PAA Action News
Aug. 15, 2013

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

Start the school year off right!

Last week, PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff, of Chicago's Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), shared the following call to action at the Democracy Convention in Madison, WI:

What you can do about some of the hot issues in public education
  • Track federal ESEA reauthorization: PURE and PAA have news services to help you - see below). The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) expired in 2007 but Congress has yet to agree on how to fix it. Unfortunately, the "bipartisan" take on education looks a lot like the corporate reform version - charter schools, parent "choice," testing. Please see PAA's charts comparing the Republican House and Senate Democratic proposals. Experts we listen to do not think an agreement is possible in the next year or two, but it is still important to inform and influence your representatives. Proposals or parts of proposals that are in the works now can end up as federal law.
  • Watch out in your own state for some of the following (PAA news lists will help with this - see below):
    • Parent trigger and other "parent empowerment" laws
    • Voucher bills
    • Final mandates for test-based teacher evaluation
    • State boards of education agreeing to share confidential student data without parental consent
    • Other testing mandates related to the Common Core
  • Join PURE's news list. You will receive regular posts - news, opinion, and a weekly action alert for Chicago and/or the nation.
  • Join Parents Across America's newsletter list. You will receive a weekly newsletter with updates about PAA and our chapters and affiliates, and a weekly action alert (of course, if you are reading this, you are already on the newsletter list!). 
  • Join the PAA News list for regular news and updates on education: Send an e-mail to
  • Consider starting a PAA chapter. Chapter leaders should be current or former public school parents. Details here. 
  • Why would anyone who cares about public schools shop at WalMart? When you shop at WalMart and other businesses, your money ends up paying Michelle Rhee, Teach for America, and fat cat charter school operators. Boycott them and spread the word!
  • Sign the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing. If you belong to a group, have them endorse it, too.
Finally, please download, e-share or print and share the pdf version of this call to action here. Also, see companion piece,"How They've Been Taking the Public and Education out of Public Education."
PAA and PAAers in the News

"Bad Teacher" endorses PAA

We were delighted when teacher/author John Owen asked for a book jacket blurb from PAA, and even more thrilled to see that he concludes "Confessions of a Bad Teacher" by recommending that people join Parents Across America as a first step in addressing the concerns raised in the book. He even includes our  What Works/What Doesn't Work statement (see page 232).

The book went on sale on August 7. The publicity material calls it "The book 'school reformers' don't want you to read." This book proves why America must:
  • Stop the 'bad teacher' witch hunt
  • Return Public schools to the public
  • Give our kids a real education,...not just test prep

John Owens' book is an expansion of the same-name Salon article  he wrote a couple of years ago.


Here's the book jacket blurb written by PAA's Julie Woestehoff:


"Confessions of a Bad Teacher by John Owens is a vivid account of life in the corporate school reform trenches, with all the agony, comedy, hope and humiliation experienced by so many of today's public school teachers. Owens goes beyond telling war stories to reflect on the big picture of bad policies and politics that drive the school day, and to offer some steps readers can take to preserve and protect the precious gift of democratic public education."


The book's web site also provides an opportunity for teachers, parents, students and others to share our stories. 


Read more here. 


Order your copy here!  

PAA founding member and school board candidate Sue Peters

PAA founding member one step closer to school board post

Congratulations to PAA founding member Sue Peters, who just won a s
pot in the Seattle school board primary run-off election! Here's a local news report which notes that Sue is running neck-and-neck with her opponent despite having a far smaller campaign fund.

Diane Ravitch posted a letter of thanks from Sue for the endorsement by the Network for Public Education.

Here are some points in Sue's platform:
  • An education system that embraces & celebrates the individuality and diversity of our children & helps each child fulfill his/her potential.
  • Fiscally and academically responsible decisions that prioritize directing resources to the classroom and our kids.  
  • A rich, engaging curriculum that includes the arts, sciences, math, humanities, music & P.E.
  • Decisions and policies that reflect the needs of our schools and families.
  • More teaching & learning, less testing.
  • Respect for teachers.
  • Keeping public education public.
While PAA does not endorse candidates, we do support this approach to improving our public schools, and wish Sue the best of luck going forward.    

