Ben Austin’s Parent Revolution+Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst implicated – plus (see following) Jeb Bush!
BY KATHLEEN McGRORY, Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau | http://hrld.us/15Yu0RA
A video that features South Florida moms praising the parent-trigger bill was attributed to a mysterious group known as the Sunshine Parents. But it was actually produced by a California-based advocacy group.
TALLAHASSEE -- For weeks, it seemed, few parents in Florida supported the so-called parent trigger bill.
And then, a video began circulating in the Capitol.
The video, featuring South Florida moms praising the legislation, was attributed to a mysterious grassroots group known as the Sunshine Parents. But it was actually produced by Parent Revolution, the California-based advocacy group that has been using its considerable resources and political heft to promote the legislation nationwide, Parent Revolution confirmed Friday.
Emails to the Sunshine Parents were not returned.
Doubt has also been cast on a petition allegedly signed by more than 1,200 supporters of the parent trigger proposal. Three people whose names appear on the petition told The Herald/Times they never signed it.
“It’s sad that they are resorting to these tactics,” said Rita Solnet, a Palm Beach County mother whose non-profit organization Parents Across America opposes the parent trigger bill. “But it puts it all in perspective. It’s people from outside Florida and outside our schools who support this bill. It’s not the real parents.”
The parent trigger bill hits the Senate floor on Monday. It has already passed in the House.
The controversial proposal would enable a majority of parents to demand sweeping changes at failing public schools, including having a charter school management company step in. It would also require principals to notify parents when their kids are assigned to “ineffective” or out-of-field teachers for two consecutive years, and provide information about virtual-education alternatives.
Supporters, led by former Gov. Jeb Bush and former D.C. Schools Chief Michelle Rhee, say the legislation would empower parents to play a more active role in the public school system. But opponents say it would give for-profit education companies the opportunity to take over vulnerable schools. They point to California, where efforts to pull the trigger have played out amid allegations of parent coercion and petitions with fraudulent signatures.
“Our members are concerned about how this bill will break apart our communities,” said Mindy Gould, who heads the Florida PTA’s legislative committee.
In addition to Florida PTA, parent groups lined up against the bill include Fund Education Now, 50th No More and Parents Across America. The NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens oppose the legislation, too.
For weeks, the groups have blasted lawmakers with thousands of emails, and traveled to Tallahassee to testify against the proposals. They have challenged legislators to find any parents who support the measure.
The high-quality Sunshine Parents video and a shorter “sneak peek” surfaced last week, along with a host of questions about who had produced it.
In the videos, the Sunshine Parents described themselves as “an active and engaged group of parents throughout Florida that are seeking to transform the schools in their communities to serve all children.” But they offered no other information about the organization. The Sunshine Parents have no public online presence, and haven’t made themselves known around the Capitol.
The videos circulated in an email that linked to a petition by Bush’s education think tank, the Foundation for Florida’s Future. But foundation spokeswoman Allison Aubuchon said there was “no formal association” between Bush’s organization and Sunshine Parents.
“We think it’s a great video, but we can’t take credit for it,” she said.
The videos and the email made no reference to Parent Revolution. But Arlice Sims, who works at the Coconut Grove Barnyard, said Parent Revolution organizers Mehul Patel and Shirley Ford came to the community center earlier this month to produce the 32-minute documentary and trailer.
Parent Revolution spokesman David Phelps said his group had indeed “initiated” the mini-documentary, but wasn’t “directly affiliated” with Sunshine Parents. He said the connection was brokered through the Urban League of Greater Miami.
The Urban League is run by T. Willard Fair, who serves on the Foundation for Florida’s Future board of directors, and was a Bush appointee to the state Board of Education.
Fair said Sunshine Parents was newly formed, but said he was “insulted” at the suggestion that the group had been created to carry water for Bush’s foundation or Parent Revolution.
“When minority parents decide that they need to flex their muscles, there is always some criticism,” he said.
Separately, questions have been raised about signatures collected in support of the parent trigger by StudentsFirst, the education think tank founded by Rhee.
The signees include retired Miami-Dade schoolteacher Ira Paul, who confirmed his signature to The Herald/Times.
But Maria and Dan O’Hollearn, of Coral Gables, both said they didn’t sign the petition, despite their names and addresses appearing on the petition.
“I wouldn’t have signed anything like that,” said Maria O’Hollearn, a healthcare professional.
