Are 'Parent Revolutions'
Q. It's a pretty seductive idea: inner-city parents deplore
public schools that have failed to meet their children's needs for years. So
they revolt, "fire" the principal and teachers, re-form as a charter school, and
live happily ever after with parents, not educators, in charge. Is this a
While parent takeovers of schools
are legal in California, Texas and Mississippi, and interest in the concept is
growing, it's not a good idea at all.
That is, not according to history.
The biggest trial of that model was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge of the late
1990s through 2001. Tens of millions of dollars were injected by a private
foundation into inner-city schools, and parents, not educators, were "empowered"
with how those schools should teach. Taxpayers still paid the bills, but
traditional educational management systems and personnel were removed.
Since the vast majority of those
parents lacked even a high school degree, and had very low academic skills
themselves, these schools devolved into politicization, multiculturalism, and
bilingualism - all of which were important to the parents, as "taught" by
community organizers who helped them restructure their schools toward those
goals. But you can't teach what you don't know, so academics fell by the
It's no accident that two of the
leaders of this design were a former Chicago community organizer who has gained
some prominence -- President Barack Obama -- and the famous American terrorist
and communist, William Ayers.
After years of the extra money
invested in them, the final Annenberg Challenge report was issued. It confessed
that there was no statistical difference in the academic achievement of the
student in those schools, and other low-income students in regular public
schools. So it was a colossal waste of time and money.
But that doesn't
deter activitists like Ben Austin, who leads Parent Revolution, a Los
Angeles-based parent group that started the movement in 2009. Austin was formerly
employed in the Clinton White House in the 1990s when the Annenberg Challenge
took shape. He later was a communications employee for the 2000 Democratic
National Convention Host Committee.
He has said that
the goal of his organization is to transfer political power away from elected
school boards and the "status quo," into the hands of everyday parents.
Critics say the
more constructive approach to dealing with failed public schools is to
disengage from the public school system, and enroll children in private
schools, and in the public policy arena, paying for that by seeking expanded
tax credits for donations to tuition assistance programs.
Homework: The Parent Revolution movement is centered at a Los Angeles