Friday, April 13, 2012

Parents Take the Reins on Education Reform

Something amazing is happening in education reform; and it doesn’t have to do with enacting new programs or expanding existing ones.  

It’s about who is leading the fight for these reforms.  For years, special interests have hijacked education policy for their own needs as our education system has fallen more and more behind.

But looking at the news stories about education, one group is continuing to exert its influence: parents.  Once parents could only work through PTAs; but today, parents are voicing their ideas and advocating for real policy changes.  Here are some of the standout ways parents are taking control of education reform:

Parents Know Best: A campaign recently launched by the American Federation for Children that works to stop the attacks on parents because we believe that parents—not bureaucrats—know what’s best for their children.  The Parents Know Best campaign seeks to empower parents to take control of educational choice for their children.  With a video that’s spreading across the internet, this campaign says it all, because parents DO know best.

Kelly Williams-Bolar: The face of parents fighting for education reform starts with Kelly Williams-Bolar—a mother who was jailed and convicted for trying to send her children to a safer school.  Catching the attention of the national media, this mother not only demonstrated the great lengths parents go to provide a quality education, but also showed that too many parents do not have real educational choices for their children.  The idea that a mother would be jailed for trying to provide a safe place for her children shocked the nation.

Parents Unions: In an effort to combat the powerful teachers unions, several “Parents Unions” have popped up across the nation.    Active in Connecticut, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and New York, these organizations advocate for a variety of reforms and serve as a unified force of parents.  Parents—including Williams-Bolar—are coming together to join in the fight for educational choice.  In an Education Week article, Sean Cavanagh writes “If there is a common thread linking the parents’ organizations, though, it’s the belief that parents’ voices have been shut out of policy debates for too long.”

Virginia Walden Ford: Just yesterday, Virginia Walden Ford—a mother and school choice leader in the fight to save the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program—wrote a guest blog post for School Choice Now! on her disappointment that the Obama Administration once again is working to dismantle the program she—with hundreds of parents—fought to protect.  Ford is standout parent who worked to create educational options long after her own children graduated from school—she’s even the winner of a Walton Award for School Choice for her role as a standout parent and advocate.

Parent Trigger Legislation: The notion that parents can petition poor performing schools to undergo transformation—called parent trigger legislation—is sweeping the nation.  These laws—currently in California, Connecticut, Mississippi, and Texas—allow parents to petition that a failing school undergo major reforms including reopening as a charter school or sending students, via vouchers, to different public and private schools.  While still new in education policy, these programs put the power of overhauling poor performing schools in the hands of parents.

These are just the few of the examples of parents voicing the need for education reform—and acting on it.  Looking at the names of education reform groups, like Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Parents for Education Reform, Parents Engages in Education Reform, Parent Revolution, and Parents Education Network, it’s clear trend is here to stay.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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