On reinvention and awesome grandmas. And a big request from me to you.

going public documentaryOne of the things that keeps me going through crises, drama, or life in general is thinking about my mother and her ability to reinvent.

Regular readers will know she is nothing short of awesome–and now, thankfully, healthy too. She’s the grandma with a pink streak in her hair, the triceps of a 30 year old (darn her), the love for her granddaughters like nothing you’ve ever seen, 50 years of education advocacy that’s showing no signs of ending, and the passion to take on the establishment from marches on Washington to…well, blogging. She started her blog at 69, and if you haven’t checked out Going Public, this is the time to do it. Here’s why.

She and I share the belief that every child in the country deserves the best education they can get. And that public education is the cornerstone of any democracy–I subscribe to the notion that any society is as strong as its weakest member. Which is why I’ve been a longstanding advocate for issues that benefit all kinds of mothers, children, and families, and not just mine.

So what I’m advocating for now (soapbox alert)  is the  Going Public documentary which she is making. And I’m helping.

Ever seen the movie, Inside Job? About the scary truth about the financial meltdown? Well this is the Inside Job of public education.  Here’s the trailer on IndieGoGo:

If you think our public schools are having problems, they are. But it’s not what you think.

There is a conspiracy (and yes, I am using the word conspiracy, and yes, you know I also am about 99% sane except when it comes to milk in my cereal which I still think is gross) by really bad, really powerful people, to dismantle public education and privatize it for profit. It usually goes by the name “charter schools.”

(EDITED TO ADD: I should add here that there are some great charter schools in neighborhoods that really need them. When done right, they’re valuable. But with only 18% of them outperforming public schools…well, keep reading. I also want to be abundantly clear that this is not a documentary about demonizing charter schools. So many are amazing. And essential. And working. It’s a film about following the money, which leads to a whole lot of special interests with their hands in our children’s education, which is started to create a tremendous class and racial divide that’s hurting the country.)

And do you know [correction] some charter schools are kicking kids out if they are underperforming in order to keep the tax dollars coming? Because the real truth is that Yeah, let’s not work with kids who are slow in reading or have special needs. Let’s just dump them somewhere else where we don’t have to bother with them.

It’s unconscionable.

And it’s unconscionable if we as parents, stand by and let it happen.  At least, that’s how I see it.

We’ve set up an IndieGoGo page to help raise money to complete the film, and I’m asking if you can contribute. If you can’t, maybe you can pass it to someone who can.

This is a big deal.

Whether or not your children (like mine) are in public schools, they will grow up with peers who are. College roommates. Work colleagues. And as we all know, our society is only as strong as its weakest members. If we don’t get the truth out, and fight to get the very best for every child in this country, we’re going to pay for it later.

If you know  my mom, and the effort she has put into this, and the amazing people she’s interviewed already, like Diane Ravitch and Peter Cookson you know this is going to be amazing. I really hope you can be a part of this with us.

(And psst..no pressure or anything but we’ve got a week left on IndieGoGo.)

I’m so proud of my mom. Crazy proud. Here she is at 70, not just trying to change herself, but trying to change the world.

I want to be her when I grow up.


Psst…if any of my readers contribute $250 or more, please email me at mom101[at]mac.com. I’ll throw in a free graphical ad for your blog, website or company on Mom-101 for a month. In addition to whatever other cool stuff you get through the campaign.


47 thoughts on “On reinvention and awesome grandmas. And a big request from me to you.”

  1. What a great idea. This is a topic that drives me nuts. My kids’ school had to fight off a charter school co-location, despite the fact that the school has an excellent rating, great enrollment, and no extra space (unless you count those pesky art and music rooms). Can’t wait to see the doc.

  2. My kids go to a charter school in Oakland, and I can tell you that NOT ONE KID is getting kicked out for anything. Not for not reading well, not for having special needs, or a tendency towards violence. In fact, the only kid leaving the school was mine, because there was too much violence and those kidS who hurt my daughter were welcomed back into the school, with a great deal of support and high responsiveness, but after 3 times, it was just too much for me.

    There is (rightly) an attitude there that every single child deserves the kind of high-quality education that they’re trying to make happen, and the school will never ask a child to leave unless they’re legally required to do so. Philosophically, I agree, but on a personal level it’s a more difficult question. My (good reader, non-violent, non-special-needs) kid losing that opportunity is the consequence of the attitude on the extreme opposite side of the asking-kids-to-leave spectrum. FWIW.

    1. I’m so terribly sorry to hear that. The thing is, if taxpayer money is supporting your school, violence should NOT be part of the program. Actually, it shouldn’t anywhere right?

      Charter schools, if done well and in the right neighborhoods are extremely valuable. But they are starting to take over the very successful public schools now (like Ps 29 in Brooklyn) for no reason, except the influence of special interests.

