Rhee, Bush “Won’t Back Down”
Governor Jeb Bush and former Chancellor of Washington, DC public schools Michelle Rhee have long been known as forceful advocates for parental engagement in public schools. This week in Tampa, Florida – just a stone’s throw away from the Republican National Convention – Rhee and Bush were true to form. They served together on a panel following a screening of the new movie “Won’t Back Down.” The film follows fictional characters- a teacher and parent- as they try to leverage the so-called “parent trigger law” to take over a failing public school in Pittsburgh.
Parent-trigger laws have received a lot of attention, particularly in Los Angeles Unified School District. The law – which allows parents to petition for a school to go through a “turnaround process” – gives parents unprecedented direct leverage to shake up their children’s school. If a majority of parents sign such a petition, a school can be reconstituted, or even turned over to a charter operator.
Rhee and Bush endorsed both the movie and the tactic. Rhee, for one, said that parent-trigger was a great first step, but that the big victories in public education will come when we “help [parents] understand that [they] have to get involved politically.”
These sorts of panels – featuring a prominent Democrat and a prominent Republican – point to a happy trend in K-12 education. As Bush put it, “I don’t think the differences that exist between Romney and Obama on education are as big as on tax policy.” Rhee and Bush were both optimistic, noting that Republicans and Democrats are not far apart on the key issues in education reform. If prominent Democrats and Republicans continue to agree on issues like parent-trigger and movies like “Won’t Back Down,” Rhee and Bush may well be right.
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