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You remember Ben Austin? He is the guy in Los Angeles who started an organization called Parent Revolution whose purpose was to organize parents to seize control of their public school and turn it over to a charter operator. This process was made possible by a law passed in 2010 called the Parent Trigger, which says that a majority of parents can sign a petition to grab control of their school and fire the principal, the staff, or give the school to a private charter operator.
A bunch of billionaires, including Eli Broad, gave him millions of dollars to pay organizers to train parents to sign petitions. For a few brief shining moments, the Parent Trigger was the New Coke of education. Rightwing billionaire Philip Anschutz funded a movie to sell the Parent Trigger, but it flopped in the blink of an eye.
Seven years and many millions of dollars later, Parent Revolution can claim the capture of one public school for the charter industry. One. And they got a dedicated Hispanic principal fired. That’s it.
So it’s time for Ben Austin to start a new organization with another pile of money, including billionaire Eli Broad. It is called Kids Coalition. Apparently Austin’s new strategy is to sue and sue until every child has a great education.
That will work about as well as the Parent Trigger, but hey, it’s a living, for as long as the money keeps coming in. Eli has so much. What’s another few million?
The most interesting part of the story is the photograph of Austin. I tried to decipher the books behind him. There is Michelle Rhee’s “Radical.” Steve Brill’s paean of praise to DFER (“Class Warfare”), something by David Brooks. The thinking of a reformer. A real radical. A guy who knows how to start organizations with catchy names. A guy who has his hand on the pulse or purse of very wealthy donors.
My favorite quote from the story:
“He also noted that when he drops off his daughters and walks them into their classrooms, the classroom looks, smells, and operates the same way his LA Unified classroom did 40 years ago.”
Maybe he could succeed in changing the smell of the classrooms of L.A. Distribute a spray can to every teacher. That will definitely produce a new smell.