Parent advocates from across the country converged on New York City on Monday night for the first national forum of Parents Across America, the parent-led movement to make sure parent voices heard in the national debate over education reform, and to promote positive, commonsense solutions that will work to improve our public schools.
Speaking to a crowded audience of about 350 parents, community members and educators, Dr. Diane Ravitch warned about the ways that excessive reliance on standardized tests and privatization through charter school expansion and the growing influence of a wealthy foundations on our public school system is undermining public education and failing children most in need.
Karran Harper Royal of of the Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center in New Orleans discussed the myriad problems created by charter schools, which now enroll nearly 85% of all New Orleans students, focusing especially on the way in which they exclude special needs children.
Sue Peters, who along with Dora Taylor, has started Parents Across America Seattle, revealed the pervasive and negative influence of private wealth and venture philanthropy on education policy, honing in on the Broad foundation, which has trained about half of all new superintendents in large urban school districts over the last five years.
Julie Woestehoff, who heads Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), spoke about the damage high-stakes testing has done to children in Chicago. Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters discussed how corporate reformers are advocating for increases in class size, despite clear evidence from research and experience that smaller classes are key to improving opportunities for children.
Then, other members of Parents Across America joined the panel onstage to answer questions from the audience, including Mark Mishler of Albany NY; Pam Grundy of Mecklenburg, North Carolina, Dora Taylor of Seattle; Sharon Higgins of Oakland, Caroline Grannan of San Francisco, and Andrea Mérida of Denver.
The evening ended with an inspiring call to action by Andrea Mérida, PAA member and newly-elected Denver school board member, who asked the audience to join Parents Across America, and help us take back our public schools.
Video from the evening will be posted soon. The audience also included members of the Rochester organization the Community Education Task Force, Helen Gym, parent activist from Philadelphia, New Jersey parents, including representatives from the Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools and Parents Unified for Local School Education, and Shellie Wiener of the San Francisco PTA.