It began with hope.
Four years ago - on this very day of celebration for both the memory of civil rights advocate Martin Luther King, Jr. and the first inauguration of President Barack Obama, we started Parent Revolution as a small nonprofit that wanted to improve a single Los Angeles-area school.
Founded on the belief that real parent power and engagement will help ensure a kids first agenda in our schools, we started this journey with little more than hope, optimism for a better future, and an unquestioned dedication to making things just a little bit better for kids in failing schools.
What happened next was the makings of a Hollywood movie.
In the face of "David versus Goliath"-type odds, our little rag-tag group grew to a national movement of believers that cross racial, ethnic, geographic and political boundaries. Building on the Race to the Top program initiated by the Obama administration, Parent Revolution laid the groundwork for triggering a process of real reform in local schools across the state of California, to be coupled with a sustained network of parent union chapters. We began with the mighty and powerful beliefs that parents deserve a seat at the decision-making table, and, when given the right to be there, parents will put the interests of kids first in a way long-needed in far too many failing schools and school districts.
We began with these mighty beliefs - and the power of our belief spread like wildfire across the nation.
Supporters of our work and our organization range now from conservative former-Florida governor Jeb Bush to progressive Center for American Progress chair and former Clinton Chief of Staff Jon Podesta. Support for parent empowerment laws, including the Parent Revolution brainchild the parent trigger, garnered unanimous endorsement from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Conference of Black Mayors. Nationally, parent trigger garners 70% support among all Americans.
Perhaps of biggest note, the heartfelt need expressed for tangible improvement and the hard work put in by Desert Trails Parents Union Members transformed an Adelanto School board from inflexible foes to worthy and trusted allies. In January of 2013, after opposing the work of the parents for 18 months, the Adelanto School Board courageously voted with unanimous consent to convert the failing Desert Trails Elementary School into a high-performing, nonprofit, public charter school that will continue to serve all members of the community.
Truly, this victory for the parents in Adelanto is a victory for us all. Each of you who have put in hours of work, who have lent your thoughts, prayers, and support to the parents struggling to enact real change in their communities - this is a victory for each and every one of you.
But, as we all know, hope does not transform into change without challenges and setbacks. The parents of McKinley Elementary School in Compton, CA blazed through uncharted legal and political territory to help define for all parents the rights to transform schools under the parent trigger law. In the face of virulent opposition, they fought to bring change to their schools, becoming heroes to parents and communities across the nation.
As we move into 2013, we look back with pride at how far we have come. Students in Adelanto have a brighter future ahead of them. And, with last week's campaign launch at 24th Street Elementary School - and the whopping 68% of demonstrated parent support for change - the parents of 24th Street Elementary look forward to collaboration as opposed to strident opposition as the path to school transformation.
Look at how far we have come! To quote LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy: "I would love to have this kind of parent involvement at every school. I can say that absolutely, positively. This was organized, informed, thoughtful, active and very, very engaged."
Four years ago, we began with hope. Now, parents have produced real change - building paths toward better futures for their children.
In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr Day 2013, we leave you with these words:
"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
- Martin Luther King, Jr