The presence of at least a half-dozen independent PTA members at Monday’s senate hearing on Parent Trigger was enough to demonstrate the clout of Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA/PTSA) across Florida. Their voice used to matter until the education for profit gravy train came to town and politicians realized the advantage to be had by jumping on. But what to do about those pesky naysayers – like those loathsome PTA members – when they don’t just get out of the way when they are told what’s best for them?
In politics, you smear, belittle and besmirch. Such a campaign is underway in Florida.
House sponsor of Parent Trigger, Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Dade) responded during floor question and answer yesterday the PTA “parents are in charge of the bakes sales and the teachers are in charge of the policy.”
Advocating on behalf of your public schools now comes at a cost when what you is subject to belittlement on the floor of a state legislature. But where do ambitious politicians like Turjillo get the notion that slamming the PTA is somehow a good idea. Why it’s the corporate financed education reform movement.
The website, redefinED, includes the following about it’s blog:
Readers should know that our editors represent professionally the interests of a nonprofit organization in Florida, Step Up For Students, that administers a scholarship for 35,000 low-income children. But redefinED won’t be a platform merely for school vouchers and won’t be a promotional vehicle for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Rather, we will use our collective experiences to speak more broadly about learning options. Our editors have more than 40 combined years of experience in journalism, most of it covering educational policy. Our key contributing writers are leaders in the education reform movement, whether they’ve presided over a local teachers union or launched the largest tax-credit scholarship of its kind in the nation. Our posts will be frequent and respectful, and we hope the responses will be the same.
One of those “contributing writers” touting credentials as one of those “leaders in the education reform movement” is Catherine Robinson. According to her bio Robinson came to Step Up for Students from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst. She now is “organizing parents for Step Up For Students.” In her space at redifED, she’s being critical of the PTA/PTSA. Robinson wrote this in a post titled Why is a Parenting Organization Working Against So Many Parents:
Over the years, though, I sadly watched the PTSA take positions that alienated moms like me, moms who choose. Sure, the organization is a presence at my sons’ middle school – they sell magnets for cars and snacks at sporting events. The PTSA agrees that magnets are a valid choice, but parents who choose other options are not represented by the PTSA and, worse yet, are regularly dismissed in alerts and agendas. I would often read PTSA literature and wonder out loud:
“Why is a parenting organization working against so many parents?”
But I’m not one to give up easily.
Last year, I ran for and was elected VP of Ways and Means of the PTSA at my sons’ school. At the time, I worked as an organizer for StudentsFirst. I knew the PTSA agenda aligned with teachers’ unions and school districts, but I also knew members of the PTSA who considered themselves choice parents, who valued an environment where all parents could be actively involved and choose the best options for their kids. The PTSA has a diverse and varied membership, with all kinds of views and opinions. So I decided to get elected and learn why their leadership resisted such diversity.
In the course of a year, I’ve read countless PTSA talking points, emails and legislative alerts. I’ve talked to parents who feel like they are invited to raise money, but not participate in issues and decisions that might truly impact their children’s learning. At the PTSA Florida Conference, I found myself surrounded by people wearing anti-parent trigger buttons who judged education reform policies based on the political parties of the adults, rather than the best interests of the kids.
Obviously lumping the PTA/PTSA into a box as “traditional parenting groups” which “sometimes say they represent Florida parents in all educational matters,” Step Up for Students through it’s employee, Robinson, is providing Trujillo with talking points to slam a group who has been testifying in opposition to his bill. In it’s zeal to support it’s version of school choice, Step Up for Students has become part of the campaign to smear, belittle and besmirch parents who are choosing and supporting public schools.