Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A caution to moviegoers: Don’t get trigger happy!

A new motion picture that has been described as an inept, bizarre and deceptive attack on public education, teachers and their unions proposes that parent trigger laws are the cure for what ails our schools.

“Won’t Back Down” has been almost universally panned by critics, but a good movie was never the intent of the right-wing billionaire who financed it – the point is to promote the idea, now codified in Louisiana law, that parents should have the right to take over schools they perceive as failing.

But as this article by Molly Redden in The New Republic reveals, there are a number of problems with parent trigger laws that were not discussed when Gov. Jindal rammed his bogus education “reforms” through the legislature last spring.

Louisiana’s trigger provision, like those in six other states, calls for replacing traditional public schools. Under Act 2 of 2012, the law applies to schools rated “D” or “F” on state report cards. If parents representing a majority of the students attending the school sign a petition, the school will be transferred to the State Recovery School District, which presumably will charter the school.

But as The New Republic’s article point out, a Stanford University/Credo study shows that a vast majority of charter schools “fared worse or no better than their public school counterparts in producing academic gains.”

That same study said that Louisiana’s charter schools performed slightly better than the national average. But – and this is a really, really big but – the study clearly says that Louisiana’s advantage, when the study was conducted, was that our state had few charter schools and the requirements to be chartered were very strict.

Under the Jindal regime, however, limitations on charter schools have been obliterated in the rush to abandon public schools. Expect that small advantage to disappear in the next round of charter school studies.

“Won’t Back Down” was produced by Walden Media, a right-wing propaganda firm funded by the very people who want to privatize and profit from our schools. The movie was described by Variety critic Peter DeBruge as “grossly oversimplifying” education reform. He called it a “disingenuous pot-stirrer (that )plays to audiences’ emotions rather than their intelligence.”

A range of critics describe the “Won’t Back Down” as “divisive,” “manipulative,” “heavy-handed,” “noxious” and “muckraking.” But the most damning verdict against the movie was pronounced by audiences, who have stayed away in droves. It reported the worst box office ever for a movie opening on over 2,500 screens.

Parents should also be very wary of the parent trigger laws lauded by the movie. The New Republic’s Redden ends her article by reporting that California parents who once took advantage of a trigger law “now testify to feeling like they were duped into signing over their children’s school to a charter school corporation, without understanding that there was no alternative option. And that, of course, is the worry attached to Won’t Back Down—more duping, set to the rousing strains of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger.’”

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