      I hope you’ll learn more about the film.

  3. It’s s thinly veiled conspiracy at this point, but yes, I think the word is apt. There are politicians anymore who make no secret that they want to dismantle public schools. I think it’s unconscionable. I’m proud of my kids’ public school and am impressed every day at how hard people work to make it run.

    Happy to make a contribution to your mom’s film.

  4. Well, there goes my pre-spring sandal purchase fund. But, it’s for an excellent cause, one close to my heart since I know — I KNOW — the powers that be in DC are slowly, secretly moving in the All Charter All The Time direction. And conspiracy, yes (I must admit though, that an old In Living Color clip of Damon Wayans as a prisoner considering everything in the world to be a c-o-n-spiracy plays in my head whenever I say the word and tends to take the edge of off serious business momentarily. Sorry.) I am at least 86% sane (just ask the people in my head) but it’s just so clear. It’s so clear.

  5. How Great! I’m a huge fan of your mom and follow her website.
    I have a slightly different view (and really–no milk in cereal?). I work in the “charter school sector” and all of the people I work with–are people with innovative ideas who want to provide a great education for kids. I work with groups who are interested in starting charter schools. Many of them are educators who see a broken system (at least in our urban centers in my state). They empty their own retirement accounts to start their schools. Many take no salary for year (if ever). They dump all the money back into the school. They are well intention people and not corporations. They take every kids who walks through their door and does the best they can to provide every service each child needs.

    I agree that there are some schools and people who are in education for the wrong reason and that no educational provider should be a “for profit” company and none should be allowed to spend more than 10% of their budget on administration (traditional public school or charter).

    I am supporting your mom’s documentary (I’ll email you) because I think that all sides need a voice. I hope your mom will look at some of the smaller “grassroots” charter schools–which actually makes up more than 50% of charters nationwide–to show an balance. I know the other side hasn’t always been balanced (I’m somewhere in the middle).

    Let me know if I can help in any other way (as I’ve worked in this sector for over 4 years). Can’t wait to see the documentary.

    1. Thank you for this! You’re amazing.

      Why don’t those educators and communities put that same money into the public schools instead of starting new ones? I guess that’s the big question. And then, if all the great resources, all those wonderfully committed educators leave the system, what happens to those kids?

      1. Many of the people starting charter schools come from the system. There is not vehicle for them to put $ in to the local district and have any input on how the $ is used and how teaching happens.

        I wish we had a public school system in our urban core that was fixable. It is so steeped in doing things it’s way that there is no real consideration for the kids. In my city, Charter schools are what are bringing the middle class families back to the city or keeping them there. The intent of charter schools (which has gotten out of hand in many places) was to give parents a choice for something innovative that the local district couldn’t/didn’t offer. We have a great language immersion school. Our charter schools are often fill a void left by traditional public schools that the district has closed. Many of them are part of neighborhood revitalization efforts.

        Our local district in unaccredited and run by a board appointed by the state. The issues in the district run deep (I was a teacher there) and has been grossly mismanaged for years. Things are getting better. But we have lost generations and only about 50% of students in our local district graduate high school.

        I am not saying charters are the answer–because they aren’t and there isn’t one answer. Our system needs to change as a whole and change is never easy.

        I could go on about this for days….I’ll stop now. Education talk gets me excited!!

  6. Girrrrrrrl. You know how I feel about this.

    I actually have something that I’d like you and Nancy to be a part of – public education/testing stuff.

    I’ll shoot you an email next week.

  7. It’s a complicated issue, no? I do not believe in privatizing our public school. I do not believe in vouchers allowing tax money to go to private schools. These are insane ideas that are indeed happening.

    At the same time, the only charter school I am personally familiar with is a wonderful school in my city, where my daughter went for 5 years. It is a public Montessori school, where parents who want their children to learn using the Montessori method beyond Kindergarten can send their children for free. Amazing work being done there. I served on the board for 3 years, and there was never a child removed or kicked out during my tenure. There has been one child removed since then, because she was violent to other students and teachers. I would not want schools like this one shut down. Their test scores are very high, though they do not teach to the test. The children are happy and engaged. My daughter didn’t know what it meant to be bored in school until she matriculated from this charter school and went to the mainstream middle school, which is probably the best middle school in town.

    I know these examples are not the charter schools that your mom is discussing. Little ones with absolutely ZERO corporate funding. Funded by the school district and parents only (through the foundation, which all CA schools now seem to have). And no money going out of the school and the public tax dollars to corporate interests, either. These are the success stories. One could indeed argue that having such a school robs the neighborhood schools of the income that these students would bring to them. The money does stay within the district, and this school gets about 80 percent of what the traditional schools in the district get per student.

