To the Editor:
Regarding your front-page article “U.S.-Funded Parent Information Centers Questioned on Their Agendas, Efficacy” (June 8, 2005):
Three years ago, the Center for Education Reform submitted a proposal for a Parent Information and Resource Center grant—our first ever—to the federal government. It outlined our vision to reach out to parents in four Southeastern states to inform them of their newly acquired rights under the No Child Left Behind Act. Our research indicated there were more than a quarter of a million parents in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina affected by low-performing schools.
Since the center’s inception almost 12 years ago, these types of parents have been our constituents, so we felt uniquely qualified to offer our concept of how to connect with them. Unfortunately, some local districts were spending very little time and few resources disseminating information to parents in a timely and understandable way about the status of their schools.
We designed the Parents Network for Better Education to work through community-based organizations to reach out directly to those with children in “needs improvement” schools to inform them of their right to transfer their children to higher-performing public schools and their right to receive free tutoring. A second goal was to educate parents of young children on how best to prepare their children for elementary school in this new era of accountability and choices. Teaching the parents of 3-year-olds about such matters as how the state holds schools accountable and what they as parents can expect from their schools is one way that districts and states can encourage parental involvement that lasts for years.
In the nearly 18 months the parents’ network has been operating, it has connected with some 80,000 parents and distributed more than 200,000 pieces of literature about parents’ rights. Politics is not part of our work. The only agenda we have is to reach as many parents as we can to spread the word about the accountability and choices tha: t the No Child Left Behind law offers them.
More information on the Parents Network for Better Education is available online (www.theparentsnetwork.org).
Mary Kayne Heinze
Parents Network for Better Education
Center for Education Reform