The Real Parents Who Won’t Back Down
Last night, parents held a mock Red Carpet Event outside the world premiere of “Won’t Back Down,” a fictionalized story inspired by California’s Parent Trigger law, legislation which allows parents to vote to close their school or turn it over to a private corporation.
Speaking out against the film, parents walked their own red carpet, held movie posters with superimposed images of two of the film’s prominent supporters, News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein, and celebrated real parent empowerment in the fight for community schools with a toast.
“I’m the real Maggie Gyllenhaal” said Tanya King, grandparent that led the fight to keep ABCD in Bed-Stuy from closing last year, “what we wanted was for the school system to stop neglecting us and invest in our struggling school as much as they invest in making charter schools work– however, our story didn’t have a Hollywood ending, as our school was closed, leaving many of our kids to be reshuffled into other struggling schools.”
Parents said the Parent Trigger law, drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), presents itself as legislation that empowers parents to take control of their local schools. The reality is that the law lets the school be turned over to private companies who are not required to include parent voices in the decision making process.
The film is being distributed by Fox, whose parent company, News Corp. has an education division headed by former New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein. News Corp has been a member of both ALEC’s Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force. Wireless Generation, a for-profit software and testing is also a subsidiary of New Corp., whose founder, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, referred to education as a “$500 billion sector in the U.S. alone.” 1
“It’s a beautiful thing to see parents coming together,” said Juan Pagan, a parent leader with New York Communities for Change. “But what the movie doesn’t show you is what happens next — when a private company takes over the school and shuts out parent voices. We want community schools where parents, students and teachers are partners not corporate schools where companies like News Corp are calling all the shots.”
Joel Klein also sits on the board of StudentsFirstNY, a lobbying group that promotes the corporatizing market-based reforms behind parent trigger law. StudentsFirst has actively promoting Won’t Back Down, hosting screenings across the country including at the Democratic National Convention. StudentsFirstNY has set out to raise $50 million to influence education policy in the upcoming New York City mayoral elections and continue Mayor Bloomberg’s current education policies. Today, Micah Lasher, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY, sent an e-blast supporting the film and promoting Parent Trigger legislation.
“I have two children, one in a charter school and one in a district school, and I have been involved with fights to improve low-performing Bronx schools for years. While school choice is important, charter schools aren’t right for every parent and child, and they can’t be the silver bullet solution to the hundreds of struggling schools in NYC,” said Lynn Sanchez, parent with the Coalition for Educational Justice and New Settlement Apartments. “Parents just want good quality schools in their neighborhood. And we want a say in those schools that goes far beyond just signing a petition – we want to be involved and heard in decisions about our children’s education all through the school year.”
“We won’t back down when it comes to the misuse of high-stakes standardized tests to assess student learning and teacher performance, just like we won’t back down as corporate profiteers try to take over public education” said Janine Sopp, Brooklyn parent and member of Change the Stakes, “Like the main characters in the film, we simply want a rich curriculum for our kids and small classes so they get the quality education and individual attention they deserve”
The event, organized by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools Coalition, Coalition for Educational Justice, New York Communities for Change, Alliance for a Quality Education, Make the Road NY, Class Size Matters, Change the Stakes and Parent VoicesNY, is part of an ongoing campaign to reject to policies of corporate education “reform” groups and support community schools and real parent engagement in all schools.