PAA began with an acquaintance nearly 10 years ago between Leonie Haimson, president of Class Size Matters in New York City, and Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education in Chicago.
Both were avid bloggers about public education and recognized they had many shared issues and concerns, particularly around mayoral control of schools and the growing influence of corporate-style education reform.
The two collaborated on a few “open letters” about education issues which received a great deal of media attention and were co-signed by a growing group of activist parents. A Haimson-Woestehoff editorial critiquing President Obama’s education reform agenda was published in Education Week in June, 2010, and was the first time they publicly used the term “parents across America” in referring to a “silent majority” of parents whose voices have gone unheard in the debate over education reform.
By this point there were 14 founding members who had become a strong, mostly online working group of leaders. These founding members included some of the most knowledgeable, well-respected parent leaders in the nation. Several are elected school board members. Most are long-time activists in their own local areas. All bring a wealth of experience and a respect for what actually works and doesn’t work in education.
Over the next few months, we set up a web site, started an online petition about ESEA reauthorization which garnered nearly 1,000 signatures, added a Facebook page, held conference call meetings, and began planning a kick-off event and first organizational meeting, which took place on February, 2011.
Since then, PAA has developed a significant public profile across the nation. We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of response from parents. They are clamoring for the chance to speak out and be heard on the issues we raise. They want to join us and work with us making our schools better and stronger and fighting the attack on public education. With adequate funding and resources, we could establish the infrastructure and staffing that would allow us to take full advantage of the opportunities currently before us to help parents take their rightful place in the national movement to fix our schools and, we hope, help move things in the direction that will truly make our schools stronger and better.