'Unions' empower parents to push for reform

By CHRISTINA HOAG | October 9, 2011 | 2:40 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shoehorned into a small living room in a South Los Angeles apartment, a dozen parents discuss why their kids' school ranks as one of the worst in Los Angeles Unified School District.

The answers come quickly: Teachers are jaded; gifted pupils aren't challenged; disabled students are isolated; the building is dirty and office staff treat parents disrespectfully.

The parents, whose kids attend Woodcrest Elementary School, have formed a "parents union" to prod their principal to improve academic achievement. The group is just one of a growing number of parent organizations across the country that are pushing education reform, not bake sales.

Behind the parent empowerment movement is a feisty Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Parent Revolution, which is using labor organizing tactics to organize mothers and fathers as advocates for their children.