Movie to open just as voters consider charter school ballot question
Atlanta, GA, September 20,2012 – Georgia parents on all sides of the charter school issue are flocking to preview screenings of the new movie “Won’t Back Down.” Based on real events, “Won’t Back Down” is the story of a mother and a teacher who risk everything to provide their children with a better public school education. The film, which opens in Metro Atlanta on September 28th, stars Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rosie Perez and Holly Hunter. It dramatizes the true story of parents who have used so-called “Parent Trigger” or parent-empowerment laws to turn around failing public schools.
A recent metro Atlanta preview screening of “Won’t Back Down,” was filled with parents who were curious about the movie’s parent empowerment theme.
Rae Anne Harkness, whose 7th grade daughter and Kindergarten son attend Ivy Preparatory Academy at Kirkwood, a public charter school in DeKalb County, identified strongly with the movie. Her daughter was enrolled in traditional DeKalb public schools through elementary school, but as her daughter approached the upper grades, Harkness feared for her safety in a middle school riddled with discipline problems and a high school with the lowest graduation rate in the county.
“The message of the movie is that it is not about the parents, the teachers or the educator groups and union. It is simply about the kids. There is too much bureaucracy in education. When teachers are freed from the restrictions of educrats, the good ones can do what they do best — teach! I could really relate to the Mom, when her daughter lashed out at her and called her ‘stupid and poor.’ I often feel guilty for not being able to move my kids into a better zip code,” Harkness said.
Kelly Marlow, a Cherokee County mother who spent the last three years fighting to launch and support Cherokee Charter Academy, a state authorized charter school, was in tears after seeing “Won’t Back Down.” The story mirrored her own struggle to offer a better public school option in her community. Just as in the movie, local teachers and the district superintendent fought her school with everything they had. The experience radicalized Marlow to the point where she ran successfully for school board in Cherokee County, to keep pressing for parent choice and public education reform.
“Won’t Back Down” may be the most important, must see education movie since “Waiting for Superman,” Kelly Marlow said. “The events, characters, and scenarios played out in this film are realistic, and happening right now in communities all across this county. Parents, business leaders, and educators want real and meaningful education reform and they want it now. I know that parents all across Georgia who watch this film will see a reflection of the bureaucracy, will see the obstacles placed in their way by self-proclaimed protectors of the status quo, and will start asking about what they must do to give all parents a choice and all children a chance.”
In real life, parent trigger laws have been enacted in seven states and considered in more than a dozen others. These laws have broad bipartisan backing, with 70 percent of voters saying they support them, according to the identical findings of a national poll commissioned by StudentsFirst and a survey conducted by PDK/Gallup.
Judy Montgomery, who has two grandchildren in charter schools, was also moved by the film. “The struggles the two women faced seemed quite realistic and I can imagine anyone going up against the system would face similar problems. It’s a very inspiring movie about succeeding against all odds, and one that I hope will help others find the courage to challenge their local school systems. With so many schools failing our students, it is past time for some major changes! “
“Won’t Back Down” will be open in Atlanta area theaters, and nationally on September 28th.
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