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We the Parents    cover photo

We the Parents 2013

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Alexander Street Press, 350 7th Ave/Ste 1100, New York, NY 10001

Directed by James Takata
DVD , color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Activism, Civil Rights, Education, Elementary Education

Date Entered: 06/13/2016

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

In 2010, a bill entitled the Parent Trigger Law was passed in California. The law created a legal process by which parents with children in a failing school could “pull the trigger” on its lack of performance by collecting petitions calling for significant change. Options available for these “objectively terrible “ schools where up to 75% of students routinely score below average on standardized tests include: 1) closing the school, 2) replacing some or all teachers and staff, or 3) turning the school over to a private charter operator. Five other states have since passed similar legislation and it continues to be a controversial subject in local, state, and national education reform debate.

The film follows the activities of parents from McKinley Elementary School in Compton, CA, as they organize, petition, and advocate for school transformation that tests the Parent Trigger Law. Receiving support from Parent Revolution, a well-funded membership organization, the local community is empowered to collective activism, carrying signed petitions to California Department of Education hearings in Sacramento. Live action footage, infographics, and heartfelt interviews with mothers who just want better schools for their children, legislators, education administrators and staff, as well as Parent Revolution organizers make up the majority of content.

While covering the need for school improvement and the power of collective grassroots activism, troubling questions about the effectiveness and cost of charter schools are not addressed. Similarly, the role of Parent Revolution, its funding sources and interest in privatization receive no discussion. Education reform is a complicated, divisive issue with numerous sides and competing political agendas that are not adequately examined by this inspirational but overly-simplified documentary.