National education group taps Nashville for special screening of 'parent trigger' film

Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 1:04pm

In the way the documentary “Waiting for 'Superman' ” became the critics’ pick for charter school enthusiasts in 2010, education reformers are already turning to “Won’t Back Down” to shed light on a new cause: the “parent trigger” law.

And though the film won’t go nationwide until Sept. 28, Nashville is set to receive a special sneak preview.

The education group StudentsFirst — led by controversial former Washington, D.C., School Chancellor Michelle Rhee — has selected Nashville, along with 17 other cities, to receive a special screening of the film. The Nashville premier is set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Regal Opry Mills.

The screening is by invitation only and not open to the general public.

Francisco Castillo, StudentsFirst’s deputy national press secretary, told The City Paper the event in Nashville would include a panel discussion, though the slate of panelists still isn’t finalized.

One notable name already set to attend is charter school champion Mayor Karl Dean. According to his press secretary Bonna Johnson, Dean will give welcoming remarks and stay to watch the movie.

“Won’t Back Down,” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, portrays a teacher and a parent’s utilization of a “trigger law” to “turnaround a dysfunctional school,” according to a StudentsFirst description.

StudentsFirst, which contributed to three Metro school board candidates during recent elections, says a half a dozen states nationwide have versions of “parent trigger” laws. At its core, the measure allows a majority of parents at low-performing schools who sign a petition to trigger a restructure of operations — whether that’s bringing in an outside charter group, firing a principal or even closing the school altogether.

Rhee, who founded StudentsFirst in 2010, has said in the past, “Parent trigger laws give moms and dads real authority to work with educators to transform schools so they work well for all kids.”

A little-known provision in a 2009 Tennessee statute allows the conversion of an existing public school to an outside charter organization if parents of 60 percent of children enrolled at the school or 60 percent of the school’s teachers agree to the move by signing a petition.

There’s one key catch, however, in Tennessee’s law that weakens the trigger: Local charter authorizers — the Metro school board, for example — must approve the conversion. Its decision cannot be appealed to the state.

To date, there doesn’t appear to be a push for a more aggressive “parent trigger” law ahead of Tennessee’s 2013 legislative session.

“Parent trigger” laws, supported by groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are also highly controversial, with local school districts and unions often leading the resistance. California was the first state to enact a “parent trigger” law, and contentious fights have resulted there.

Dean, in a statement, said films such as “Won’t Back Down” help foster discussion on the “education challenges we face in the country and ways to improve public education.” He added, “One critical factor in improving the quality of our schools is by engaging and empowering families.

“For me, this is less about parent trigger laws and more about having a productive discussion on education reforms such as charter schools,” Dean said.

StudentsFirst began its screenings of “Won’t Back Down” at the recent Democratic and Republican national conventions in Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., From there, the group held a screening in Las Vegas on Monday.

Other cities StudentsFirst selected for special “Won’t Back Down” screenings are: Atlanta; Bridgeport, Conn.; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Detroit, Mich.; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami, Fla.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Newark, N.J.; New York; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Francisco, Calif.; Sacramento, Calif.; and St. Louis, Mo.

14 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 9/14/12 at 10:19

Michelle Rhee was fired from the D.C. schools and we allow her to bring her message to Nashville. She must see a weakness in our fair city. After her film is shown, we need to have the other point of view.

By: Rasputin72 on 9/15/12 at 8:57

This is all about trying to shame the productive class into more money and a futile hope for the vile underclass. If a school is dysfuntional one should remove those that provide the impetus for dysfunction. My guess is that the "free lunch" kids are the biggest contributors to dysfunction.

There should be more reform schools built with our tax dollars and more tying of tubes for the underclass women and jail time for the men who do not provide welfare for their offspring.

By: pswindle on 9/15/12 at 6:28

Rasputin 72,
You need to see a Shrink because something terrible has hapened badly in your life.

By: bfra on 9/16/12 at 4:23

pswindle - IMO, Raspy must be 1 of the underclass he despises so much & lives his fantasy life on this board. He can't keep his stories straight about things he dreams of being.

