducing the quality of public education: teacher and staff layoffs; increased class sizes; school closings; high turnover rates; and cutbacks in art, music, libraries and physical education. And a 57 percent majority feel there is too much emphasis on testing today.


PAA's position: This survey reinforces PAA's approach as detailed in our position paper on ESEA reauthorization, What Public School Parents Want in a New Federal Education Law.


PAA opposes efforts to privatize public education through the expansion of charters, vouchers or other privately-run programs at the expense of regular public schools.

We oppose the misuse and overuse of standardized tests to evaluate teachers, students or schools.  


PAA recommends that Congress listen to parents and support policies and practices that have a track record of improving schools, and more reliable accountability and assessment practices.  


Specifically we suggest that a new ESEA include:

  • a focus on providing sufficient and equitable resources in all public schools, so that every child can receive a high-quality education,

  • improving schools rather than closing them, using evidence-based solutions backed by parents and other stakeholders,

  • less standardized testing and more reliable accountability and assessment practices,

  • programs that encourage the retention of professional, experienced teachers,

  • a full range of parent involvement opportunities, including a stronger, democratically-elected parent voice in decision making at the school, district, state, and national levels, and

  • the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

PAA and PAAers in the News

PAA leaders set strategy for the coming year

An intrepid group of PAA leaders met for our first annual meeting last week in the steam heat of Washington DC to plan our strategies for the coming school year.


Attending were (from left) Julie Woestehoff (PAA Secretary, PAA Affiliate Parents United for Responsible Education, Chicago IL), Dora Taylor (PAA President, PAA-Seattle WA), Dawn Collins (PAA-Baton Rouge LA), Nathan Harris (Indianapolis, IN), Deb Mayer (affiliate SOS Oregon, Portland OR), Helen Gym (affiliate Parents United for Public Education, Philadephia, PA), Carrie Harris (Indianapolis, IN), Natalie Beyer (PAA Vice-President, Public Schools First NC, Durham NC), Lisa Fluke (PAA-Ventura County CA), Pamela Grundy (affiliate Mecklenburg ACTS, Charlotte NC), Susan Barrett (affiliate SOS Oregon, Portland OR), and Steven Norton (affiliate Michigan Parents for Schools).


The meeting began with an informal lobby day on Wednesday, July 17. Coincidentally, the House version of ESEA reauthorization, H.R. 5, was expected to come to the House floor for a vote that week, and a House Rules Committee hearing on amendments to the bill was held in the Capitol building that day. Unfortunately, the public is not allowed into the Capitol without an escort (as part of a tour, etc.), so we were unable to attend the hearing. Collectively we met with some two dozen Congressional and Senate members. (The House passed H.R. 5 late Friday afternoon.)


On Thursday, Cherie Brown, founder of the D.C.-based National Coalition Building Institute, facilitated an excellent session for us on intergroup communication with a special focus on improving racial and cultural understanding.


Helen Gym reports out during PAA strategy session
Thursday afternoon and Friday morning were dedicated to discussing our vision for public education, reviewing our mission and developing priorities for the year.

These plans include expanding our support for our chapters, doing more to connect our work at the local-state-national levels, and streamlining our communications systems. It's going to be a busy year!       

We also had some down time to get to know one another better and to enjoy the variety of experiences and strengths our leaders bring to PAA. 


PAA IRS forms filed 


While we were together in D.C, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of PAA's incorporation! We are pleased to report that our 501c3 filing for federal charitable status is completed. We hope to hear about our status from the IRS within a few months.


Again, we couldn't have done it without the excellent assistance we received from our pro bono attorney, Dusty Federko, of the law firm Katten Muchin, and the support given throughout the process by The Law Project, a program of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights  Under Law.  
PAA founding member running for Seattle school board
PAA founding member Sue Peters

While PAA cannot endorse candidates for elected office, we CAN express our pride that founding member Sue Peters is walking the walk as a candidate for Seattle School Board, which you can read about in PAA President Dora Taylor's blog post here.

We encourage all of our members and readers to seriously consider following in her footsteps. It's one way that you can have a real impact on the quality of education in your area.

PAAer on inBloom

Check out this excellent Schoolbook Q and A with PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, of NYC affiliate Class Size Matters, on the inBloom student data sharing scandal.

PAAer on problems with parent trigger laws  
PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff was quoted in this Huffington Post article on the parent trigger.    


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
4-state meeting in Fort Wayne IN
Another great 4-state meeting

PAA co-sponsored the second meeting of what we are now calling the Midwest Friends of Public Education, which took place on July 20th in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

People from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois came together to share their local and state issues and strategies, and to consider ways we can support each other in our common struggle against corporate school reform.

If you are interested in more information about MFPE, please contact Julie Woestehoff at

PAA-Atlanta's Kimberly Brooks
Georgia opts out of PARCC tests

Kimberly Brooks, leader of PAA-Atlanta Public Schools, was pleased to report that her state of Georgia has decided to opt out of the PARCC Common Core tests.

Already Alabama, North Dakota and Pennsylvania have left PARCC. Oklahoma plans to design its own test, and Indiana isn't participating in PARCC governing board meetings right now.
Florida is also considering pulling out. 

You can read more about the Georgia decision here

PAA activists and others help stop Broad influence in South Carolina

Peter Smyth, leader of our PAA South Carolina affiliate Charleston Area Community Voice for Education, reports that community, parents, and teachers pulled together there to stop a Broad Academy graduate from destroying a district. Broadie-trained Sumter School District Superintendent Randolph Bynum resigned last week. Peter says that it was activists and others who wouldn't quit, who opposed the "SWEET 16" teacher evaluation program, the district's standards-based report-card system, and other initiatives. 

Read more here
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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