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Are 'Parent Revolutions' the Answer?


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 viable alternative?


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 wayside.


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 organization,


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 2012




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