"One if by land, two if by sea" - Henry Longfellow
As Los Angeles slogged through the depths of the COVID-19 crisis last spring, parents struggled through the challenges of getting the most out of online classes. Seeing the need for information about parent resources, room parents at Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Magnet Center sent out the following message from the PRIDE Booster Club board to their mailing lists:
Dear Parents, Over the past few years, various organizations have arisen to try to give a more focused voice to LAUSD parents. In the interest of keeping you informed about broader activity that LAUSD parents may be interested in, we are providing you with a non-exhaustive list of those organizations below: "1) California Students United (CSU) 2) LA School Uprising 3) Open Schools CA 4) Reopen California Schools 5) Speak Up United Parents 6) Students First Coalition of Los Angeles 7) United Parents Los Angeles (UPLA) Best, PRIDE Board
As a non-profit organization with ties to the school district, PRIDE is supposed to be non-partisan. Yet, all seven of the organizations that they introduced to their parents were dedicated to immediately reopening school campuses despite the risk to BIPOC communities and teachers in high-risk groups during a public health crisis. Additionally, the groups are primarily focused on privatizing public education and other right-wing ideals such as:
- Cal Students United is a group of parents who sued the LAUSD in an attempt to force the district to not only open school campuses but to eliminate many safety measures including testing of students and social distancing. In a recent Zoom that CS United hosted for Nick Melvoin, they also pushed the lie that Biden's Attorney General was investigating parents as "domestic terrorists."
- LA School Uprising was launched to rally against the mask mandates that the LAUSD launched in support of CDC guidelines. The founder appears to have a background in the entertainment industry, not medicine but pretends to be an expert on "developmental needs of children" and "public health principles."
- Open Schools CA is a group based in Oakland, not Los Angeles. A rally held by the group in that diversity-rich city drew only 100 attendees, not many appearing to be from the BIPOC community.
- Reopen California Schools has been pushing their reopening message since September of 2020 before vaccines were available and we were months away from the deadly winter surge. On Facebook, they falsely claim to be the page of a "Government Official."
- Speak Up is perhaps the most problematic of the groups listed as it was organized specifically to assist in the election of Nick Melvoin. The group also endorsed Tanya Ortiz-Franklin and Marilyn Koziatek in the last LAUSD School Board election, the two candidates in the pockets of the charter school industry that wants to shift money away from public schools and the broader student base they serve. A leader from the group also impersonated then-Superintendent Austin Beutner while posting Tweets in support of their endorsed candidates.
- Students First Coalition describes itself as a "private, independent, and faith-based kindergarten through twelfth-grade schools". It also lists Village Christian School and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as partners. The inclusion of this group seems to violate the First Amendment's guarantee that the government does not support religious organizations.
- United Parents Los Angeles is a Facebook group that decided to demonize the teachers' union, UTLA, instead of recognizing the COVID-19 virus as the enemy. The description of their Facebook page says that "UTLA's opposition to returning back to classrooms...goes far beyond Covid safety" as if there were somehow other nefarious reasons, beyond protecting students, teachers, and communities.
Noticeably absent from the list were two groups that have views divergent from the PRIDE list of websites:
- Reclaim Our Schools LA, which is "a Los Angeles coalition of parents, educators, students, and community members working to improve access and advance opportunities in public education for all students so they thrive in the classroom, in their communities, and beyond." Unlike the groups on PRIDE's email, ROSLA supports public schools like Paul Revere MS and their families.
- Parents Supporting Teachers was formed to support teachers who demanded that their new contract improve educational opportunities for students including smaller class sizes. While Reopen CA Schools has 1,400 users on Facebook, United Parents Teachers Los Angeles has 3,000 and Speak Up has 4,000, PST has 26,600 members, making it the largest parent-led education advocacy group in Los Angeles, if not the country.
The failure to include these two groups, or any other pro-public education groups, in their letter suggests that the leadership at PRIDE is more interested in pushing an agenda than giving Revere parents "a more focused voice". As a public school that is part of the LAUSD, the booster club should be working to improve their school, guide families in a sensible manner and not undermine public education.
The Paul Revere Campus, West LA
(Image by Paul Revere Charter Middle School And Magnet Center) Details DMCA
Paul Revere is a feeder school for Palisades High School and represents LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin's power base. With a student body that is 57.9% white and where only 24.9% of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, it is not representative of the challenges faced by the district as a whole. Families at Paul Revere are undoubtedly aware of how their demographics are different from other schools in Board District 4 and the rest of the district. Like other schools, families at Revere should proudly take a victory lap on their school successes. However, they should also reflect on another truth in their community.
The Palisades is where the move to privatize Los Angeles education thrives. Take heed; as this butterfly flaps its wings, it is the students in less-privileged areas that feel the hurricane winds when they are stuck with an overload of charter schools. Some of these charters are built on toxic waste sites. Money meant to improve local public schools and the lives of children is embezzled. Parents are left scrambling as schools close unexpectedly in the middle of the year. All the while, the improvements to education that were promised by charter schools fail to materialize.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.