Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Real parents"

The director of Education Reform Now which is a differently named part of Democrats for Education Reform, Ms. Nieves Huffman recently wrote an article on Catalyst: "Real Parents Have Been Standing Up" to respond to a thoughtful piece from Wendy Katten, director of Raise Your Hand for Public Education.

I'll try to avoid snark until the last paragraph as I respect that we can have reasonable discussions within our differences about educational policy. We can be polite. We can be respectful. That is, until the last paragraph, then we get to treat each other and all bets are off.

I think Ms. Nieves Huffman's story illustrates exactly why CPS should be expected to adhere to state law and common decency into major facilities decisions. I would include attendance boundary changes.

What she describes is exactly why hedge fund managers should not dictate policy in Chicago; parents and students should and educators should be supported to implement that policy.  It sounds like Ms. Huffman-Nieves agrees in her emphasis on the need for parents and key stakeholders (like students and educators) to be involved in the process.

I expect that she will stand by that conviction and testify with us at future Board meetings, run expensive television ads and use her thoughtful, Broad reaching voice to contest CPS' atrociously bad school facilities process which has been excoriated by a honorable state panel of educators, community organizations and educators.

Furthermore, I hope that she will reconsider using an illegally obtained list of parents' private contact information to spam parents to watch a non-veiled piece of corporate funded propaganda that is rapidly emerging as one of the worst movies of all time. (#1 Worst Box Office Showing of the Last 30 years.)

I would not to presume to know better for her and her funders' organization than she does, but given her stated goals, I would advise the convening of some non-hedge fund connected parents who don't have the means to choose selective schools (charter or otherwise) and ask them where the ample dollars they have ought to be spent.

After all, that would be democratic parent voice, which would deliver better decision-making and may have helped avert the strike in the first place.

Finally, in reference to the titles of the pieces, I'd say that Huffman doesn't really address the key issue here at all: There's a difference between an independently formed advocacy group that builds itself from the ground up and a well financed organization that obtained its money and chose its positions before it spoke to its first grassroots parent voice. "Selected voice" is not the same as "grassroots voice" and is infinitely less useful for creating good policy. If I can find 200 parents to take $1000 to make their kids smoke cigarettes, that doesn't count as a grassroots parent advocacy group for child smoking, it's just me being a terrible person.

Xian Barrett
Prime Minister, Chicago Barretts for Billionaires Not Getting to Run Rabbit Proof Fence Experiments on Other People's Children

Postscript: What I hope is not lost in the playful sniping is that we do have an obligation to fight for true democratic voice. I know that may sound presumptuous, but I'm not saying that I have the right to define what is "true" voice. I think that everyone has a pretty good understanding that the law that lets billionaires buy elections and run constant and misleading ads through groups like DFER does not promote a fair marketplace of ideas. On the other hand, Raise Your Hand's labor of love has brought together people across communities and led to the development of new ideas that with advocacy and implementation will lead to a better education for Chicago students.

Why should we care? Because I believe that when we push aside these money groups and really get the voices of those who experience the daily indignities of our school system, that's when we'll finally have the opportunity to reform our schools for the betterment of kids, not moneyed folks.


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