More From Dr. Steve Perry and Book Giveaway

I read educational advocacy book, Push Has Come to Shove by Dr. Steve Perry, knowing I’d be speaking to him on the phone, asking my burning questions. His publicist warned me I’d only get 15 minutes.

Could I talk, listen, and type that fast?

Once I got on the phone with Dr. Perry, the time flew – and he gave me 45 minutes!

I wanted to share the majority of our conversation with you today because I found what he said fascinating. Hang in there, it’s long but I know you’ll want to hear him out.

. . .

Melissa: How do you get parents who are afraid of repercussions, afraid to speak up, to transform into an activists?

Dr. Perry: That is the real challenge – I don’t know that you can make somebody who is afraid, unafraid; but, what you can do is make the impact yourself by identifying other people of the same mindset. Our movement has friends in every sector.

Free education ain’t free, it’s far from free. We pay more per person than we do any other public service – – including the military! So because we pay so much for it, we are so invested in it, we ought to be able to decide what part of that service we want.

Someone said to me, but there is only one Steve Perry. Well, I like my odds. You and I are of the same mindset. You and I could disagree on single educational pedagogy but at the end of the day you could say, I just want to send my school to a Catholic school, I’d say, cool, fantastic or if you said I just want to send my kid to an arts magnet school – great, splendid!

The problem is that the teachers unions have made it such that we don’t have very many options.

Melissa: I’ve been following Michelle Rhee and how the teachers unions are using their money to attack her instead of bettering education.

Dr. Perry: You are paying, I’m paying, to go up against Michelle Rhee. We are paying because of collective bargaining – you are forced. I’m forced in Connecticut to give up my salary.

In this country – really? I have to pay money in this country for causes I’m I’m dead set against – is that America?

They give you these cockamamie outs. They tell you you have to say that you don’t want to be in.

Okay, I don’t want to be in.

Okay, that will get you out. But you still have to pay us.

Hold on. I give up my voting rights in the organization but you still take my money? To use it for the same causes you were going to use it for before?

Is that the country that says that I have the right to freedom of expression? I don’t want them to take my money!

Melissa: (laughs) Okay, let’s talk about unions then.

Dr. Perry: I think they’re the devil.

Start with the issue of choice.

If we said simply to all parents in America, you get to choose, union schools or not, Let’s see how quickly the air comes out of the union schools.

Let’s see.

What we have to do is elect officials like Scott Walker and Chris Christie and others who are advocates who understand that they’re going to use their bully pulpit and have some courage and make the decisions that are necessary.

And, you’re talking to someone who is a lifelong Democrat by the way. I worked for Jessie Jackson in high school, worked for Joe Liberman in college.

This is not about politics.

This is about children.

What we have to do, people like you and I, have to lock arms and take a book like Push Has Come to Shove and slam it into peoples faces. So when Scott Walker is out there and people are shouting him down, there needs to be another group that says –hold on partner, stop yelling at my man.

I don’t work for a political party right now. I care about kids. And I can’t find anyone whose opinion I respect who supports the union.

There’s not one person who has had any success in education who thinks that what the union stands for is okay.

Melissa: I’m sure we could talk about unions all day but in the interest of time, let’s move on. What about teacher training, and an issue I think is even bigger, principal training? 

Dr. Perry:  You can not be trained to be a leader.

Check with a teacher,  you know there are kindergartners who are leaders, they are just leaders. People are either leaders or they’re not.

And if a school needs a leader, it needs to have access to leaders.

Unfortunately, in public schools, the only people who can work in public schools have to have certification. And you limit the talent pool.

I think you have to open up the talent pool.

Certification has not been proven to improve instruction. So, since there is no proven impact on the way in which teachers teach and children learn, it should no longer be a threshold. Background checks, of course, of course.

But just like you’d be able to do if you worked at a college or university or an independent school, or a charter school, you’d simply need to prove to the hiring committee that you are in fact capable of teaching –and then from there, you be able to do the same thing with school leaders. There are people who could run a school and we don’t have access to them!

