Rita Solnet: an open letter to Michelle Rhee and Students First

This letter was written by Rita M. Solnet, one of the founders of Parents Across America, in response to a letter from Students First, asking her to support the so-called “Parent Empowerment Act,” a form of the Parent Trigger, which is really a stealth attack by charter industry to privatize our public schools.  See the PAA position paper on the Parent Trigger, here and here for the overwhelming rejection of this proposal by Florida parent groups.

To:  Jeri Powell,  Students First Org;  Michelle Rhee, Founder, Students First Org

I am a Florida parent and I am offended by this solicitation to sign your Students First.org  petition (below) so that I can be “empowered” with Florida’s proposed legislation.

This bill no more empowers me than it does the gecko on my patio from taking over my home.

This bill empowers organizations like Parent Revolution who aggressively promote the closing of schools and the expansion of selected charter schools.

This bill empowers those who promote hostility between parents and teachers and principals.  I thought that was one of your basic concepts — to develop healthy, working relationships with teachers and schools.  This does the exact opposite of that no matter how you slice it.

This bill empowers charter organizers to rabble rouse and incite conflict, to divide communities, to divide teachers and principals too. I  prefer not to attend contentious PTA meetings which resemble WWE episodes.

This bill preys upon low income parents and I find that despicable.

This bill will do more to advance segregation than anything I’ve seen thus far. That is repulsive.

Have you not read or learned about the parent trigger’s embarrassing failure(s) in California.  It created hostility among neighbors that will take years to remedy.

Parent Revolution was flown in from California by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education to testify on behalf of the Florida Parent Empowerment Bill last week.  Much like last year when your leader was flown in to testify on behalf of Senate Bill 736 so that moneyless merit pay could be enacted.

There was no opposing view permitted to be included when it was well known that opposing views existed.  Why?  If this whizbang bill is so spectacular why wouldn’t it stand up to opposing view?

If you were truly putting Students “first,”  you would use your vast amount of resources which support your organization to work FOR the parents of Florida.  You should insist that parents be heard in the State’s testimony.

I am disappointed in what Students First has evolved to stand for now. I believed it was for students and parents and high quality education.

In sending out this  ‘Dear Florida Parent’ broadcast message, you must have researched the situation in Florida first.

If researched, you would find that at least nine (9) large parent coalitions united to issue Press Releases, give radio interviews, and news conferences opposing FL’s “Parent Empowerment” Bill, including the Florida PTA and Parents Across America.

Florida parents do not want the Parent Empowerment Bill nor the parent trigger concept. The FL School Board Association will be issuing a statement shortly, I’m told, also in opposition to this billl   The FSBA comprises FL parents too!

This bill is a hoax to further privatize our public schools.

Furthermore, Florida’s public schools are not owned by the parents whose children currently occupy its buildings.

Florida’s public schools are owned by the taxpayers who built the schools and by the parents who supported and volunteered in those schools and by the parents who will have children attending those schools as well.

You are wrong to promote this.

I won’t stand at the sidelines to watch our School Districts forced to spend their dwindling budgets on lawsuits created by this contentious law.  Nor will I stand by while our elected School Board members are stripped of their constitutional powers. Nor will I permit this bill to further advance segregation in my state.

The parents of Florida will continue to oppose it vigorously.

Sincerely, Rita M. Solnet

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