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Is Protesting an Art Museum Really the Best Way to Help Kids?

Two weeks ago, as I was starting my new role here at Parent Revolution, I wrote about the conversations we don’t have about struggling students—the way we avoid the truth about how poorly we are serving many young people and what it will take to change the status quo. That continued avoidance, which I saw firsthand as an educator in some of our most underserved neighborhoods over the last 12 years, inspired me to join Parent Revolution and pursue great schools for all kids by building a parent empowerment movement. One of the reasons we don’t have enough real conversations about student achievement is that we, as educators, waste time and energy on arguments that get us no closer to providing a quality education for every student. A prime example happened in Los Angeles this past weekend, when the president of the local teachers union, UTLA, decided to focus the energy and attention of Los Angeles teachers on protesting the opening of a new free art museum, The Broad. The reason for the protest? The funder of the museum, Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad, has also funded and supported the creation of new high-quality public school options for low-income families via the creation of new charter schools. In a district where only 3 percent of English Language Learners are meeting the standards on our new assessments, and more than 40,000 students are sitting on charter school waitlists unable to get in, you might think we would all welcome efforts to create new high-quality schools. Or maybe, we would focus all of that energy and attention on strategies to grow and replicate successful practices from schools of all types. Instead, we wind up wasting our time hearing the same broken arguments about district versus charter schools rather focusing on results for kids. At Parent Revolution, we are accountable to the families that we serve and help organize in pursuit of a kids-first agenda. The families we serve come from high-need communities where good schools have been in tragically short supply. Community, family and student interests aren’t being served by this protest. Their interest is simply having access to a high-quality education for their students. Let’s focus the energy on delivering that. This past weekend, rather than protesting a free art museum, Parent Revolution hosted a big community event in South Los Angeles to speak with hundreds of parents about their schools, give them tools to have successful parent-teacher conferences and help them understand their options so that they can ensure that their children have access to the type of school they deserve. We hope that all education leaders can follow the lead of parents and focus on results for kids rather than broken debates, false choices and political sideshows.  
Seth Litt is the new CEO of Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based parent organizing non-profit focused on “kids-first” education policies. An earlier version of this post appeared on Parent Revolution's blog as Noisy Distraction.
Seth Litt is the new CEO of Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles-based parent organizing non-profit focused on “kids-first” education policies. He spent 12 years working in public schools in the South Bronx, New York, as a middle-school teacher, union chapter leader and school principal. A 2003 Teach for America Corps member, Litt has a bachelor’s degree ...

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