Friday, January 13, 2012

Hoping 2012 will see a rebirth of parents movement

Thinking back to Chicago's dynamic school reform movement of the late '80s and early '90s (before mayoral control) and wondering if it's possible to capture that democratic spirit for change we all felt back then. That movement was sparked by parents who desperately wanted greater opportunities and equity for their children within the public schools system.

The last decade of conservative No Child Left Behind policies accompanied by the growing influence of corporate reformers and power philanthropists,  has also produced a movement of conservative parent groups focused on banning books, school re-segregation, and attacking the teaching of evolution and multiculturalism. The coercive and divisive Parent Trigger laws enforced policies allowing a group of parents to hand over public schools to private management companies.

In  New Hampshire, the Tea Party dominated Legislature on Wednesday overrode the governor's veto to enact a new law allowing parents to object to any part of the school curriculum.

But after 10 years, NCLB and the conservative accountability wave has proven to be a disaster for public education by any credible measure. Privately-run charter schools, which offered false hope for many parents, have been shown to under-perform even traditional public schools.  Parent opposition also appears to be growing in reaction  to school closings in under-served communities and further instability and  loss of opportunity for their children.

Hopefully, the conservative wave will be reversed as we head towards the 2012 elections. The birth of the Occupy Movement, Save Our Schools, and the emergence of progressive parent groups like Parents Across America offer a good opportunity to rebuild.

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