Exposed: The Billionaire-Backed Group Strong-Arming Parents into Destroying Their Kids' Public Schools
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If you stand at the city’s welcome sign, you can just make out its three major prison facilities: a giant federal prison complex to the north, a brand-new state prison to the west, and just north of that, California’s largest private immigrant deportation facility. The last was built recently by Geo Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison contractor.
I would spend several weeks talking to the parents of children enrolled in Desert Trails Elementary, meeting with them in local taco joints and strip mall diners and talking about what happened. As I had suspected, their version of events turned out not to match the Disney version in national papers.
The parents told me that a Los Angeles-based group calling itself Parent Revolution organized a local campaign to harass and trick them into signing petitions that they thought were meant for simple school improvements. In fact those petitions turned out to be part of a sophisticated campaign to convert their children’s public school into a privately-run charter — something a majority of parents opposed. At times, locals say, the Parent Revolution volunteers’ tactics were so heavy-handed in gathering signatures that they crossed the line into harassment and intimidation. Many parents were misled about what the petition they signed actually meant. Some told me that the intimidation with some of the undocumented Latino residents included bribery and extortion.
They first noticed something was up in the summer of 2011, when small groups of parents decked out in Parent Revolution T-shirts started appearing around town, going door to door to speak to parents of Desert Trails Elementary kids, spreading the word that they were organizing a "parent union" to try to improve the quality of their children's education.
At that, local parents who’d been involved in school affairs started to grow suspicious. According to several I spoke to, two of the leading members of this new “parent union” had previously served in the school’s Parent Teacher Association, and had resigned amid accusations of improprieties.
Why would they suddenly start a new parent organization? Spite? Revenge? And what exactly was Parent Revolution?
Parents didn’t get much of a chance to ponder these questions. As soon as summer vacation ended, the parent union began to reveal its true function. Adelanto was to become the first victim of a giant corporate push to privatize public schools.
Put simply, a parent trigger law allows a group of parents to hand over their kids’ public schools to private contractors, and then allows these new private contractors to tear up teacher union contracts and fire or hire as they see fit — all while receiving taxpayer money to fund their private-charter school business.
The law works like this: If enough parents sign a trigger petition (representing more than 50% of the number of students in the school), they can fire its principal, lay off unionized teachers or hand it over to a private charter school company.
According to a recent investigation by FryingPanNews, Parent Revolution has received $14.8 million since its founding in 2009. Almost half of that — $6.3 million — came from the Walton Family Foundation, which has long bankrolled the war on unions and public education. The rest of Parent Revolution’s cash came from more liberal sources, including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Broad Foundation, each of which has given about $1.5 million to the group.
As reported in Dissent, these three foundations -- Gates, Walton and Broad -- spend roughly $4 billion a year to hand public K-12 education to the private sector, giving them increasing leverage over a sector that's worth $500 billion per year.