"Won't Back Down" and Parent Trigger Laws
7 months ago
Movie raises issues about controversial laws that allow parents to take over schools
If you're looking to go to the movies this weekend, your choices for new flicks are pretty slim.
You have one movie about cartoon monsters living in a hotel together. Another about a guy who travels back in time to save himself from getting killed by the mob. Then there's one about a teacher and a single mother who fight to take over a struggling school.
Surprisingly, it's the last one that's been getting the most attention.
"Won't Back Down" stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher and parent duo who are dissatisfied with the performance of their local school. Instead of going elsewhere, they opt to take advantage of new laws that allow parents and teachers to essentially take over a school if it is underperforming.
The plot seems relatively benign, but as Davis, Gyllenhaal and other stars walked the red carpet at the movie premiere on Sunday, they were met by jeers from parents, teachers, and organizers from community groups who were protesting the movie, and the laws upon which the movie is loosely based.
Parent trigger laws allow parents to petition for change, and if they gather 51 percent of school parents' signatures, they can overthrow the school and 1) fire the principal, 2) fire half of the teachers, 3) close the school and let parents find another option, and/or 4) convert the school into a charter school.
Spoiler alert: In "Won't Back Down," the "good guys" win, the school is converted into a charter and Davis' character runs it. But in real life, opponents to the parent trigger laws say this isn't simply a matter of good versus bad, and they claim that the laws are really about allowing corporations, not parents, to take over schools. Parent trigger law opponent PR Watch questions if the movie is a work of propaganda, given that the film's producers are Philip Anschutz's Walden Media and Rupert Murdoch, both of whom are on record as staunch supporters of right-wing agendas.
Even Rosie Perez, who plays a teacher in the movie, was hesitant when asked her thoughts about parent trigger laws.
"That’s a tricky question," said Perez, at the movie premiere. "If I say I agree with that, you’re asking me if I agree with charter schools and if I agree that private companies can come in and take over schools and I am not saying that. What I am saying is that anybody should have the right to ask for change and demand change in public education."