    I wish you and your mom luck in this film, and I hope it exposes the issue of corporate greed and the attack on public schools, without completely demonizing Charter Schools, some of which are quite wonderful.

    1. That sounds amazing, Jules. Exactly how and where the charter system should be used. If we could keep corporate interests OUT of education…well then, hallelujah. Your kids are lucky.

  8. Done. I believe in, need, and support public education, even from a state where it has few resources and is struggling.

  9. Hmmmm I have a 7 month old. So I have no insight. Just gonna say… Hmmmmm….

  10. Like J above, I am fully on board with the cause of keeping corporate interests out of public school (and I think your mom is amazing) – but I am very uncomfortable painting all charter schools with this same brush. My kids’ charter school, also a Montessori school, doesn’t get a penny of corporate support. It was founded by a group of parents. It serves low-income families and kids with special needs. And it’s co-located with a traditional neighborhood school–one that would have been closed if some of its empty classrooms weren’t filled with charter school kids.

  11. This is a touchy subject for me. I support public eduction and am a product of public education. I live in an upper middle class ‘burb where every public school has awards out the wazoo. But my kids did not fit in. We struggled to the point of tears every single day with my son during those first few weeks of Kindergarten, of which I will never forget. It was no fault of the district or the teachers or the school. It was the simple fact that everyone learns differently. And my son learns differently. He, technically, does not need an IEP but we got him one in case testing became an issue (sit straight, don’t fidget, no tapping feet during writing) and we were opened up to a whole new world of alternate public schools: the charter. Ours was built from the ground up by a Mom. Just a Mom. Not big money corporations but a Mom who felt her children were not learning what they needed to learn in the traditional school system. So we joined up the first year, not knowing how it would go but putting our faith in this Mom and the idea that not all kids learn the same. So SCVi was born and my kids were saved. The tears ended. And understand the last things we wanted want to do anything negative to the public school system…we are part of the public school system…but my children needed another option. They needed to be able to thrive in an atmosphere that was not your traditional school. My son is now in 4th grade. My daughter is in 2nd. They both learn so so so differently. One is a hands on learner. One is a traditional learner. They each have individualized learning plans and they are executed for them. I am forever thankful. While I totally support what your Mom is doing, because change must be made….I hope it’s not at the expense of the real charters started by parents determined to just give their out of the box thinking kids another option.

    1. My mother would be the first to tell you that there are ton of great charters that are essential to those kids and communities.

      It’s not about dismantling the charter school system (I hope I didn’t give that impression) – it’s about following the money so we recognize where corporate interests are now in the game of privatizing public education. We can preserve what’s right about the 18% of Charter Schools that outperform the publics, while still doing right by the majority of kids in our country.

  12. Really grateful that our SD fended off the charter school onslaught by creating an “option school”district – meaning, magnate schools that are under the control/budget of public, but specialize…Girl is attending a Middle School (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN???) that falls under this”Option School” scenario. It gives kids a chance to hone in on what interests them and grow from there.

    Kids with IEP AND non-IEP special needs are helped ENORMOUSLY by public schools….I know the difference between public & private because we’ve done both. Public wins, hands down and far and away.

    Please, I’m begging you all…support this.

  13. My daughter is in a wonderful public magnet school. It is a Spanish Immersion school. We felt like we’d won the lottery when we got in to that school- and we had. Entry is by lottery! My daughter is positively thriving there. Here is a post I wrote this week about how wonderful it is:

    The sad thing is that some of our friends from day care didn’t even consider public school because they believed the hype about how California public schools are failing. My local schools are NOT failing. There are some that need more resources, and probably some that need a leadership change. But there are also a lot like the one we’re at, which are awesome.

    I’ll go take a look at that Indie-a-go-go site now!

  14. Everyone is focused on the charter school thing, but Liz’s point is that the problem is corporate interests/money, that are often funneled through charter schools because that’s the only legal way they have to get in.

    I will definitely check out the film and share with the world. I am a product of public schools (until college) but the school I am zoned for in Brooklyn is not good at all. It’s frustrating for me because I believe in public education so strongly. So many things need to change about the NYC public school system. The answer is not, however, corporate education.

    We are short on funds these days, with one income and me, the struggling writer who is getting paid peanuts. Not even peanuts. But I am happy to share on social media and my blog.


  15. Just wanted to point out that magnet schools are a great option as others have mentioned. I actually talked to two moms who launched an incredible campaign to fund (as well as a proposal to create) a Global Education & Arts school that had previously been labeled “failing”: http://bit.ly/10WDkjt

    They lay out step by step how they did it, toolkit-style. It’s a bit of a lengthy interview, but if you’re wondering how it’s done they tell you how. (And it’s why I started K12NN…to get useful news about public education out there, especially the how-to stuff we all wonder or figure out in our silos but don’t get to share.)

