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When It Comes to Education Reform, Not All Parent Groups Are Created Equal

A couple days ago I gave a 5-year-old’s shout-out to well-informed parents and a simplified process for families choosing to enroll their students into a DPS school to which they are not assigned. Any reasonable step we can take to facilitate families to make educational choices that better serve students’ needs is a good thing.

Making effective and meaningful changes to the K-12 system are far more likely to happen when parents are engaged and empowered and (at least somewhat) organized. In an interesting and informative Education Next article, the Walton Foundation’s Bruno Manno highlights the successes of three influential parent groups that are “NOT your mother’s PTA”:

  • Parent Revolution (California)
  • Education Reform Now
  • Stand for Children

Colorado has one of the nine state affiliates of Stand for Children. Not only were they a leading force behind 2010’s Great Teachers and Leaders law (aka SB 191), they also are active in school board races in Denver and Westminster. (That’s right… you do have less than a week ’till Election Day!)

Before listing some important and provocative questions, Manno closes out his Education Next piece with a salient point:

Insurgent organizations like the ones described here seem to hold significant promise for mobilizing parents to advance an agenda that goes far beyond today’s PTA, whose critics, in the words of William Cutler, describe it “as a company union—part of the problem, not the solution. [It gives]…the illusion of parental influence, while discouraging the formation of community groups that might be more aggressive about the need for change.”

Not all parent groups are created equal. And none, of course, is perfect. Some are fighting for meaningful changes in the education system, though, and others are defenders of the status quo. A good distinction to know, in case you hadn’t picked it up before.