Carlos Herrera, a 24-year-old Florida International University student, said he, too, was surprised his name was on the list of supporters. Herrera said he wasn’t familiar with StudentsFirst or the parent trigger bill, and didn’t remember signing a petition supporting it.
A spokesman for StudentsFirst said the organization “stands by the authenticity of the signatures.” And Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who has referenced the petition during debates, said she had no reason to believe to doubt their legitimacy.
But other senators said lingering questions over the petition and the videos would cast a dark shadow heading into Monday’s debate on the Senate floor.
“We don’t need groups from other states coming into Florida and causing trouble,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, a staunch opponent of the bill. “This is proof.”
Posted by Bob Sikes to Scathing Purple Musings | http://bit.ly/15Yw3oK
April 24, 2013 :: Scathing Purple Musings discovered last August that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future (FFF) had created a petition to support its efforts to pass Parent Trigger. Not many had signed the petition and many of the one’s who did were employees of one of Bush’s two foundations. At the time of the post, top Bush advisor Patricia Levesque even signed the petition twice. Shortly after the August post was published, Levesque’s June 12 signature disappeared.
At any rate, the petition is back. Only this time with new packaging. Sunshine Parents has this mini-documentary film:
….that was sent to legislators during the past week and includes this note:
We want to be sure our sons and daughters are getting the very best educational opportunities, regardless of circumstances. The voices of all families should be heard in decisions about how to improve schools and where and what type of school our children attend. Senate Bill 862 and House Bill 867 give us actual political power to transform our child’s low performing school.
The Sunshine Parents are saying that it is time that politicians listen to us. We are saying:
We must insist on high quality teachers.
Parents are the best advocates for their children.
Parent Empowerment transforms communities.
Parent Empowerment allows parents to dream.
Parents deserve a voice at the table.
The PTA does not speak for ALL parents.
After watching the video, there are many ways you can support Parent Empowerment legislation in Florida.
1. Call you State Senator and tell them to support and VOTE YES on Senate Bill 867 because it gives parents real political power. Click here to find your State Senator.
2. Call Governor Rick Scott’s office and tell him to sign the bill once it has passed the Legislature. Call him at (850) 488-7146
3. Add your name to the thousands of parents that support Parent Empowerment legislation in Florida. Click here to sign.
4. Share the video link with family, friends, other parents, and people in your organization and encourage them to contact their Senator and the Governor.
Will you join us?
The Sunshine Parents
The mothers in The Sunshine Parents in the video make no mention of Parent Trigger or reference any piece of legislation. But they do make sure to bash the PTA as a “social club” and only exist to “bake cookies.” (House sponsor Carlos Trujillo uttered the same thing during testimony). For the most part the they seem to be concerned and involved mothers who are sharing their vision of what an ideal community school should be like. The mothers make no reference to the petition either. That’s in the email, and it’s the same one which FFF created last summer.
Here’s some troubling contradictions.
* FFF says that 488 people have signed the petition while only 116 are in the actual petition they link.
* At least nine of the 116 signatures belong to employees of one of Bush’s foundations.
* Former StudentsFirst representative and current Step Up for Students operative Catherine Durkin Robinson’s name appears twice.
* Fourteen of the 116 signatures come from someone listed as Anonymous.
* Only 17 “Likes” appear on its Facebook page that’s existed for one month.
* A few signatures come from parents of special needs kids. One actually includes a expletive-filled rant about testing.
* Since the origination date of The Sunshine Parents FB page, only 26 signatures have been added.
Senator Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) made the observation yesterday that the only people who want Parent Trigger are the republicans in the legislature. She didn’t know at the time just how right she might be. If FFF, the major sponsor of Parent Trigger, can only generate a few signatures on its website and are reduced to creating shadow groups, Parent Trigger’s support is narrow indeed.
And what of the numbers proponents claim that support Parent Trigger? FFF claims 488, but has only 116 in its petition. Trujillo claimed that he has 800 signatures of support, while Senate sponsor Kelli Stargel claimed to have 1400 yesterday. Perhaps these exist as letters or emails of support. If this is the case, they are obliged to reveal the numbers of those who oppose their bill.
Show us the signatures. .
Or is this a dress rehearsal for a Parent Trigger petition effort in Florida where people can sign twice, sign anonymously or get paid to sign?