    To get back on the thread — corporate charter chains are also now squeezing out mom & pop charters as they fight for space. The influx of big money has shifted charter schools from their original intention…something I’m sure we’ll see documented in Going Public.

  16. This sounds great and I can’t wait to see it. My whole career has been in the Democratic Party and my husband was a public school teacher when our daughter was entering kindergarten. with great soul searching and consternation (and budget tightening!) we sent our daughter to private school. We live in downtown Boston and I wasn’t impressed with any of the local public schools (although many people like them). Since moving to the suburbs isn’t an option for us private was our only option.

  17. A friend of mine had a great idea- to improve public schools, outlaw private schools, so we’d really all be in this together. And the people who have $ don’t get not to give a shit about public schools.

    Sure, it would be unconstitutional, but George W. Bush never let that stop him.

    1. Did you see the article in the Atlantic about the Finnish school system? That’s essentially what they’ve done. There are no private schools.

      But… I also have some friends whose kids are profoundly gifted and who live in small towns with school systems that cannot or will not accommodate their kids’ needs. For their sake, I’m glad they had private options. The idea that we have to make some kids suffer so that we’ll stop making other kids suffer bothers me. Can’t we all just agree to do the right thing even if there is no direct gain in it for our own kids? (I know. I’m a hopeless sap.)

  18. Thanks for letting me know about this great program so I could contribute. I don’t have kids but I have nieces/nephews and now great nieces/nephews. We need good schools for the people who are to be our future leaders~

  19. As a public school teacher whose child will be starting public school next fall in a district struggling with the place of charters and the insane pressure of a more-than-broken testing system, I am so interested to hear more about this project. Here in Texas, I feel like Pearson, who gets more than double what it gets in NY to run the state testing, is the real “villain” in any public education story.

    I have been a public school teacher for 14 years – in both very wealthy and very poor communities and seeing the differences first hand makes me want so badly for others to see them too. Thanks so much to your mom for using her energy, time and passion on a project that will hopefully accomplish just that.

  20. Having a son who goes to school, I firmly believe in the value of education…thanks for pushing this 🙂

  21. This is great. My oldest is only in preschool, but I didn’t consider sending him anywhere other than public school. I am lucky that our neighborhood school is pretty good, but I know many are not. I’m in the Chicago Public School system and more schools are slated for closing this year. It’s a scary trend.

    I want my children to get a good education with the resources they need. I feel that public schools can do that…with support. I love this project.

  22. Just gave to the campaign and spread the word. I am the mother of a public school kindergartener and the daughter of an educator. I am proud of your mom for digging in and standing up. We’ve been planning a trip to NYC to have the best bagels and pizza in the world and now we can look forward to the screening as well.

    1. Thank you Kim! You and I have a lot in common.

      Let me know if you need a pizza/ bagel reco. My pleasure.

  23. Liz, I read your blog all of the time but I’m commenting for the first time because this is something that I am wildly passionate about. As both a mother and a doctoral student with a focus on social justice, equality and critical pedagogy in schools, I am thrilled that you are bringing a message like this into a public forum. Our public schools are, in fact, under attack. Between standardized tests that are running the show and killing all creativity and criticality, to private corporations infiltrating every aspect of schooling, public schools are paying a hefty price. And you’re right — more often than not, the silver bullet that is offered up as the solution is the mighty charter school. Now, it may not matter that the data is skewed or the numbers are played with or even that many charter schools do not have to serve all students — what matters is that corporations are making money.
    We need more voices like yours and your amazing mom’s to mobilize and educate the public. Thank you.

    1. I can’t tell you how much it means for you to comment here Danielle. You have nailed the main points of the film, every one of them

      You’re also right–my mom is amazing. Let me know if you’d like to connect for any reason. I imagine you’d have a lot to talk about.

      1. I would love to connect! This is a cause that I am deeply passionate about and there is sadly not always a forum for this type of dialogue.
        I’d love to share my ideas and research and hear all about what your mom has learned while working on this film.

  24. This is a little off-topic but I’m a former teacher and this is my perspective:

    All this talk about schools outperforming or underperforming all comes back to the MASSIVE amount of unnecessary testing that schools are mandated to dole out – by private, for-profit testing companies. because politicians and lobbyists maintain that we need to hold teachers accountable instead of trusting those professionals to do the job they were trained to do.

    Moms need to stand up and opt out (can we go on a testing strike??) of standardized testing that our kids don’t need to send a message to private corporations. Maybe it’s not necessarily allowed, but I’m going to keep my kids home on testing days. If stroller moms can get handicapped-accessible curbs put into sidewalks, then maybe sick-of-testing moms can get creativity and freedom back into schools.

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