Melissa: I love that you’re just speaking honestly, and are courageous enough to say it like it is. 

Dr. Perry: See because what happens is they start screaming at people – and then people say, oh, I don’t want to fight.

I actually do feel like fighting, I actually do. I want to fight. I will be everywhere they are.

And what’s going t happen, is you’ll say, I won’t let Steve fight by himself. I’m coming. And then more people will come and then we’re not fighting anymore because you’ll see them run and cry.

But the biggest cowards of all are the legislators who are going to follow suit.  They don’t care, they’ll do anybody whose got money, they’re the biggest whores of all.

We are all in this together. You can have your way of educating kids, we can be the same or different.

Just like you asked, how do you get parents to change?

You have to speak it boldly. Then they’ll say, she’s not afraid. Maybe I can stand next to you. I stand up and speak so you can see that these people are bullies, they are punks.

Melissa: I know your time is short, can you quickly talk about vouchers? We’re having a huge fight about vouchers in Douglas County, Colorado right now. 

Dr. Perry: Whatever Denver Public Schools per pupil expenditure is, it should be yours. Let’s say it’s $14,000. If you have 3 children and you want to home school them, you should be able to homeschool them and that’s $42,000 in your pocket and now it’s not such a financial hardship.

One of the reasons that the unions are beating us on this issue is unions are saying that it’s the use of public money for private goods and services. That is true but, hey wait a minute, I got a Pell Grant and went to Brigham Young University, that’s a religious college. Or I went to I went to Trinity; I went Georgetown, those are all religious schools. Wait a minute – how is that possible? Unions say, we can’t allow it to go through cultural organization.

Hold on a second – they’re lying! Then you start to see . . .

I could go to Cedar Mt. Sinai, which is a religious-based hospital, and I could use my Medicaid there. That’s public money . . . in a private, religious hospital, and you can go to St. Mary’s and walk around and see nuns in there, or crosses. These are religious organizations receiving public money.

. . .

Saying that a child has to go to the school next to their house is an absurd, antiquated notion. If you had to go to the oncologist, God forbid, you wouldn’t have to go to the one next to your house. You could go to to Puerto Rico if you wanted to.

Melissa: Is school choice state by state or district by district?

Perry: District by district, but some states have a law saying it’s unconstitutional. It’s not going to stay.

The best thing that happened to education is the recession . . .

Melissa: But more needs to happen.

Perry: It’s not over, it’s a flesh wound. We’re going down to the white meat.

. . .

Thank you to Dr. Perry for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with me! For more from Dr. Perry, buy his new book, Push Has Come to Shove or visit him online at and on Facebook and Twitter @DrStevePerry.

Readers, what do you think about what Dr. Perry said?

Giveaway: Comment about what Dr. Perry said. All opinions are welcome just be courteous please. Three winners will be selected with a random drawing. (Imagination Soup’s official giveaway rules.) U.S. and Canada only please. Deadline for entering is September 20, 2011, 11:59 EST. No purchase necessary.


 The Case Against Skill and Drill Instruction

 Favorite New Picture Books – Summer 2011

 Push Has Come to Shove – The Book Reviewed


  1. says

    Great interview, Melissa! I so want to read this book now. Dr. Perry sounds like he’s all about the kids, the way it should be! Every child has a unique learning style and unique learning needs, and if the nearest neighborhood school is not a good fit for the child then parents should have innovative options available to them so the child’s learning needs can be met.

  2. diane says

    I think that Steve Perry has hit the nail on the head. Now if we could really get more and more people stirred up to make a difference we can get our kids going on the right track, and get them the teachers (not forgetting parental involvement) that will also help to inspire them.

