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The Evolution of LA’s Parent Revolution

March 26th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

This-is-Our-School

Ben Austin is the executive director of an LA-based organization
known as the Parent Revolution, which has been extremely active in lobbying for various kinds of education reforms at an LA and a statewide level. In doing so, the group has often found itself on the opposite side of the influence-wielding push-pull from the various teachers’ unions—UTLA and CTA. As a consequence, Austin is either revered or despised, depending upon who’s doing the talking. Yet, whatever one thinks of Ben Austin and his organization, he has emerged as a recent big player in the world of school reform—both locally and nationally—alongside more recognizable stars in that firmament, like Green Dot’s founder Steve Barr .

Neon Tommy’s Jessica Flores (who also happens to be my smart student), took a look at how Austin’s Revolution is evolving with the passage of the so called Trigger Law.

(This week my USC class has been reporting on education, and they have found a number of LA ed stories that are under-reported, this among them.)

Here are some clips from Jessica’s story:

In a modest office with mostly bare walls and a few desks in downtown Los Angeles, Parent Union organizer Shirley Ford spends her time these days strategizing for, what she calls, a revolution.

“I’m making a list of people that I’m going to sit down with now that the Parent Trigger Law is passed, because that gives us leverage,” says Ford.

A new state law gives wings to a promise the Los Angeles Parents Union first made early last year, when it was headed by Green Dot, its mission to get parents to sign on to transform poorly performing Los Angeles schools to charters. They call the movement the Parent Revolution and promise parents to deliver new charter schools within three years if 51 percent of parents sign up for reforms. But no laws held-up their pledge, which was more hope than certainty.

“We were building the airplane while it was in the air. We didn’t exactly know how we were going to back it up,” said Ben Austin, the executive director of the L.A. Parent’s Union.

Now they do know. After the Parent Revolution aggressively campaigned for the trigger law, the state passed it earlier this year. For the first time, parents have the codified right to demand changes in failing schools. If a majority of parents organize to reform consistently failing schools, they can call on officials to take one of three steps: transform the school to a charter, fire the principal and half the staff or close the school altogether.

The law is changing how the Parent Revolution is positioning itself in the charter school movement. The Parent’s Union is saying they aren’t working for Green Dot or Green Dot’s agenda anymore. But the law is also fueling fire between the organization and other players in the education field who say the Parent Revolution simply pushes a charter school agenda, which is not necessarily better for students.

“The parent trigger assumes charters are the answers and they are not,” says UTLA Vice President Gregg Solkovits. He underscored studies that show charters have struggled to serve disabled and ESL students.

But Austin points to the new law as proof that other solutions are on the table and to show his organization will advocate for whatever parents deem necessary.

“The idea of the parent revolution is to say F-U, that every single thing about our school is going to be about kids. Otherwise, I’m sorry, we are going to take our kids and go elsewhere,” said Austin.

Read the rest here.


AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, READ ABOUT THE RESCUE OF THE WATTS TOWER ARTS CENTER FROM PRIVATIZATION

Also, on Neon Tommy, this story by LeTania Kirkland tells about community efforts to rescue the iconic Watts Tower arts center from budget-force privatization, and its recent—even if temporary—success.

Posted in Education, Green Dot, LAUSD | 13 Comments »

13 Responses

  1. Tweets that mention WitnessLA.com » Blog Archive » The Evolution of LA’s Parent Revolution -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Neon Tommy, marc_cooper. marc_cooper said: RT @WitnessLA: The evolution of #LA Parent Revolution…by Jessica Flores @NeonTommy http://bit.ly/d6U5zr #lausd [...]

  2. Woody Says:

    THE RESCUE OF THE WATTS TOWER ARTS CENTER FROM PRIVATIZATION…

    When I see a stupid headline like that, I get sick and can’t bring myself to read it.

  3. Tomás Says:

    Then you’re going to love this quote in the story, Woody:

    “‘I just hope that they realize the value of the arts in the community. It’s got to be institutionalized and consistent,’ said Brown”

    Institutionalized and consistent… hmm, so Mr. Brown thinks it should be a guaranteed universal right, like healthcare! Guaranteed by taxation in perpetuity.

    (cue sound of Woody’s retching)

  4. WTF Says:

    I remember reading some fools (R.T.) comment about the privitazation of schools, leading to a lack of education of the poor.

    It’s interesting that there is a waiting line for parents who want to enroll their LAUSD kids in privately operated charter schools. Why don’t the parents want thier Belmont High School teens to learn from the little cholitos at Belmont High? Don’t the parents understand cultural diversity?

  5. Mavis Beacon Says:

    Got to be very careful. Blowing up a bad school is easier than building a good one.

    WTF, charter schools aren’t private.

  6. Woody Says:

    I’m going to puke.

  7. RobThomas Says:

    Ha ha, he says “some fool”, to give the impression that my name is somehow irrelevant, then immediately gives my name, proving that he had it on his mind all along and therefore my name is quite big in his little world.

