PAA Action News
Jan. 9, 2014

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PAA Action Alert
Resolved for 2014 : Listen to Parents!

Help Congress start the year off right!

This week's federal education buzz included House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's threat to launch a Congressional investigation of the education polices of the new Mayor of New York. Bill de Blasio ran and won on a platform of promoting neighborhood public schools, ending co-location of charter schools in neighborhood schools, and charging rent to charter schools.

Cantor was quoted as saying, "This move could devastate the growth of education opportunity in such a competitive real estate market like New York City."  

DeBlasio countered, "It's a dangerous philosophy that turns its back on public education - and it has failed many times before. What public school parents want - and I know because I'm one of them - are real investments that lift up all our kids. That will take big, bold, progressive ideas. And that's exactly what the people of New York City just voted for."

We agree, and we just sent a fax to Rep. Cantor and the members of both the Senate and House Education Committees. It urges them to resolve to listen to parents in 2014. Surveys indicate parents overwhelmingly oppose excessive, high-stakes testing, school closings and "choice." These surveys reinforce PAA's approach as detailed in our position paper on ESEA reauthorization, What Public School Parents Want in a New Federal Education Law .   

It's a new year, parents! Time to take action! Why not download the fax and send it via e-mail or fax to your own Senators and Congresspersons. While you're at it, send one to Mr. Cantor, fax 202-225-0011 or via his web site contact form.
PAA and PAAers in the News

Op-Ed from head of PAA Michigan affiliate

The Detroit Free Press published this excellent op-ed piece from Steven Norton, head of PAA affiliate Michigan Parents for Public Schools, challenging efforts to expand the state-run Education Achievement Authority, which is designed to take over and restructure poorly-scoring public schools. So far, the EAA has a rocky track record.

Steven writes, 

If the Michigan Senate really cares about improving education achievement, it should ditch the governor's one-size-fits-all EAA, look at each troubled school individually, and conduct a comprehensive educational audit of critical, research-based factors to determine specific, data-driven and unique local school needs and requirements. It should work with the school district to develop a transparent detailed school-based action plan of improvement designed by local school leadership, teaching staff, other educational experts and community stakeholders.


PAA founding member Helen Gym is "The Agitator"

Helen Gym, leader of PAA Philadelphia affiliate Parents United for Public Education, was recently profiled in Philadelphia magazine, which called her the city's "preeminent public agitator" who is "r
elentless, whip-smart, meticulously prepared and utterly fearless" and causes Mayor Nutter to run whenever he sees her.

Here's a selection from the article:     


Helen Gym advances, and Mayor Nutter inches warily back. She waves a thick stack of papers at him, each sheath a complaint lodged by parents lamenting the calamitous conditions in Philadelphia's reeling public schools. There's the kid with dangerous asthma at the school without a nurse on hand. The dyslexic, orphaned high-school senior applying for colleges with no counselor to lean on. The bullying victim who fled Overbrook High only to find it impossible to enroll at another school.


"This is what we're fighting against," Gym tells Nutter. The Mayor is just a few yards from his office door, but he's the one shifting his feet, looking to get away.


Minutes earlier, Gym had wrapped up a news conference in the ornate Mayor's Reception Room, where, with the assistance of City Council, she'd usurped a podium usually used by Nutter and his invited guests. Gym and her allies were there to tout their latest pressure tactic: written complaints designed to compel the state to meet basic education standards and shake loose some badly needed dollars for the district.


"It would be nice to have your support, Mayor," Gym tells him. Nutter issues a few noncommittal mumbles, cleans his glasses, and back-steps for the stairway. Gym shrugs. Powerful figures often look for the exits when she approaches.

3 quick quotes from PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff

PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff, head of PAA Chicago affiliate Parents United for Responsible Education, was recently quoted in Chicago Magazine about the growing scandal around the United Neighborhood Organization's (UNO) charter school network:

"What on earth was the state thinking?... We have this huge budget crisis. To be giving UNO $98 million-it's preposterous. It throws into enormous relief the political nature of this organization, the clout they have."

Last year, PURE filed a state administrative complaint challenging UNO's financial practices. The Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating.

Another quote from Julie made it on to the front page of the Chicago Tribune last month in a story about the rape of a Chicago high school student who was on her way to school:

"These commutes have been going on a long time....We just accept it as a fact of life in this city, and that puts children at risk."    
Finally, this quote about the record 50 school closings in Chicago last year appeared in a new book about Rahm Emanuel, Mayor 1%:

"On her blog, parent activist Julie Woestehoff likened the mayor's position to saying, 'I promise to stop beating you after I get in this last round of punches.'"

Education Writers' Association lists PAA affiliates on student data sharing

In a backgrounder for their webinar last week on student data privacy, the Education Writers' Association listed PAA affiliates PURE and NYC's Class Size Matters in a "sampling" of groups that have been involved in the issue.

