View in your browser.


On Monday, Democratic National Convention attendees had an opportunity to attend a screening of the new movie, "Won’t Back Down." Let’s take a trip to Hollywood via Charlotte, shall we?

Bulletin Board

  • President Thomas Jefferson and President John Adams will address the public in the majestic auditorium of the North Carolina Museum of History on Monday, September 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm.  Two of the nation’s finest historical interpreters, both associated with Colonial Williamsburg, will bring the presidents to life. Bill Barker is the nation’s premier Jefferson interpreter and has performed at the White House and the Palace of Versailles. Steven Holloway is a veteran actor who interprets Adams with power and verve. A reception will follow the debate.
  • The Civitas institute and the Friedman Foundation invite you to a luncheon to report results of a statewide education poll and policy implications for North Carolina. Come join Paul Di Perna, Research director for the Freedom Foundation, education policy experts, and state lawmakers as they share views on how to improve educational opportunity in North Carolina.  The event will begin at 11:30 am on Tuesday, September 18 at the Raleigh Crabtree Marriott Hotel in Raleigh NC.  Cost is $10.00.
  • Join Byron York, Brad Crone, Marc Rotterman, and John Hood on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at noon for an inside look into the 2012 Election.  The event will be held at the Double Tree Brownstone Hotel in Raleigh.  Cost is $30 per person.
  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history.  Please provide links to N.C. History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible.  Go to the N.C. History Project website for further information.
  • JLF’s research newsletter archive is hungry for a Doritos Locos Taco.


"Won’t Back Down" is the story of two parents who "risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children."  There is nothing controversial about that.  Rather, some liberals object to the way that the parents — played by a pair of particularly attractive actresses, Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal — try to make a difference.  Instead of going to the school board to ask them to appoint a committee to examine the deficiencies of the struggling school within the parameters of "the system," they turn to a "parent trigger" law to try to improve the lives of the children who attend the school.

In the real world, a parent trigger allows parents to vote on changing the governance and operation of a failing public school, such as converting it to a charter school or another alternative educational model.  Conservatives like the fact that it empowers parents and expands educational options.  Liberals simply want educational options so that disadvantaged children are not trapped in failing public schools.  According to an article in Education Week, another contingent of liberal education reformers see the parent trigger as a way to allow parents to "unionize and collectively bargain just like teachers’ unions."  

Despite growing bipartisan support, parent trigger laws are not widespread.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), six states have enacted some form of parent trigger law since 2010. California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas have statewide parent trigger laws that, it should be emphasized, apply only to persistently low-performing schools.  The Columbus School District in Ohio also has a parent trigger pilot program.  (See Facts and Stats below for additional details on existing parent trigger laws.)  NCSL reports that 20 states have considered parent trigger laws during recent legislative sessions. 

The idea has been discussed in North Carolina, but no formal legislation has been proposed.  Some fear that will change.  During the Charlotte screening, longtime Charlotte education activist Pam Grundy was one of a handful of protesters stationed outside of the venue.  Apparently, Grundy has not seen the film.  Still, she objected to the

"groups who organized the [movie screening] event and their policy ideas" because they promote "relentless charter school expansion."  (Just to avoid confusion, increases in the number of charter schools in North Carolina and elsewhere have nothing to do with parent trigger laws.  In fact, parent triggers are a particularly burdensome way to expand charter schools, if indeed that is their underlying goal.)

As for the film, I suspect that it will lead to a brief "national conversation" about education reform and school choice.  We should welcome the debate while it lasts.  But its long-term impact will be similar to "Stand and Deliver," "Dangerous Minds," and "Lean on Me."  In other words, I suspect that "Won’t Back Down" will be considered an inspirational and entertaining, but not necessarily transformative, film.

Random Thought

"Won’t Back Down" opens nationwide on September 28, 2012.  Go see it with confidence, knowing that the film did not receive a film incentive from the State of North Carolina.

Facts and Stats


Overview of State Parent Trigger Laws


  • Legislation: SBX4 (2010)
  • Eligibility: Must have failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for 3 consecutive years and been in ‘corrective action’ status under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for at least one year
  • Intervention: Any intervention listed under "corrective action" in NCLB. This can include: replace all staff and faculty relevant to low-performance; convert to a charter school (parents can choose the charter management organization in the petition); or close the school


  • Legislation: SB 438 (2010)
  • Eligibility: Schools identified by the state or district as in need of an improvement plan or identified as low achieving
  • Intervention: Reconstitute the school based on any of the federal models (turnaround, restart, transformation, etc.); turn into CommPACT school (CT state turnaround program); or convert to an innovation school


  • Legislation: HB 1002 (2011)
  • Eligibility: Low-performing for 2 consecutive years, but not already scheduled for closure. The district school board must vote in favor of the conversion
  • Intervention: Convert to charter school


  • Legislation: HB 976 (2012)
  • Eligibility: A school that has received a "D" or "F" from the state school grading system for 3 or more consecutive years
  • Intervention: The school is transferred into the special state-operated Recovery School District (RSD). Low-income students attending an RSD school are eligible for a state-funded private school voucher.


  • Legislation: SB 2293 (2010)
  • Eligibility: Low-performing for 3 consecutive years
  • Intervention: Convert to charter school


  • Legislation: HB 153 (2011)
  • Eligibility: Schools that are ranked in the lowest 5% in performance statewide for 3 or more consecutive years and must be located in the Columbus School District
  • Intervention: Convert to a charter school; replace at least 70% of the school’s personnel related to its poor performance; turn operation of the school over to the state department; contract with either another school district or with a non-profit or for-profit charter management organization (CMO); or impose any other major restructuring


  • Legislation: SB 738 (2011)
  • Eligibility: Low-performing for 3 consecutive years
  • Intervention: Convert to a charter school; replace administrative management; or close school

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].

Education Acronym of the Week

NCSL: National Conference of State Legislatures

Quote of the Week

"Those who are so quick to brand these parents as anti-union should take note that all these parents have fought for is the same right to unionize that teachers enjoy. The one difference: parents are not subject to the same pressures that apply to school boards and district bureaucracies and teacher unions. Their one and only agenda is to support their kids. For too long, parents have not had a seat at the table when it came to decisions involving their children’s education. That changed with the passage of the [California] Parent Trigger law in 2010."

– David Phelps, "Recent Criticism Regarding ‘Won’t Back Down’," Parent Revolution blog.

Click here for the Education Update archive.