I had the opportunity to see a preview screening of Won't Back Down; feel free to skip it.
To understand the premise of the film we have to understand 'parent trigger.' As Will Dooling and Brendan Fischer write in PR Watch, What really happens when parents pull the "parent trigger," "...Parent Trigger laws allow parents at any persistently failing school to gather a majority and either fire the principal, fire half of the teachers, or turn it into a private charter school...The laws -- which have been proposed in dozens of states and become law in California, Texas, and Connecticut..."
The law does not exist in the state of Pennsylvania, although the setting of the film is a public school in Pittsburgh.
In California, a group of parents 'pulled' the trigger but the matter was then litigated and no school take over occurred.
Promotional material for the film proclaims, "A fictional story inspired by actual events, the film chronicles the journey of two women..." The 'actual events' are the Compton and Adelanto California efforts:
In Compton, paid staffers for Parent Revolution circulated petitions to convert the school into a charter, but courts threw out the petitions. In Adelanto, a counter-petition effort organized by the school board convinced a large group of parents who originally signed petitions to withdraw their signatures; the battle is still being fought.
Parent Revolution is an outfit aligned with the American Legislative Council (ALEC) and the producers of Waiting for Superman. As thenotebook observed, 'Won't Back Down' won't be real about school reform'
But let’s face it. Movie producers Philip Anschutz and Rupert Murdoch didn’t bankroll Won’t Back Down to win Academy Awards. They’ve entered it as a yet another piece in the contentious education reform debate using as their premise the idea of “parent empowerment” and “parent choice.” And on that level, there is some serious substance to reflect upon.
Well-funded advocates of privatizing the nation's education system are employing a new strategy this fall to enlist support for the cause. The emotionally engaging Hollywood film "Won't Back Down" -- set for release September 28 -- portrays so-called "Parent Trigger" laws as an effective mechanism for transforming underperforming public schools. But the film's distortion of the facts prompts a closer examination of its funders and backers and a closer look at those promoting Parent Trigger as a cure for what ails the American education system....
...The data shows that the conversion to charter schools, which Lubienski said is the constant theme running throughout the "Parent Trigger" legislation passed in states, has not shown to be effective in improving student outcomes. A study conducted at Stanford University's Hoover Institution presents evidence that students in only 17 percent of charter school show greater improvement in math and reading than students in similar traditional public schools, whereas 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than the student would have realized had they remained in public schools. However, the conversion to charter schools has proven profitable to many U.S. firms such as ALEC member National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter school management organization operating in eight states, and K-12, Inc., which promotes "virtual" charter schools as well as "virtual" voucher schools. K-12, Inc. is under investigation in Florida for improperly certifying teachers and asking them to cover it up...
..."Won't Back Down," is a production of Walden Media, owned by billionaire investor and right-wing extremist Philip Anschutz. Anschutz participates in the Koch brothers' secretive political strategy summits and funds David Koch's Americans for Prosperity group, which backed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union busting proposal and is working to defeat Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates across the country. (emphasis added)
Some advocates for the film note that Democrats, including leaders associated with President Obama support 'parent trigger' and back the movie. That Democrats supported the War in Vietnam, did not make that battle correct, either.