The report from Philadelphia

PAA founding member Helen Gym, leader of Philly's Parents United for Public Education, reports on the severe crisis in the Philadelphia Public Schools:

"Last week our superintendent announced that he was unable to open schools due to lack of funding. This week, parents, clergy, students and community members have come together to demand full and adequate funding and staffing of schools, saying schools should not open until the District proves to us that they are safe and fit for educating children."

Helen wrote this blog post on why it's time to draw a line in the sand and why schools can't open until they are funded.
This Huffington Post article, "Some parents say Philly schools should not open," quotes Helen:

"The town hall is a community wide response to the notion that we're looking at funding schools so that buildings can open, rather than funding schools that can educate children," said Helen Gym, a public school parent and founder of the activist group Parents United for Public Education. "The money that he's [Hite] asked for is necessary but not sufficient to operate our schools. That's just a terrible and dangerous standard for our district to put out there."


Gym said she would take Hite's ultimatum a step further. "Unless the schools get what's needed for them to educate children and not open buildings, we don't think school should open either," she said. "We're asking the district to redo its budget so they can guarantee arts and music, a counselor in every school."


PAA's Helen Gym on news show with Philly city councilman
Here's a short interview with Helen on a local radio station and a  local TV news segment featuring Helen and a local Councilman discussing the grim situation for Philadelphia's public school families.

Julie Woestehoff with questionable Scantron test question  
Chicago schools cut some testing

PAA's Julie Woestehoff was quoted in a Chicago Tribune story on the recent announced cutback in standardized testing in the Chicago Public Schools.

Julie's group, PURE, had been fighting the massive increase in testing in the district, which peaked last year when the district administered 22 different standardized tests.   

"We're concerned that even though some of these assessment tests are optional, schools may end up making students take them all, especially in grades not limiting it to one series of tests," said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of PURE. "The high stakes on tests make it difficult for school-based personnel to pass up any tests that they think may help identify student problems."



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


PAA North Carolina affiliate supports state test reprieve request
and Moral Mondays

PAA founding member Pamela Grundy, leader of PAA affiliate, reports that North Carolina education officials, including Charlottte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) superintendent Heath Morrison, made a trip to Washington DC this week to ask U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a reprieve from the testing required under the state's Race to the Top grant and NCLB waiver. provided some supporting materials for CMS, including the PAA document, "Why More Standardized Tests Won't Improve Education." 

This year's testing expansion drew sharp criticism for the quality of the tests and the amount of staff time required to grade them (the tests had to be graded in-house, and the state provided no extra funds to pay for the work). is also helping plan and organize Charlotte Moral Monday, to be held August 19. This event continues the NAACP-sponsored Moral Monday rallies that drew national attention for their stand against the state legislature's far-right, ALEC-based policies on education, voting rights, health and many other issues.

Indianapolis PAA leader reports more fallout from Bennett school grading
PAA Indy leaders Nate and Carrie Harris

Thanks to PAA Indy leader Nathan Harris for passing along the latest edition of Vic's Statehouse Notes, an invaluable report on education policy making in the state of Indiana. We were pleased to welcome Vic Smith as a speaker for our recent Midwest Friends of Public Education meeting in Fort Wayne. 

This issue of Vic's notes explains that the state school grading system put in place by former state supt. Tony Bennett, who has now resigned from his state position in Florida, was already voided by the state legislature.

Unfortunately, Vic points out that "The schools of Indiana have had to endure a full year of invalid and now thoroughly discredited letter grades bringing untold damage to school reputations as they engage in high stakes local competition with
voucher schools. The current A-F system should never be used again."
Indiana's experience should be taken seriously by other states considering this type of system.

Read more of Vic's Statehouse Notes 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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