Thursday, May 6, 2010

Put the parent voice back in public education now!

Parents Across America: Join us in sending a message to President Obama and the Congress by signing on here; also please join our Facebook page and leave a comment.

Today, eighteen parent activists from across the nation sent a letter to Obama and the Congress, opposing his administration's wrong-headed, pro-privatization version of education reform, and calling for new priorities for our public schools, including more parent involvement and smaller classes.

As we wrote, "So far, the parent voice has been missing from the debate over education and is entirely absent from the top-down and often draconian proposals being put forward by the administration. We strongly believe that the Blueprint’s proposals would undermine rather than strengthen our public school system, particularly in the urban districts whose parents we represent. "

Read the full letter here, and the press release here. We also point out that Blueprint’s proposals represent large-scale experiments on our kids, and yet lack informed parental consent -- which would never be allowed in the field of medicine.

Incredibly, the only mention of the word "parents" in Duncan's entire "Blueprint" for the reauthorization of ESEA is that parents of American Indian children should have input as to the curriculum in their schools. No wonder that the US Department of Education's approval rating has dropped more sharply than any other government agency, according to the Pew Research Center.

The letter points out that "Education is a public trust and the very foundation of our democracy. We urge you to be wary of the influence of venture philanthropy on our public education system. We are well aware that powerful foundations -- such as those of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, and others – are shaping many of our federal and local education policies with dollars rather than evidence-based solutions."

We conclude our message to Congress this way: “You hold a great responsibility in your hands this year in reauthorizing the ESEA. ....We urge you to insist that the next version of the ESEA formally incorporates the views of public school parents as well. As highly knowledgeable primary stakeholders, we must be permitted to have a seat at the decision-making table."

For an article about our letter, check out Gotham Schools.


Ender said...

Wait... when were parent's ideas ever allowed in public education. When my mom was told that it if she pressed hard enough for an IEP I would end up in the ED/BD room (where I would have had a nervous breakdown on a daily basis), was that her voice being heard? When I, with a tramatic brain injury and Asperger's, wasn't given any official services until I went to a private college, was that my moms voice being heard? When she tried complaining about me being bullied then suspended when I finally decide to fight back for myself and was ignored and I continued to become more suicidal, was that her voice being heard. I am sorry, I am just confused how the public school system has ever listened to parent voices. Nevermind, I probably won't like the answer anyway.

P.S. I spent 2 years of my education under NCLB, ironically they were 2 of my better years. On the other hand 12 of the years (if you count preschool and kindergarten, we were poor if you couldn't already tell by my moms lack of power) were before that... and I went through hell in those years. Well... I am sure you have a reasonable rationale for the abuse me and her (and even my dad) received at the hands of the school system...

The Perimeter Primate said...

Ender: I am sorry you have personally suffered so much in your life. My sister has a profound facial disfigurement, so I have a deep awareness about what it is like for kids to suffer when they are growing up, and for many years after. People and institutions are not always kind to people who are different, but I don't believe privatizing the U.S. public school system will fix that human flaw.

Families might not always get the attention and care they need from public school systems, but private schools often don't even bother dealing with kids who have special needs. They don't want them because they're too expensive to manage.

Charter schools are no solution either, as they avoid taking kids with special needs, too -- that's been well documented. My own district's charters enroll less than half as many SpEd students, and few, if any, of the ones who present the biggest challenges. They don't want them either.

On the other hand, I personally know parents who choose Oakland's public schools for their SpEd identified kids, even if they can afford to go private, because they feel their kids will get better services. My school district has an Asperger's program which is quite respected. Perhaps you attended school in a small, backwards district with limited human resources.

It may interest you to know that one of the things Diane Ravitch has called for is for the federal government to fully fund Special Education. As she goes around the country and says this to teachers, she receives HUGE applause.

This area (lack of SpEd funding) is not my expertise. It sounds like a serious issue which could possibly have attributed to some of your past pain, so bringing it to the attention of Arne Duncan might be something productive for you pursue, too.

The Perimeter Primate said...

I think I'll pay the Foundation's headquarters a visit sometime to introduce myself to some of its staff.

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Ender said...

Funding has little to do with it in my experience. I have a younger friend named Zach who is now 15. His last 3 years in public school he had a good IEP, the school spent 20,000 a year on him (this with him being a severe ADHD kid, not exactly the most devestating disorder). He still learned nothing. Though then again, his mom had enough know-how and enough power to get those kinds of services, most mothers don't. The government has just as much money to spend on you as you can get them too, never ever except them to give anything beyond that, and don't even expect them to do that without a lawyer.

Beyond that I wasn't in a huge school district but I think we had about 12 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 3 high schools. Beyond that there were a couple alternative schools that would be great for special needs kids if they weren't taken over by so many behavioral problems. Beyond that its Iowa, Iowa >>>>>> Cali in education I was about 30 miles away from the premier special education/regular education researchers in the country.

Though its funny, you are talking about how great services are for special needs kids in the Bay Area... when the Bay Area is famous for having so many private schools for special needs kids. I think Oakland has about 3 itself, thats crazy compared to my backwards school district. Watch Autism: The Musical sometime, and keep in mind those kids are from Cali, I think one of them is even from Oakland.

Though there is a very easy solution to get more middle schools and charter schools to allow special needs kids in... give them finances equal to what they get in the public schools. Yea private schools have a hard time paying for special needs kids, 7,000 just isn't enough, same thing for charter schools. Beyond that look at how many private schools and charter schools there are for just special needs kids right now. Which is what many of these kids need (trust me). Thats not even including Montessori Schools (which would have been great for me btw, considering my unique challenges) that are designed to work well for exceptional kids, and even better for twice exceptional kids.

In my experience choice never hurts. There is no way I would have stayed at my abusive school had I had a choice. How many other kids are being forced to stay right now, because theres no way out.