There is a frontal assault on public schools coming next week, courtesy of Phil Anschutz, ALEC and Wal-Mart. ProPublica has the story:
The world’s largest private-sector employer and the country’s most prominent conservative entertainment company have teamed up to sponsor a fundraiser called “Teachers Rock.” Backed by Walmart and Anschutz Film Group, the August 14 event will feature live performances from musicians like Josh Groban and appearances from actresses like Viola Davis; it will be broadcast August 18 as a CBS special with messages from actresses like Meryl Streep. And it will promote the upcoming feature film Won’t Back Down, Anschutz’s entry in the “education reform” wars.
Won’t Back Down is reportedly a highly sympathetic fictional portrayal of “parent trigger” laws, a major flashpoint in debates over education and collective bargaining. Under such laws, the submission of signatures from a majority of parents in a school triggers a “turnaround option,” which can mean the replacement of a unionized school with a non-union charter. Such laws have been passed in several states, but due to court challenges, the "trigger" process has never been fully implemented.
“It's another Waiting for Superman," says Jose Vilson, a New York City math teacher and board member of the Center for Teacher Quality. "You have these popular actors, who as well-intentioned as they may be, they may not know all the facts, but they’re willing to back up a couple of corporate friends or people maybe they've become familiar with" in "trying to promote this sort of vision."
The point of the movie is to get parents all excited about the ALEC-created "parent trigger" law, or what is more commonly referred to among teachers as the "parent tricker law." The "parent trigger" law is effective here in California, but efforts to actually pull that trigger have been turned back, at least so far.
The law allows parents to petition school boards to take over the school and then close it, turn it over to a charter management firm, or firing all of the staff. All three options are a way of scapegoating and shaming teachers. Oh, and nullification of the teachers' union contracts. Big surprise there.
Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst and DFER areadvocates of the parent trigger law. One of the hallmarks of every effort to actually invoke it in California is the helpful petitions circulated to parents drafted by billionaire-funded organizations, all containing a provision to force the school to a takeover by a for-profit charter management organization.
Post parent-trigger, the WalMart model for public education kicks in. Inexperienced teachers with no seat at the table and a corporate profit model make a school into something else, something that's not necessarily good for students or their parents. Worse yet, the so-called trigger is based upon test results that are not necessarily reflective of the school's performance or student achievement.
Sadly, some Democrats also buy into the idea that the way to improve public schools is to privatize them. They should really read some informed literature from the people who actually deal with those students on a daily basis.
What they'd discover is that poverty isn't an excuse at all, but actually does affect children's ability to learn.
They would discover that test results have empirically been shown to be an ineffective measure of teacher success or effectiveness.
They would discover that teachers are professionals who deeply care about their students and reach for new ways to help them learn when they're actually given the opportunity to teach.
There are no turnkey fixes to public education. Parents are no better judges than politicians of what is needed to be effective. If they were, we would have homeschooled all of our kids always and never sent them to school. This is a fact. Parents are a necessary piece of a child's educational success, but they are not the only one.
At any rate, this parent trigger isn't being pulled by parents. It's being pulled by outside organizations like StudentsFirst and for-profit organizations who stand to profit.
But while the movie depicts an inspiring story of parental revolt, actual efforts to use the Parent Trigger have been driven by billionaire-funded supporters of privatization, and have sparked acrimony and division. None of these efforts has actually improved a school. [See Beyond the Hype of the Parent Trigger; Just the facts.]
Here is more about how this movie and event was funded:
The movie, due to open September 28, is produced by 20th Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch, and Walden Media, owned by Philip Anschutz. Murdoch’s right-wing politics are well known. Anschutz is an oil-and-gas billionaire who co-produced the anti-teacher film, “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” He contributes to organizations that oppose gay rights and support teaching creationism in schools. Anschutz has also donated to Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers, which opposes environmental regulations and union rights, and to the political career of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
And finally, a little background on the Parent Revolution group active in California who backed the Adelanto effort and failed. (They are now filing a lawsuit):
The Parent Trigger was first conceived by a LA-based organization called the Parent Revolution, founded by a charter school operator and funded by the Broad, Walton and Gates Foundations. The legislation was introduced in California by then-State Senator Gloria Romero, who now heads the California branch of the pro-privatization organization, Democrats for Education Reform.
Because of how this event and the movie is being marketed, it's playing like a big parent empowerment movie that everyone should march out of with a song in their heart and triggers in their hand. It's soft-played from the privatization side, just like Paul Ryan's Medicare-murdering proposals. Using terms like "choice" and "voice", they soft-pedal the end of universal education and universal health care for seniors with equal alacrity.
Spread the word. They lie.