On this Thanksgiving, I am remembering parents and teachers, Republicans and Democrats, who work together to create public schools that serve all children. This relationship is sacred and critical for children to learn. Without this bond there’s little hope for public education and America’s future.
The corporate reform, dystopian goal is to destroy public education for a privatized system. This will mean the end of democratic public ownership of public schools. Schools will be owned and marketed by outsiders who collect tax dollars for their own pursuit of profit on the backs of America’s students.
But parents and teachers working together goes a long way to push back the harmful corporate reforms making many troubling changes to schools.
Here are examples of threats to the parent-teacher relationship.
Astroturf Parent Groups with a Charter School Agenda.
Charter schools are mostly run by outside organizations who hire alternatively trained individuals like those from Teach for America. Parents usually have little say as to how these schools are run. They must follow the rules created by the owners.
Recently parents from a Memphis organization funded by the Walton Family Foundation showed up at a rally for Elizabeth Warren at Clark University in Atlanta and interrupted her speech. Warren has called for making charter schools more transparent.
This astroturf group and others like it, have parents who are convinced that charter schools will serve their children well, even though there’s little proof. They don’t seem concerned about who is teaching their children in charter schools. This particular group comes from Memphis which has the Achievement School District, consisting of many charter schools which aren’t doing well.
The Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
The PTA is been on board for corporate school reform. They used to be a great organization to bring parents and teachers together. But, in 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave the national organization $1 million to buy their support for Common Core. This was in addition to $3.7 million they’d already received. The standards have been a cash cow for publishing companies but have not improved learning.
The PTA is for harmful policy changes to education like high-stakes testing, critical of parents who opt their children out of tests. And they’re supportive of teacher evaluations based on these policies.
Some local PTAs have ignored the national PTA’s support of Gates’s ideas and have written their own bylaws. Many parents have recognized that the organization was bought off.
The Science of Reading Controversy. Reading education has been controversial for years, and the debate has been used to cast teachers as failing. The lack of respect for professional teachers is especially vicious with the recent agenda.
Some parents whose students have learning difficulties have been convinced that teachers failed their children. But many of these parents have children who have not been able to obtain the services they deserve through IDEA.
Those critical of how teachers teach reading also provide podcasts for Amplify. Here you’ll find Emily Hanford, Robert Podiscio, Natalie Wexler and more individuals who cast public schools as failing to teach students how to read. They look at one variable, decoding.
Amplify stresses the “science of reading” which will ultimately lead students online. The Amplify CKLA is online instruction is an unproven program with a poor track record, a program that began with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps $1 billion partnership with AT&T.
From Valerie Strauss and the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, “Rupert Murdoch’s leap into education technology business ends badly.”
With a News Corp. investment of $1 billion and a partnership with AT&T, Amplify was set to sell 4G tablets to school districts and provide digital curriculum and instruction learning products to schools. With its website boldly saying, “Amplify is reimagining the way teachers teach and students learn,” it promised to make big waves in the education technology world, and some well-known figures jumped on board.
These groups work to bring parents and teachers together.
Groups where parents support teachers and teachers stand with parents include:
Parents Across America
Parents recognize and tackle the problems facing public schools. Parents Across America believes in:
- Proven Reforms: We support the expansion of sensible, research-based reforms, such as pre-K programs, full-day Kindergarten, small classes, parent involvement, strong, experienced teachers, a well-rounded curriculum and evaluation systems that go beyond test scores.
- Sufficient and Equitable Funding: Resources do matter, especially when invested in programs that have been proven to work.
- Diversity: We support creating diverse, inclusive schools and classrooms.
- Meaningful Parent Involvement: Parents must have a significant voice in policies at the school, district, state and national levels. We are not just “consumers” or “customers” but knowledgeable, necessary partners in any effective reform effort.
Red for Ed Movement
Last January, I marched with the Red for Ed movement in Richmond, Virginia. At my side was a parent who, I’m honored to say, is one of the most well-versed and highly-respected public school advocates in the nation.
Red for Ed involves mostly teachers, but many parents have signed on to advocate for public schools with teachers. They recognize the democratic ownership they have of their public schools, that should hire well-prepared teachers to instruct America’s students.
During the Chicago Teachers Union strike several weeks ago, a picture circulating on social media. A teacher, a mom herself, carried a child who belonged to another mother, a parent who was marching with teachers in Chicago during the teachers’ strike. The mom had carried her child for blocks in support of teachers who were fighting for better conditions for children in their schools. When the child’s teacher saw this, she ran to her and took over carrying her child. As was pointed out, that’s what good teachers do.
I know many parents who blog and stand up for public schools across the country. They do careful research and speak eloquently at school board meetings. They write letters to the editor, letters to Congress, and work closely with teachers at their local schools.
Teachers and parents together, fighting for public education and great public schools are a formidable force. They cement the bond that’s necessary for good teaching to occur. They work to save public schools in America.
On this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for the American spirit found in those teachers and parents.