Parent involvement talking points from Parent Power/PAA-Indiana

From Parent Power and Parents Across America-Indiana, prepared by John Harris Loflin

Talking points regarding the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS)

Preserving the public good of public education in an era of privatization and standardization

It is impossible to make IPS more attractive than charter schools without opening IPS to public ownership, and thus the real participation of parents and the community in determining their own district’s destiny. Hence, the district’s work with parents must be understood as one of the most significant democratic acts all stakeholders, and teachers, in particular, can perform. Parents together with teachers must create a political community to challenge the undemocratic structures of schooling. This validates the fact that it is the parent as taxpayer who pays the wages of all public school employees; and, not only is the person who is the parent or guardian of the child in a public school, she/he is the constituent who votes in or out school boards and the state superintendent.

Parents are thus the very foundation of our public schools, yet in most cases they are consistently at the bottom of the school system’s power structure. Appreciating the role of parents and the authentic democratic power they inherently possess offers IPS the most honest and viable parental support of public education.

Summary: Parents of all colors whose home culture represents the dominant culture (European American middle-class language, norms, and values) function well in parent-school relationships. Treated as social equals by the school staff, middle and upper middle-class parents experience 2-ways conversations where they are listened to, welcomed to participate in decision-making processes, and so have historically influenced school policy. However, bi-cultural parents of all colors whose home culture does not represent the status quo are not treated as social equals and experience 1-way communication with their schools. Urban schools undervalue the perspectives of these parents, and so do not consult them. This results in having educational decisions imposed on these parents. Thus, the non-engagement of bi-cultural parents isn’t from disinterest, but is resistance toward educators who don’t value their genuine input and offer only empty opportunities to engage in school life.

  1. No parent/s wants their child/ren to fail in school.
  2. Our schools have a public/civic purpose, not a private purpose.
  3. The problem is not parents; it’s a crisis in democracy.
  4. Fundamental district change is necessary for creating a model of parent involvement which encourages true dialogue and cooperative decision-making.
  5. Parents, teachers, and school staff must treat each other as social equals.
  6. Parental engagement becomes an issue when the home culture of the family is different from the school’s culture.
  7. America’s economic system guarantees that bi-cultural parents are over worked and underpaid with little time to volunteer or meet with teachers.
  8. All forms of parental involvement are not equal.
  9. Bi-cultural parents are involved in the paradox of being expected to participate in school on the one hand and on the other hand not being too involved such that they change the system or become part of the school district’s power structure.
  10. Bi-cultural parental disengagement results from the subordination and exclusion by those in power (i.e. school administrators, teachers, and those representing the dominant culture). This situation mirrors the lower (socio-economic, political, and cultural) status of bi-cultural parents in our larger society.
  11. The Local School Council model is a vastly superior “choice” for involving parents.
  12. In many cases, it is the school principal who is the main barrier to parental participation.
  13. Bi-cultural parents need concrete skills and education about what Lisa Delpit calls “the rules of the game.”
  14. To look out for their own interests, bi-cultural parents will create a Parent University independent of their public schools.
  15. Parents must be viewed and enabled as activists.

The full position paper is here.

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Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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