Parents Across America's Rita Stolnit: "Why waste money on a failed policy"

Co-founder of Parents Across America Rita Solnit speaks at the SOS rally, July 30, 2011. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.

Rita Solnit is the co-founder of Parents Across America, and one of the organizers of the SOS Conference and March. A video of her speech at the SOS march may be found at the Parents Across America website.

Co-founder of Parents Across America Rita Solnit speaks at the SOS rally, July 30, 2011. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.There’s a quote in my office from Eleanor Roosevelt which says: “Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You!” Well, Eleanor, this is my one thing today. Why am I here? Seriously, why am I here?

I am a businesswoman. I’m not a teacher.
 I am a Chamber of Commerce member, I’m not a Union member.
 I am a volunteer obnoxiously raising funds from family and friends. I’m certainly not in anyone’s back pocket.

When the Save Our Schools Executive Committee asked me to speak today, I mulled it over with my mentor— my son! At some point we changed roles. He said, “Mom, if you think you can change one person’s mind or one vote in Congress, then, you must do this.” He was right. He’s here today–a graduate of Florida’s public schools.

You see, I know that what’s happening in our public schools is hurting our nation’s children.

I know this because I’m one of hundreds of thousands of public school parents who volunteer in public schools, and who led PTAs for 15 years.

You see, I was that weekly Room Mom who experienced first hand the difference between 36 kids in an elementary classroom and 15 kids. You can’t fool me because I’ve been there.

I had a front row seat when Florida launched a one size fits all, micromanaged, whizbang Race to the Top curriculum. I saw how it robbed teachers of the flexibility to do what’s best for every child. And, I saw how it robbed children of their ability to discover their inner talents and tap their creativity. Oh No. You can’t fool me!

I’ve witnessed how this obsessive focus on standardized tests converted schools to test prep factories. Schools no longer have time for Music, Arts, Literature, PE, Social Studies, Languages, Civics. So don’t talk to me about Innovation. No, you can’t fool me.

I don’t want to burst your bubble test, but this is not good education! I’ve watched how we now teach our children how to guess at bubble tests– as if the answer to all life’s problems will be placed in front of them to choose.

I see how everything rides on these scores–teachers salaries, their jobs, whether the school remains open–it all falls on the shoulders of that one child taking that one test on that one day. Is that what you mean by Game Changer? You can’t fool me.

We are abandoning entire segments of our nation for the sake of collecting useless data — that’s right –useless. The children nor the teacher never see the results. Right answers, wrong answers, where they need to improve–who knows? They never see it. Does that make sense to any of you here?

I’m here today to add my voice to yours to appeal to common sense in education. I’m here today to say stop wasting my tax dollars on failed reforms. NCLB never worked–it put us in this mess.

I’m asking this Administration and Capitol Hill to listen with a Capital L. Listen to those in the trenches — Listen to informed parents — Listen to your constituents.

I’m not alone. There are many parents here today. We’re here today to give the Dept of Education a Robo Call of our own! Right? I’m the co founder of Parents Across America and we are here today in full force. Our members scrimped and saved for months to be here. We lobbied all day Thursday in appointments on Capitol Hill. Parents Across America are here today — not just from DC–not just from Maryland or Virginia–we are here today from: Seattle, Spokane, from San Francisco and Los Angeles—from Phoenix, Denver, Madison, Wisconsin and from Chicago, Portland, Oregon and New Orleans– from North Carolina, from Pennsylvania, from New Jersey, from New York and from Florida.

Today is not the final destination. This march is the beginning. The beginning of a nationwide community of advocates — bringing common sense back into America’s classrooms. Parents helping other parents and parents helping teachers. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for — right here — all of us. And, we are the only ones we can depend upon to put the public back in public education. Are you with me? Right here — right now.

Parents Across America’s motto is: Our schools. Our children. Our voices.

Now, I hear they are a little tone deaf in the beltway so I need your help.


Thank you very much.


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