With Mayor Emanuel aligning himself with an extremist group focused on attacking teachers, a group of Chicago parents has decided it’s time to speak up in their defense.
“We’re upset with all the teacher-bashing that’s so fashionable today,” said Erica Clark of Parents For Teachers. “It’s a complete distraction from the real issues facing our schools.”
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The group, which started recently with a Facebook page, held its first action Tuesday, the first of several “phone –in days,” with members of parent and community groups calling CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard asking him to withdraw current plans to close and “turnaround” 16 schools. The group argues that a 15-year record shows that these policies don’t work.
“Whenever anyone talks about ‘school reform’ these days, the first thing you hear is some attack on teachers,” Clark said.
She points out that SB 7, which reduced teachers’ collective bargaining rights, “was heralded as the most important ‘school reform’ bill of the year – but it had nothing at all about what really matters: class size, equitable funding, less emphasis on standardized testing, a richer, more interesting curriculum. It was all about attacking teachers.”
“If you listen to the rhetoric of so-called school reform, you would think there are no good teachers in the system,” she said. “But if you talk to parents – if you look at the data CPS collects in the surveys where parents rate schools and teachers – there’s a lot of support for teachers.
“Parents deal with their kids’ teachers on a regular basis, they see how hard they work, they see that they are working in the trenches every day for their kids.”
Emanuel appeared in a video produced by the Education Action Group, based in Muskegon, Wisconsin. EAG’s leader, Kyle Olson, blogs on the Big Governmentwebsite of journalist-provocateur Andrew Breitbart, whose exploits include doctoring video to make U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod look like she was fomenting racial division.
Two years ago Olson was forced to apologize after he was exposed for videotaping an interview with Frances Fox Piven, the activist academic who was a frequent target of Glen Beck, under false pretenses.
LSCs and parent power
Meanwhile, Parents Across America, a national coalition of parent groups including Parents United for Responsible Education in Chicago, released a position paper on parent empowerment that holds up Chicago’s Local School Councils as a model.
Corporate school reformers have recently sought to rebrand their efforts as “parent empowerment,” a term encompassing school choice, vouchers, “parent trigger” laws, and “other attacks on public education,” according to the group.
(“Parent choice” is the major theme of the Education Action Group, which supports vouchers and charters.)
“We know that these strategies do not reflect what most parents actually want, or what works for children and schools,” PAP argues. “A 2010 Phi Delta Kappa poll found that 54 percent of Americans think the best thing to do about low-performing schools is to keep the school open with the same staff and give it more support. Only 17 percent wanted to close the school and reopen it with a new principal, and just 13 percent wanted to replace it with a charter school.”
The group notes that LSCs and parent involvement “are not magic bullets,” and that problems persist in Chicago.
“However, the research-based LSC model is a vastly superior ‘choice’ for involving parents when included in a comprehensive set of proven reforms including equitable and sufficient funding, pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.”