Parent power: Grass-roots activism and the new politics of K-12 education reform

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Post Event Summary
Under the direction of education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs), parents have started lobbying policymakers and rallying in support of education reform issues. Yet the primary challenge is ensuring parents remain systemically engaged, an expert panel concluded at an AEI event on Tuesday.

Patrick McGuinn of Drew University and Andrew Kelly of AEI began with a discussion of their recently published reports on the history and future of ERAOs.  In response, panelists Kenya Bradshaw of Stand for Children and Darrell Bradford of Better Education for Kids elaborated on the need for adequate training and a broad-based constituency for parents to feel truly engaged in education reform. According to Bradford, ERAOs are striving to achieve education reform "3.0," in which parents are sufficiently empowered to make legislators listen to their requests.

Ben Austin of Parent Revolution — a group responsible for the "parent trigger" law in California that allows a simple majority of parents to enact dramatic changes in low-performing schools —  characterized parent trigger as a way to educate and empower parents and communities to advocate for the educational interests of parents' own children. Panelists agreed that this is the message all ERAOs are working to promote.

--Daniel Lautzenheiser

Event Description
In the battle to reform America's schools, parents have traditionally played a supporting role, leaving policy debates and political activism to teachers unions and other established interest groups. But a new collection of education reform advocacy groups have started organizing parents to lobby state policymakers, testify at public meetings and support school board candidates.

This flurry of activity raises interesting questions about parent empowerment and the future of American school reform. What lessons have organizing groups like StudentsFirst, Parent Revolution and Stand for Children learned about effectively mobilizing parents? Which parents are most likely to take on an advocacy role, and how do these groups identify and engage them? What can political science tell us about the challenges and sustainability of these new efforts?

Andrew P. Kelly of AEI and Patrick McGuinn of Drew University will present their original research on parental empowerment in education, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Frederick M. Hess of AEI.

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About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess

 

Andrew P.
Kelly

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