The big white tent at Los Angeles Trade Technical College was festooned with balloons, draped in orange and white pennants and full of music. Swelling gospel-flavored sounds, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and the ubiquitous party song “No te Metes con Mi Cucu” signaled a break in the program after a parade of speakers.
The floor was covered with AstroTurf.
Last Saturday’s “Parent Power Convention” was the first-ever national gathering held by Parent Revolution, an organization founded here in 2009. With its feel-good inclusive vibe, the November 15 assembly attracted hundreds of parents, mostly African-American and Latino, from neighborhoods with failing and struggling schools.
Invitations offered free local transportation and childcare. There were many out-of-state visitors. Just as a national political party convention would be organized, delegates sat at tables with tall vertical signs that announced where they were from—Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi – or identified the “parent unions”
A controversy surrounding the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) compliance with California’s contentious Parent Trigger law has apparently opened up a rift between key allies responsible for passing the state’s so-called Parent Empowerment Act.
LAUSD’s decision to grant itself a year’s recess from the 2010 trigger law’s provisions came to light only last week when its author, former state Senator Gloria Romero, leaked a letter from an LAUSD lawyer claiming that, as part of a two-year waiver it received in 2013 from the federal Department of Education, the district is not subject to the Parent Trigger law through the 2014-2015 school year. The law allows parents to take over low-performing public schools and replace faculty with non-unionized teachers under the management of private charters.
That waiver, which was granted last November but only announced August 5 by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, frees LAUSD and seven other state school districts from penalties connected to not meeting a 2014 deadline for 100 percent math and reading proficiency mandated by the George W.
At first glance, it is one of the nation’s hottest new education-reform movements, a seemingly populist crusade to empower poor parents and fix failing public schools. But a closer examination reveals that the “parent-trigger” movement is being heavily financed by the conservative Walton Family Foundation, one of the nation’s largest and most strident anti-union organizations, a Frying Pan News investigation has shown.
Since 2009, the foundation has poured more than $6.3 million into Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles advocacy group that is in the forefront of the parent-trigger campaign in California and the nation. Its heavy reliance on Walton money, critics say, raises questions about the independence of Parent Revolution and the intentions of the Walton Family Foundation.
(See interactive infographic, left, for donations from 2009 through March, 2013. Sources: Parent Revolution; foundation tax returns; foundation grant reports.)
While Parent Revolution identifies the Walton Family Foundation as one of several donors on its Web site,