As we reported in our last newsletter, Chicago decided to drop out of the inBloom data sharing project just days after PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson, head of CSM, traveled there to make a presentation for PURE and other groups. 
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 Florida affiliate HispanEduca invites parents to movie screening
Standardized: Lies, Money and Civil Rights: How Testing is Ruining Public Education

PAA Florida affiliate HispanEduca leader Lourdes Perez Ramirez invites every Florida parent to a showing in Orlando of the new movie "Standardized."

The screening will take place at Howard Middle School, 800 Robinson Street, free for all parents, on Jan. 25 at 1:30 PM. Lourdes mentions that her friend Rick Roach, an Orange County Public School board member, is interviewed in the movie. He strongly opposes standardized tests.

PAA members will be interested in attending and sharing information about other showings across the U.S. including:

January 13, 7 pm, Southside High School, Rockville Center NY
January 18, 12:30 pm, Zoetropolis Theater, Lancaster PA
January 25, 1:30 pm, Howard Middle School, Orlando FL
January 30, 7 pm, John F. Kennedy High School, Chicago IL
February 6, 6 pm, The Ritz East, Philadelphia PA
February 10, time TBA, South High School, Minneapolis, MN
February 13, time TBA, Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale FL
February 22, time TBA, Arizona State U, Phoenix AZ

Watch for other screenings here. You can watch a YouTube preview here.

Citizens for Public Schools to hold charter school forum

From PAA Massachusetts affiliate Citizens for Public Schools:

Come join us on Saturday, January 25, at Madison Park High School for a forum and community discussion on charter schools in Massachusetts: Have Charter Schools Broken Their Promises to Parents, Students and the Community?  

(Click here to register now.)

Massachusetts was the second state to authorize charter schools, under the Education Reform Act of 1993. Charter proponents made many promises: that all children would be welcome and would achieve at unprecedented levels; that charters would innovate and this would lead to improvements in traditional public schools as well. Eighty-one non-district charter schools are now open in Massachusetts, 25 of those in Boston. More than 31,000 students are enrolled.

In June 2012, as part of a review of the Education Reform Act of 1993, CPS released its analysis of charter schools in Massachusetts (click here to see the report).  Our findings about the detrimental effect on students of some charter school practices, the increasing financial hit to district public schools, and the privatizing effect of an increasingly two-tier school system, led us to conclude that major reform is necessary, and that this is not the time to expand charter schools.

We hope you will join us on Saturday morning, January 25, at Madison Park High School in Boston to learn more about charter schools in Massachusetts, from parents, students, teachers, advocates, activists and academics. Help us begin a serious discussion about the future of charter schools.  The Forum program begins at 9:30 am and ends at 12:30 pm.  Registration and coffee begin at 9 am.

The Forum is free of charge, but we ask that you register so we'll know how many to expect. For those who can, we ask for a tax-deductible donation to help us meet the costs of this event. (All those donating $25 or more will be listed as Sponsors.)

Discussion group at recent PAA-Parent Power conference in Indianapolis
Feedback needed on Parent Power/PAA-Indiana
parent involvement talking points


John Harris Loflin, a leader of Parent Power and PAA-Indiana, asks for your feedback on the group's parent involvement talking points paper. Please contact him at


The full paper is here.

The summary points are:
  1. No parent/s wants their child/ren to fail in school.
  2. Our schools have a public/civic purpose, not a private purpose.
  3. The problem is not parents; it's a crisis in democracy.
  4. Fundamental district change is necessary for creating a model of parent involvement which encourages true dialogue and cooperative decision-making.
  5. Parents, teachers, and school staff must treat each other as social equals.
  6. Parental engagement becomes an issue when the home culture of the family is different from the school's culture.
  7. America's economic system guarantees that bi-cultural parents are over worked and underpaid with little time to volunteer or meet with teachers.
  8. All forms of parental involvement are not equal.
  9. Bi-cultural parents are involved in the paradox of being expected to participate in school on the one hand and on the other hand not being too involved such that they change the system or become part of the school district's power structure.
  10. Bi-cultural parental disengagement results from the subordination and exclusion by those in power (i.e. school administrators, teachers, and those representing the dominant culture). This situation mirrors the lower (socio-economic, political, and cultural) status of bi-cultural parents in our larger society.
  11. The Local School Council model is a vastly superior "choice" for involving parents.
  12. In many cases, it is the school principal who is the main barrier to parental participation.
  13. Bi-cultural parents need concrete skills and education about what Lisa Delpit calls "the rules of the game."
  14. To look out for their own interests, bi-cultural parents will create a Parent University independent of their public schools.
  15. Parents must be viewed and enabled as activists.
PAA Blog Highlights

Keep up with our blog for more news and commentary on public education from the parents' point of view. In addition to the posts linked in the articles above, new posts include: 
For more....
If you have questions, comments, suggestions or stories to share, please e-mail us at or

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