Parents Want Options Beyond a "Trigger"

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Reviews are out for the controversial film “Won’t Back Down” which opens nationwide Friday, and the critics' consensus is not positive.

A reviewer for the Associated Press put it this way: “Theaters should install glow-in-the-dark versions of those old clunking classroom clocks so viewers can count the agonizing minutes ticking by as they watch the movie."

I agree that the movie is a shoddy piece of work, but I have other bones to pick with the filmmakers as well. The movie’s backers are using it to attack the teachers union and promote the use of a "parent trigger" law, which mandates that if 51 percent of parents at a school sign a petition,they can close it, fire half the teachers or turn it over to a charter operator
The reality is that most parents do not want to close their schools or convert them into charters to be run by private corporations, where they may have even less voice and students fewer rights.

They do not want the teachers' union to be destroyed, as it is the only organized, well-financed group acting to keep class sizes from mushrooming out of control and school budgets from further cuts.

We already have a provision in New York State law saying that charter conversion can take place if the district approves and half the parents vote for this to occur. The last time it was tried in the city was in 2001, when the Edison charter network made a bid to convert five public schools. It failed to win parent support.

The truth is that most parents in New York City and elsewhere are instead desperate for their neighborhood schools to be improved, through reduced class size, more art, music and science, and less time spent on testing and test prep. Unfortunately, the people running our schools are not offering parents any “triggers” for these options. Instead, they are intent on further undermining our public schools by cutting their budgets, increasing class sizes, and imposing even more testing.

So the choice presented in "Won't Back Down" is a false one, and unfair. It's like approaching a thirsty person in the desert, and offering him saltwater to drink. Some may drink out of desperation but it will not help quench their thirst. While ignored by Hollywood producers, parents all over the country are fighting to have their voices heard, battling the loss of resources and space diverted to charters and the closing of their neighborhood schools. Others are fighting for the right to opt their children out of the damaging choke hold of standardized exams.

Meanwhile the distributor of the film, Fox Movies, and charter school boosters have been hosting screenings, using the movie as a political weapon to pass the “parent trigger” law around the country. The staff of Students First, run by Michelle Rhee, has been posting positive reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes to draw people to the film. One Oklahoma legislator has already cited the movie in his proposal to submit a parent trigger bill in his state.

For more about the parent trigger and what every parent should know about the film, check out my recent Huffington Post article here.