Hollywood Joins Debate Over Parent Trigger Laws

As school officials in Adelanto battle with parents over the implementation of new parent trigger laws – which give parents the power to take over a failing public school – Hollywood has thrown its hat into the ring to debate the controversial new state law.

"Won't Back Down" is a film that heads smack into the controversies around so-called parent trigger laws that in California and a handful of other states allow parents to dump bad teachers and overrule administrators in bottom-ranked schools, writes Michael Cieply at the New York Times.

Oscar nominated Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal head up the cast, in a story where a teacher risks losing her career, a single mother rouses parents to take charge of their school and a union representative who employs dastardly tactics to try and fend off the takeover.

The film might seem dramatic, but the real life battle taking place over the policy is just as enthralling.

Notable backers like Bill Gates and his charity have propped up the takeover movement, which, at its grassroots level, has pushed unions and school administrators into an unwelcome role as opponents of change.

Ben Austin, the executive director of Parent Revolution, which promotes the tactic with backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is said to have thought it was a prank to hear that Walden Media, backed by the conservative-leaning billionaire Philip Anschutz, was shooting a drama in which teachers and parents aim to take charge.

This isn't the first time Walden has dipped its foot into education policy, having been one of the major backers of the documentary "Waiting for ‘Superman.' "

While the new film is about politics, Mark Johnson, producer of "Won't Back Down" says that it's the humanity that shines through.

"With issues movies, some of those you remember best you remember for the people, not the issues."

The California Teachers Association has been against announcing its formal position on parent triggers, but if teachers were included in trigger attempts then the organization would look more favorably on the action.

Frank Wells, a union spokesman, added dryly:

"I can't wait for ‘Vouchers 3-D: The Movie,' " he said.

02 23, 2012
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