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Parents Want a Say in Education Reform

by Hugh McQuaid | Jan 19, 2012 6:30am
(15) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Gwen Samuel, president and founder of Connecticut Parents Union

A parents advocacy group called Wednesday for a seat at the table as the state prepares to overhaul its education system during this year’s legislative session.

“Children don’t vote, they don’t sign medical release forms, you can’t even send them on a field trip without our consent. But yet the decisions that would impact their fate, their future, lies in everyone else’s hands,” Gwen Samuel, founder of the Connecticut Parents Union, said at a Capitol press conference.

Samuel said people are often quick to blame parents for poor education, but said most of what happens within the education system is outside of their control. She cited the recent controversy in Middletown where special needs students have reportedly been placed in “time out rooms,” dubbed “scream rooms,” to calm them down.

“Are you going to blame that on us? We didn’t make that decision. Parents didn’t know about it. I have yet to find a parent that will sign a release form that says ‘please put my child in this dungeon-like institution,” she said.

Samuel said she formed the group during last year’s session to give parents a voice to influence education policy decisions.

Rep. Douglas McCrory, a vice principal at Hartford’s Capitol Region Education Council, said parents need to be brought to the discussion at the beginning of the reform process “instead of doing reform and tell them, ‘okay, this is what it’s going to look like for you.’”

“For the past 20 or so years that hasn’t worked and we cannot continue down that path,” he said. 

Samuel offered some recommendations for education reform which included scrapping teacher tenure.

She said the group was not anti-teacher and praised the leadership of the CEA and AFT. However, she brought up AFT’s efforts to “circumvent” the Parents Union last year on a legislative proposal to give parents more say in how failing schools are run.

“I want this to be very clear—as long as you have my child, I am not circumventable,” she said.

The group endorsed a proposal put forth by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents that recommends offering teachers five-year contracts which districts may or may not renew.

“We have some great teachers. We have some okay teachers and we have some that need to find another profession and for some reason we’re afraid to say that. But yet you will hold parents and families responsible for the decisions that are made in the classroom,” she said.

Samuel said the state’s school residency laws also need to be reformed. Parents should be able to choose which public school their child attends and not be punished for wanting them in a safe school, she said. Requiring parents to send their kids to a failing school is like passing a law that requires patients to see a incompetent surgeon, she said.

“When schools are not performing, when schools are unsafe, you have to give us a measure to choose something better,” she said.

School governance councils also require reform, she said. The councils, created in 2010, allow parents to act in an advisory capacity. Samuel said the councils should have more power and she contested a law that allows some low-performing schools to be exempt from dealing with them.

The group is also recommending that lawmakers pass legislation to push back the date on which schools count their students from October to January to ensure they are receiving funding for students who are actually there.

Teachers and principals also need access to better preparation programs, Samuel said. Teachers need to be exposed to urban internships to familiarize themselves with the clientele they will be serving, she said.

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(15) Comments

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 19, 2012  10:31am

“I Am Not Circumventable”If you are not how come some parents are kept from making comments of your website?Also how many parents belong to this union.How come you only show one side on you website on face book.Give me a break.This whole school reform is about Destroying Education System and Blaming the Teachers.In fact Read Chris Hedges report Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System.

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires.”

Teachers, under assault from every direction, are fleeing the profession. Even before the “reform” blitzkrieg we were losing half of all teachers within five years after they started work—and these were people who spent years in school and many thousands of dollars to become teachers. How does the country expect to retain dignified, trained professionals under the hostility of current conditions? I suspect that the hedge fund managers behind our charter schools system—whose primary concern is certainly not with education—are delighted to replace real teachers with nonunionized, poorly trained instructors. To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside.

Read the rest.

posted by: lkulmann | January 19, 2012  10:56am

Why do parents feel the need to get involved in failing schools at all? If its a failing school, get my kid out of there until its fixed! There really is no discussion. If the garbage disposal unit under my sink fails, fix the problem and get the job done. PERIOD. The underlying issue is WHY are they failing and that’s up to the Department of Education and State to fix. There are very specific State and Federal Laws that tell us what our kids are entitled to. Public Schools need to follow the rules and the State needs to fund the schools on paper AND in cash. Parents deserve and should expect documentation that proves that this is all in place at the school before their child attends…preferably in an organized packet form. Teachers trained. Paras trained. Nurses trained. PT, OT, SLP TRAINED! Parents need to be the watchdogs to be sure this is completed in EVERY school…The only problem is finding someone in a decision-making capacity who really cares enough to enforce it and support parents in their efforts. That’s the problem that a parents union can tackle. I don’t think anyone wants the job of having to answer to a bunch of angry moms tho! angry special need moms?!Fuggeddaboudit…they’re toast…but seriously, there is no excuse for failing school. THEY need to fix the problem. Parents need to make sure it gets fixed according to the Education laws in place and make sure it stays fixed!! Like babysitting, pitbull-style.

posted by: ACR | January 19, 2012  12:04pm


Education doesn’t need a little “reform”; it needs a complete revolution.

posted by: Terry D. Cowgill | January 19, 2012  1:47pm

Terry D. Cowgill

@THREEFIFTHS: ” ... the amoral skill of making money?” LOL. You can’t make this stuff up.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | January 19, 2012  2:03pm


Regional Vouchers for public, parochial, private and home schooling.