  3. says

    I like that Dr. Perry said “whores!” *giggle* But I am against vouchers, at least for homeschoolers in my state. As soon as the state gives us public money, they are going to place requirements and restrictions on the curriculum/subjects taught in our home. They can’t run their schools now, I don’t want them trying to run mine. My state is hands off on academic requirements for homeschoolers. The freedom to teach my kids the way that works best for us is worth more money than they could throw at me.

    As a former volunteer/PTA/room mom who was very active and involved in our public school, I am so happy we left it. It’s a broken system and the only way I could make change (and boy did I try!) was to have my kids two less students to count towards their federal and state dollars.

  4. Myrdin Thompson says

    Melissa, each and every day I say to parents: your voice matters. In fact today the PTA is urging parents to call our elected leaders in DC to tell them to Save PIRC (Parent Information Resource Centers). Without funding for PIRCs, efforts to ensure all school districts and states have the capacity to meaningfully engage all parents will be hindered and valuable services will be lost, such as parent leadership academies, teacher and administrative staff trainings, and sharing of best practices. As an advocate, I believe that an parent educated and informed about education can make educated and informed decisions and better support education. Certainly we can be respectful and agree to disagree about some issues (merit pay? unions? what should edreform look like? Rhee? Ravitch?) but at the end of the day I need to support whatever decision another parent makes about education. I am often told, like Perry, “I can’t be you!” right, there is only one me. But you need to be the best Melissa Taylor (for example) for your family, for your community. If that means taking 5 minutes to call an elected official do it! If that means volunteering in a school, do it! Thanks for this great interview…I did feel like you were talking to our mutual friend Gwen Samuel (from CT) lol!

  5. John H Clemson says

    I saw an interview of the author this morning on TV which is why I sought out more information about the book. I have a dear friend who just got her Masters in Educational Administration from NYU, and she and I have talked and battled and learned from each other on the subject of public education.

    The Baltimore area has more private schools per capita than any other area in the country. Maryland has a very good reputation for its public schools as well. We are home of the Calvert School Home Instruction courses which teach children all over the world. I feel blessed in having seen what great education can do (and if you ever watched The Wire on cable you have seen the challenges we still face here). My son has attended public school, a Waldorf School, and a Quaker School. We have volunteered in his school and in an inner city school (Google OrchKids). The dialog between parents and their children, with the schools (administration and teachers), and with the political system that supports them in the case of the public schools is the single most important component I have seen in having success in creating a desire for a lifetime of learning by parents in our children.
    This book seems to have a very good blueprint for how to do this. I would add that respect and compassion have to be part of that dialog!

  6. efavorite says

    Several comments have been published since I commented this morning. My comment is factual, provides references and does not include any insulting or obscene language.

    Please publish it.

  7. efavorite says

    Here is my earlier comment, without the links — that may be what held it up.

    Michelle Rhee has done nothing to better education in DC.
    Scores went down during her watch, the achievement gap widened, she covered up a big cheating scandal (now being investigated by the feds) and the teacher evaluation tool she designed is a disincentive for the supposed best teachers to teach in the schools that need them most.

    Check out some of the reporting in the Post the NYT and USA today to see for yourself.

    • says

      My issue isn’t whether or not I like Michelle Rhee. My issue, and I think Dr. Perry’s as well, is that union money shouldn’t be spent on attacking individuals who disagree with them. If I were in that union, I would rather my dues go to improve schools, buy books, things that make a teacher’s life better. Not fight Michelle Rhee.

  8. Alicia says

    Just reading this post gets me fired up to want to do something. Where do I start? There are probably other parents like me who do not like to sit back and let things happen but we don’t know where to start. My children are in a great public school but I work really hard at home also to get them to where they need to be. There has got to be a way for both the schools and homes to work together and really work.

  9. Suzanne says

    What Dr. Perry is saying makes so much sense with words and is so very hard to live out. It takes courage to do what is right, I’m not in the classroom now because I took a stand.

    I know I did what was right and will continue to stand for what is right but it is not for the faint of heart or for those who do not have savings. :)


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