    Also, I just did a google on Belmont High, Los Angeles Unified School District, and charter school in every combination possible and there is not one single story or even blog post about a charter school where the parents of Belmont students are trying to enroll. You wouldn’t be making yet another alarmist scenario, would you, “Mad Mexican”?

  8. Mavis Beacon Says:

    Just to clarify, I shouldn’t say charters aren’t “private.” That’s vague. They are almost all non profit and therefore not “privatized” in the general meaning of the term. That is all.

  9. WTF Says:

    R.T. using the words “alarmist scenario” is fffin hilarious. Sr. Fool are you refering to creating an “alarmist scenario” about minutemen hunting and killing latinos? Or perhaps “alarmist scenario” about the Nazi LAPD?

    It’s funny how you expect a news article to verify our comments but you can make ridiculous comments about any paranoia of yours. Do you know any parents whose kids or a student who ever attended Belmont High? Some of us have first-hand knowledge of Belmont High school and the area around it. If you knew anything you would know that Belmont has students who are gang members.

    Charter schools are NOT mis-managed/man by the LAUSD public school system (i.e. private control).

    Sr. Fool, now read the following comment from a parent.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/10/local/la-me-charters10-2010jan10/3

    “These were the attractions for Highland Park resident Rosa Rivas, who moved her sixth-grade foster son to a charter school several years ago after he was beaten up at his traditional school and began to ditch class. It was a constant battle to get him to school,” she said. At the charter, “there was not an attraction of gangs. There was not intimidation. They’re smaller. There’s more control over the kids. There’s no gangbanging in the school. That was my main thing: safety.

  10. WTF Says:

    R.T.

    Read these comments about Belmont High
    http://tinyurl.com/yftlrq4

    Read the comment below, which is typical of many L.A. Schools.

    http://laeastside.com/2010/03/kicks/#comments

    “Growing up, I knew that you had to have a decent pair of shoes, but nothing too fancy because then you’ll get robbed. Anything high end like Jordans and Nikes was always a target for all the punk cholo and bangers that would take them from you so they can have them. I also knew that you couldn’t wear certain shoes, like the Cortez because it was a signal that you were a cholo. You had to make sure you weren’t wearing the wrong colors and shoes por que sino, you’d end up dead and barefoot.”

  11. Robert D. Skeels Says:

    For the real story on privatizer Ben Austin see:

    Political Patronage for Green Dot Public Schools’ Chief Propagandist
    http://dailycensored.com/2010/04/24/political-patronage-for-green-dot-public-schools-chief-propagandist/

    Jessica Flores laughable piece of un-researched “journalism” gets honorable mention in the footnotes. A modicum of research would have revealed LAPU/PR are a front group for the CCSA and funded by deep pocketed privatization champions including Eli Broad, Bill Gates, The Waltons, Reed Hastings, and Donald Fisher.

    For an article to miss those connections and that agenda is somewhat yellow journalism, no?

  12. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Robert, I gave a neutral introduction to the issue of Ben Austin—that neither supported nor criticized him.

    Austin is indeed controversial and, on your site, you bring up some good points. However you undercut your case through HUGE factual errors and unsupported accusations regarding Steve Barr, so it is difficult to trust anything you say.

    Worse, on your site and here you attacked a journalism student of mine who, having no background on the issue at all, and with a very fast turnaround, still did an intelligent and honorable report on one small shard of the issue of the so-called Parent Revolution. Did she get to all sides of the story? No. This was not an investigative report, and she merely attempted to illuminate one small part of fractious and complex issue.

    You could have made constructive suggestions that might have helped Jessica, who is a very fine student, to do an even better job next time. But you didn’t. You simply slammed her in a vile fashion.

    Is that the kind of pedagogy you support?

    Shame on you.

  13. Robert D. Skeels Says:

    Point taken.

    However, I wrote Neon Tommy on numerous occasions in the weeks following the publication of her article in order to ask for Ms. Flores to balance her piece with facts from the social justice angle, given corporate press release nature of her article. My concerns and protestations were ignored, hence I felt it fair to mention the extreme corporate bias of her piece in my work. If the Flores article is corrected, I will print a mea culpa addendum to my piece and remove her name from the article. I’ll even make a public apology. Fair enough?

    I’d be extremely curious to know what you consider “HUGE factual errors and unsupported accusations regarding Steve Barr” actually are. I will correct factual errors, and if they are indeed my fault, admit they are mine.

    You know as well as I do that the $51K story is true, just read their current 990 Form. While I don’t buy Green Dot’s explanation–of course being a 501c3 means never having to tell the truth–but I’d be interested to know how that would be considered a huge factual error. I understand Barr gets rock star treatment from right wing Democrats following the path of opportunism, but you aren’t suggesting the Barr is anything but what we in the social justice activism crowd paint him as, are you? Where was Barr when Petruzzi threw Ánimo Justice out on there street?

    I know USC has a Green Dot Public [sic] Schools board member, so there is an obvious affinity there. However, I am open to dialog. Convince me I’m wrong on Barr.

    You have my email address, but it might serve others to have this conversation in public.

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