Then parents can choose? Tenured or non-tenured? Private or magnet? Public or Parochial? Neighorhood or Regional?

It’s a shame taxpayers and parents have to beg to get their dollars back and choose to send their kids to the school of their choice.

It’s an even greater shame that after begging Dan Malloy the Governor still tells the parents: “The money is mine! All mine! And I support the unions first and Superintendents second!

Get out of the way fool! When parents organize and can deliver a decisive block of votes then I’ll listen to you pests and your snot-nosed rug rats. Not a moment before!”

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 19, 2012  2:32pm

@Terry D. Cowgill. You can’t make this stuff up.You are right.In fact look at the people who are behind education reform.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 19, 2012  2:36pm

The question that should be ask is which parents are going to be at the table and who get’s to chose the parents.

posted by: brutus2011 | January 19, 2012  3:24pm


I would like to see this nascent parent’s advocacy group endorse the idea that parents should support their children’s teachers.

Many parents automatically take their child’s side in any kind of problem that comes up—usually to do with discipline.

The kids know that they can pit the adults against each other and chaos results.

Building administrators, not wanting irate parents to go over their heads, do not support the teachers.

What ends up happening is the blame gets hung around the neck of the teacher.

Ms. Samuels makes the statement that we have great, okay, and bad teachers who need to do something else, or something to that effect.

What about we have great, okay, and some administrators who need to do something else?

Or maybe we have great, okay, and some parents who need to do something else?

Frankly, I would like to see an educational advocacy group that is headed and staffed by those who are more knowledgeable and experienced than those I have seen so far.

Teachers are not the sole cause of the problems with public education—not even close.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | January 19, 2012  5:53pm

@brutus2011 Well said.In fact Check put there website.

posted by: No Nonsense | January 20, 2012  11:16am

US Department of Education Office of Inspector General​offices/list/oig/​hotline.html

...You can use this language under whistleblower and then add supporting documentation reporting of gross mismanagement, gross waste, substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, abuse of authority, or violation of law, rule, or regulation, relating to ARRA funds or contracts

ARRA Whistleblower Protection

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), an employee of any non-Federal employer, such as a private company or a state or local government, who reports gross mismanagement, gross waste, substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, abuse of authority, or violation of law, rule, or regulation, relating to ARRA funds or contracts, may not be discharged, demoted or otherwise discriminated against because of his or her disclosure. This Act provides protection from reprisal only to non-Federal employees who report waste, fraud or abuse connected to the use of ARRA funds.

Under ARRA, the Department of Education Office of Inspector General (ED/OIG) has jurisdiction to investigate whistleblower complaints alleging reprisal for protected disclosures related to Department of Education ARRA funds. To file a complaint please complete the ARRA Whistleblower Complaint Form which can be downloaded from the above More Resources box. Once you complete the form you have the option of sending it to the Hotline electronically, faxing or mailing. The appropriate addresses are posted on this website.

Important: If you submit the form/complaint electronically, please make sure you include ARRA Whistleblower claim in the subject line of the e-mail.

Individuals wishing to report such activities may also contact the nearest OIG office at the following locations:

City/State Telephone No.
Boston, MA (617) 289-0174
New York, NY (646) 428-3861
Philadelphia, PA (215) 656-6900
Atlanta, GA (404) 974-9430
Chicago, IL (312) 730-1630
Dallas, TX (214) 661-9530
Denver, CO (303) 844-0058
Kansas City, MO (816) 268-0530
Long Beach, CA (562) 980-4141
San Juan, PR (787) 766-6278
Washington, DC (202) 245-6911

posted by: lkulmann | January 20, 2012  12:49pm

To potential whistleblowers: be very careful, because you WILL get fired. CT has mastered retaliation. Whether its legal or not is not even an issue. If this State can blow off Federal Laws as easily as they do, example DSnap and Medicaid…they will squish you like a bug. Isn’t this an issue for the union to organize. Honestly I don’t know much about unions, but I do know that they are usually voted for if there is difficult employee-employer relationships. Just sayin’

posted by: ryanfrancis84 | January 22, 2012  1:41am

the reason that parents are fighting for their kids education is because some people dont have the luxury of just picking up and going to another school district ikulman . havent you ever heard of the parents that sneak there kids into surrounding school districts and get in trouble for that ? well they do that for a reason not everybody has a good job or even has a job! i think it is admirable that these parents are getting involved with their kids. i’m not even a parent and i recognize that .

posted by: ryanfrancis84 | January 22, 2012  1:44am

and one last thing the CT parents union . is not a labor union or anything like that they may work together with the american teachers federation but you should be happy that our teachers are in unions up here . my cousin teaches in boston and myh aunt teaches in texas where there are no unions which of them do you think gets paid the way that someone educating the next generation should ... i will giv u a hint its not the one with no union

posted by: ryanfrancis84 | January 22, 2012  1:49am

sorry american federation of teachers

posted by: lkulmann | January 22, 2012  5:34pm

Ryan…I just don’t think its a parents place to get involved in trying to make a failing school succeed. That is the Department of Educations issue to resolve. It just makes more sense to me for a parents union to request authority to get kids out of failing schools on the basis of repeatededly placing them in a potentially harmful environment. Yes…get them out of that failing school before permanent damage is done. When enough failing schools are empty, the State will realize they really have to do something about it. Actions speak louder than words…