Parent trigger leader alleges organizers promised parents pay
Ohanian Comment: This outrage has been covered by Yasha Levine
nsfwcorp [lots of links proved] and Gary Cohn
Frying Pan News. Caroline Grannan gives excellent rundown on Parent Trigger, with lots of sources.
At last, we see coverage in the mainstream press: the Los Angeles Times and the piece below in the San Bernadino Sun.
Caroline Grannan Comment at newspaper site: Contacts in Austin, Texas, reported that recently a parent trigger law was before the Texas Legislature, and Doreen Diaz testified before them, posing as merely a parent (as Parent Revolution staff have done in Florida as well). But a legislator asked Diaz point-blank if she was paid to be there, and she dropped the mask and said yes. My contact says there was a thunderstruck reaction among the legislators.
by Beau Yarbrough
ADELANTO -- One of the High Desert parents who used a state law to wrest control of their failing elementary school away from school district hands is alleging that the group that helped organize the effort offered to pay parents to promote the "parent trigger" movement nationwide.
"According to the financial bylaws, there was supposed to be no financial gain" for working with the Desert Trails Parent Union, recruitment coordinator Joe Morales said Thursday.
The father of two children, including a fifth-grader at Desert Trails Elementary School, he helped lead the effort for local parents to use California's parent trigger laws, which allows parents who gather sufficient signatures to wrest control of their school away from officials and, in this case, turn it over to a Hesperia charter school operator at the end of this school year.
The trouble began last fall, he said, when "Won't Back Down," a film telling a fictional story of a parent trigger effort, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, was being released. Parent Revolution, the non-profit that helped get California's parent trigger law passed in 2010, and which has helped organize all the parent trigger attempts in the state to date, helped promote the movie and the parent trigger concept in the national media.
"When 'Won't Back Down' came out, (Parent Revolution) claimed they had a group of nine people who would go around and promote the movie," Morales said. "One of us would go to New York, one would go to Florida, one would go wherever. "
And allegedly they'd be well-compensated for doing so. According to Morales, Parent Revolution lead organizer Alfonso Flores promised them hefty compensation in return for their time.
"Alfonso's telling everybody's 'you're going to have luxurious houses, drive fancy cars and live the kind of life you've always wanted,'" Morales said. "Around late October, they came back and said the movie didn't make that much and backed out of the deal. "
The film got generally poor reviews, and currently languishes at a 32 percent approval rating at RottenTomatoes.com, a movie review aggregation site. "Won't Back Down," which had an estimated production budget of between $19 million and $25 million, brought in only a reported $5.3 million at the box office.
Parent Revolution spokesman David Phelps scoffed at Morales' assertions on Friday.
"Alfonso is, like, the straightest arrow you could possibly find. So the allegation that parents were offered millions of dollars to promote the movie is totally incorrect. That's just so wild and out there, it's almost breathtaking. "
Two Desert Trails Parent Union members, Doreen Diaz and Cynthia Ramirez, were involved in promoting the film.
"Certainly with Doreen and Cynthia, I think they were the two primary parents that we used as part of our communications effort around the movie. You know, Doreen went to New York, for example," Phelps said. "We, Parent Revolution, picked up the air fare for that. " There were a couple of times that Doreen and Cynthia came down to Los Angeles to make some television appearances, and we paid for them to stay overnight in a hotel. Both of those times, as I recall, were very early morning show calls, like at 4 a.m. But no parent was every promised, or received, even hundreds of dollars, let alone thousands or millions of dollars. "
In February, after the Adelanto Elementary School District voted to approve the group's parent trigger petition, Diaz was hired by Parent Revolution as one of their community organizers, Phelps said.
"She went through the normal interview process and application. She stepped down from any position in DTPU when she knew she was going to apply," he said.
"I think it's to our benefit to have parents who have been involved in efforts with us who tell us they'd like to be full-time organizers be able to go on the ground with other parents at other schools, knowing the likely challenges that may come up. "
Morales, who works as a warehouse supervisor in Hacienda Heights, also benefited from his association with Parent Revolution. Last summer, he moved into the Adelanto house the organization rented to serve as the headquarters for the local effort. Morales said he was invited to do so, Parent Revolution officials say he was squatting "" and that they had him evicted earlier this week.
Morales said the alleged promise of financial cooperation for promoting "Won't Back Down" had no impact on his or other parents' support for the parent trigger effort and bringing in Hesperia charter school LaVerne Preparatory Academy to take over Desert Trails at the end of this school year.
"I would still have voted for the school," he said. "Am I appreciative of the school? Oh yeah, completely. "
But he said Parent Revolution was an unwelcome presence in the High Desert city and wasn't needed.
"I found out too damn late that we could do it without them and the headache," Morales said. "They walked away from a broken city that they created. "
Desert Trails Elementary received a 699 Academic Performance score in 2012, down 13 points from the year before. The score, derived from multiple statewide tests, ranges from 200 to 1,000, and 800 is the state's target for each school. (LaVerne Preparatory Academy in Hesperia received a 911 out of 1,000 API score, one of the highest in San Bernardino County, where schools got an average 767 API.)
The Desert Trails student body is overwhelmingly poor: Of the 400 students whose test scores were included in the 2012 API score, every one of them was categorized as "socioeconomically disadvantaged" by the state.
Desert Trails Elementary is ranked in the bottom 10 percent of similar-sized schools statewide.
Read more: http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_23317024/parent-trigger-leader-alleges-organizers-promised-parents-pay#ixzz2UVPwKD7O
San Bernadino Sun