I asked around for some background on the references to schools using Title I parent involvement funds to take folks on junkets, and got this provocative and informative response from PURE's Julie Woestehoff:
"There's a long, unfortunate history of schools and districts throwing away parent involvement funds on national conferences...At the local school level, it's all about who gets to go...The Rochester conference is for five days, not including special pre-and post-conference events....The parents are by definition (supposed to be) poor and often have no other opportunity to travel in style like this, so naturally it's considered a huge perk...In Chicago, people have hung on as "Title 1 parents" just to go on the trips long after their last child graduated...Chicago Citywide ESEA “President-for-Life" Bobby Green is the prime example."
Assuming Woestehoff is accurate (see below for complete text), this sounds like a pretty amazing scam. Take a look, and tell us what you're experience has been. Going to Rochester? Ever heard of Bobby Green?
There's a long, unfortunate history of schools and districts throwing
away parent involvement funds on national conferences. Why spend the
money at the local school level -- and risk having actual parents in the
school learning how to be more involved -- when you can send three
parents to a couple of out-of-state conferences and gain their loyalty
for the same amount?
The National Coalition of ESEA Parents runs the major annual conference
which is the one in Rochester this year.
This group basically exists to set up the conference and collect Title1
parent involvement funds. A look at their web site makes it clear that
they also exist to collect fees from vendors who sell lots of stuff to
parents and the conferences.
At the local school level, it's all about who gets to go. Of course, the
principals have the greatest say since, despite the law’s requirement
that parents decide how the funds are spent, principals usually write
the NCLB parent involvement checks. So they choose 2-3 or sometimes more
parents and send them on the trip.
The Rochester conference is for five days, not including special pre-
and post-conference events. Christian religious worship is deeply
ingrained into the program.
Parents fly all over the country, stay in nice hotels, get all their
meals and a daily stipend. The parents are by definition (supposed to
be) poor and often have no other opportunity to travel in style like
this, so naturally it's considered a huge perk. Usually the conference
is in some place like California, Miami, Atlanta, etc.
In Chicago, people have hung on as "Title 1 parents" just to go on the
trips long after their last child graduated. We have a long history of
"leadership" at the citywide level of people who would never give up
control of the positions and perks. Chicago Citywide ESEA
“President-for-Life" Bobby Green is the prime example. Of course, CPS
staffers attend the conferences, too. And several of the Cluster and
District meetings are dedicated to getting and filling out the various
conference applications rather than work on getting parents into the
NCLB guidelines say that the parent involvement funds should only be
used for out-of-state conferences when an area is so remote or
underserved that parents have no access to programs closer to home. And
at that, the parents who attend are supposed to bring the programs and
ideas home and share with other parents, which generally does not happen.
CPS is making some effort to change this under stricter monitoring by
the state (Ron Lawless). The main reason they changed the way the
citywide board was set up was to get rid of some of the folks who have
controlled things for so long. But the way they did it -- by taking it
out of parents' hands completely -- is wrong and will be challenged."