By: Loner on 9/17/12 at 6:05

Rhee is a former Teach For America teacher and she was married to Kevin Huffman for a few years...Huffman is Haslam's Educational Commissioner....Huffman is pushing for TFA and the charter schools that hire the union-busting scabs.

Rhee is an arrogant authoritarian who was raised in relative privilege...she comes from money. Her parents are wealthy, right-wing, South Korean immigrants.

Rhee was fired in Washington, DC, for alleged cheating on test abnormally high number of "erasures" were discovered on the answer sheets in an abnormally high number of schools under her control.....wrong answers erased and right answers substituted....the allegation is that teachers "cleaned up" the answer sheets, to raise the collective scores and make Rhee look like some sort of educational genius. Thanks to the good old eraser, Rhee's efforts looked astonishingly good...until the investigations began.

This Rhee woman is a self-serving fraud, in my opinion...but the governor doesn't care about that, he just wants to destroy collective bargaining in Tennessee. You gotta get rid of your theocratic governor and his union-busting cohorts.

This strident, arrogant Rhee woman has a hard on for collective bargaining and she shows unbridled contempt for union wonder then, that the Tea Baggers love her...they can point to Rhee and say, "Now that's the kind of Asian immigrant we like; now call us racists".

By: treehugger7 on 9/17/12 at 6:17

The only "vile" person I see is Rasputin.

By: Loner on 9/17/12 at 6:35

Unions are like the tide....they raise all boats....unions set the standards for worker's rights, worker sfety and wages...non-union members indirectly benefit by that....all the things that all US workers take for granted were hard won at the bargaining table...Workman's Comp, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, sick leave, paid vacations and health care benefits were not given away by employers out of unselfish love and benefits are the result of sacrifices and hard work by union members....let us not be ingrates.

The Republican Party would love to destroy all collective bargaining in America....this would put the workers at the mercy of their employers....The Grand Old Party wants to turn the US workplace into a Dickensian sweat shop....and millions of working people are supporting the efforts to screw themselves....such is the binding power of hate....the glue that holds the Republican Party together.

By: GUARDIAN on 9/17/12 at 8:34

Get rid of the union teachers, socialist teachers, communist teachers, gangs and stop spending most of the school day building good little liberal progressives. Then maybe you can teach the children again but forget doing it the politically correct way......GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.

By: Loner on 9/17/12 at 9:10

God...Guns...and Gays....Guardian lobbies for Southern values....religious intolerance, guns for the nut-jobs and homophobia.....Lincoln erred...he should have let the racist miscreants go their own way.

By: Loner on 9/17/12 at 9:11

The Civil War was a war between Northern liberals and Southern bigots....when the carnage finally ended, both sides blamed the victims.

By: govskeptic on 9/17/12 at 10:30

Loner: Your Union love is well known as the Postal Union apparently took
good care of your retirement with an obliging congress over the years.
The Teachers Union has been a disaster for the students of this state
and lead the way to lower and lower accountability for teacher performance.
Mrs. McRee is outstanding according to many others as well informed
as yourself or very possibly more informed.

Your Civil War craze may be better suited for some other subject or
possibly there's a club on the subject you might wish to join and lecture to.

By: pswindle on 9/17/12 at 10:47

You have no idea what the true duty of Unions. I know first hand how important Unions are for the children and teachers as well for all workers. You must be a GOP business owner who wants the workers to work for nothing.

By: Loner on 9/17/12 at 11:38

Sorry, Gov, but Guardian's post yanked the lone one's chain.

As for my "civil war craze", well, Gov, my home county, tiny agrarian Orleans County, NY, lost 455 men in that race-based conflict....they built a monument to their sacrifice and their names are etched in marble...few counties gave more blood than, when I see that the South never really repented of its original sins and that the intent of the Civil Rights law is still being thwarted by Christian and Charter schools, my frustration sometimes gets expressed.

My love for the union of American states and my love of labor unions are not unrelated.
While I respect and value the concept of individualism, my experience has taught me that there is strength in numbers. And my experience has also taught me that employers are not philanthropists....if it were not for trade unions, Scrooge would rule...capeesh?

By: jonw on 9/17/12 at 4:34


The same bus you rode in on will return you to your Garden of Eden.
Bon Voyage.