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It’s about time!
Welcome to another Forza…for Education, and thanks for the tremendous response lately!
Legend has it that the “Dog Days of Summer” occurred for the ancients when the constellation Sirius appeared to rise with the sun, usually creating more heat between the two planets, toward July’s end. Legend also has it that when parents get heated, they must be crazy, wound up about something that can’t be irrational, or they are just ill-informed. But some legends die hard. Like this one….
NYT Misunderstands Parents
A bombshell in the New York Times this week has the social world abuzz. An in-depth look at parents, some who changed political parties as a result of seeing how poorly their once-beloved politicians and political allies treated their kids during and since Covid, was eye-opening. On one hand, it’s clear that parents are in an uproar all over the country. But someone at the Times confused parental unrest and the new activism to parental units being irrational. Somehow, their actions got them lumped in with all the anti-vaxxers in the process.
But they are mostly not all anti-vaxers. They are indeed concerned, as they should be, for the welfare of their kids who were forced for months beyond a reasonable standard to stay out of school and mask up despite evidence that doing so made little difference. Literally, hundreds of parents found one another across the web, through social, local community groups, FB and the like. We watched it closely. It was extraordinary and quite uplifting in a bittersweet way to finally see parents, again, stand up for themselves. School failures or just plain mediocrity for the more affluent over many years didn’t make these more committed public school parents stand up, but the safety of their kids - and misplaced priorities by school leaders - most certainly, did.
And it was the classic response of school leaders, public officials and even some teachers that set them off:
“But when they posted about their fears for their children on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, they were told to stop complaining, they said. Other parents called them ‘selfish’ and ‘whiny.’ Alienated, they sought other like-minded parents online.
“Many found a community on Facebook. New groups, mostly started by parents, were rapidly appearing on the social network, with people pushing for schools to reopen…”
The postscript to this is that when parents get powerful, they can do great things. When parents realize that their kids’ education, like the dog days, isn’t as hot as they once thought, they go to extraordinary lengths to help them.
Like When They Start Their Own Schools
Janelle Wood who I can’t talk about enough is just one of those many mothers who took things into their own hands. First, she started the Black Mothers Forum to provide an outlet and an educational program for parents who wanted to find a strong, caring and student-centered place for their children to learn. Then she expanded it to several communities. Then she got appointed to the State Board of Education. Now she’s running for Arizona State Senate.
Pastor Josh Robertson’s The Rock Church in Harrisburg, PA found out the same thing about parents. He designated rooms in his Church for low-income students whose lives were upended by Covid… and whose parents were fed up with failing local schools anyway. Providing coaches and guides for students to learn with support from reputable and quality online public schools, Pastor Josh’s community has become a lifeboat for dozens of students.
It’s happening all over the country. This isn’t radical. And it didn’t start with Covid.
In 1994, Leah Vukmir started PRESS - Parents Raising Standards in Schools - focussed on getting teachers to use proven effective teaching practices and providing rigorous content-rich education for their kids. By 2001 it was a statewide effort with nearly 10,000 members. Its members ended up not only improving the state’s commitment to curriculum but started their own charter schools where districts were unwilling to cooperate. Leah ran for State Senate some years later and won.
Hundreds of such examples abound. And they are just getting more prevalent, and stronger.
Note to public officials, education leaders and the press: Wake up, smell the coffee. Parent power is alive and well in America and it’s just getting stronger.
Lots of news about school districts losing students, being unable to find students, and not sure what to do to “serve” students. And yet, districts are clamoring for more money to do, what, precisely? Billions of Covid dollars are still unspent, including on basic health and safety equipment. The lobbying to extend the use of ESSER funds is in force on Capitol Hill (below is just an example with a great response from a leading parental choice advocate) and a bill to fund school safety also has another $1 billion slated for more school improvement, despite lack of it happening in most big districts that need it the most.
Worry parents are too upset? We haven’t seen the half of it.
The great team at CER produces the Parent Power Index for a reason. States can help - or hinder the real power of parents to vote with their feet.
Check it out. And raise a glass tonight to Parent Power! - Jeanne