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Parent Activism in San Diego Schools Takes Root

by United Parents for Education, published

A movement began at a kitchen table in San Diego.

Soon, a handful of PTA moms and dads became a grassroots faction and founded a nonprofit called San Diego United Parent for Education, or UPforEd. Parent activism in San Diego schools is uprooting and challenging the status quo in California's second largest school district.

"I had no idea that suggesting parents take an interest in education was radical, but I'm cool with that so long as it means I'm fighting for my kids," said Teresa Drew, Treasurer. She founded the organization with UPforEd Director of Development, Shelli Kurth.

About 7,000 teachers instruct 135,000 students, where the continuing achievement gap still produces a sizable population of students exiting high school without the 21st century skills needed to be successful citizens.

"We'd sit in hours-long board meetings on budgets and policies that sometimes went to votes without talking about the effect on student achievement," said Executive Director Lisa Berlanga of UPforEd. "That seemed like an incredible hole in the narrative when, nationwide, we're talking about how to improve public education."

The beleaguered school district faced possible insolvency and state take over before finally approving a $1.8 billion budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. District officials still project a budget shortfall next year estimated at $98.4 million.

At such a crucial crossroads, Berlanga said the organization felt it was time to push parents to join the fight and transform San Diego Unified into a world-class public education system.

"UPforEd believes every child deserves a high-quality education and that parents are the stakeholders representing the most important element in public schools - our children," Berlanga said. "By uniting parent voices, we ensure that the needs of students are the priority in decision making."

Join the Movement

UPforEd offers a number of ways to get involved. Take part in a parent-engagement training, organize an advocacy team at your child's school to take action, or sign up for the latest news.

The organization watches what is going on locally, in California, the nation and the world, and tell its members. Visit UPforEd's website, share what's happening in your local schools, and they'll help spread the word:


Shelli Kurth is the co-founder of Up for Ed and is currently serving as its Director of Development 

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