As faithful readers of this blog know, this week has been a busy one for me.
It started last Sunday night when I arrived in Chicago after a six-hour flight delay caused by possible tornados near Chicago.
On Monday, I began the day speaking at the Chicago City Club, where I was introduced by Governor Pat Quinn. I then went to the headquarters of the Chicago Teachers Union, where I had a long talk with the amazing and dynamic Karen Lewis. The most memorable line of our talk was this one. I told her that national commentators scoffed at CTU’s insistence that schools need air-conditioning. Karen said she heard that, and she proposed that the air-conditioning at the Board’s headquarters be shut down to demonstrate that it doesn’t matter. And the Mayor’s offices too! Vintage Karen!
I flew to Columbus that afternoon, where I was met by the tireless Bill Phillis. Bill formerly served as a deputy in the Ohio Department of Education and has contacts in every district; he is passionate about equitable funding and public education. When I spoke to the Cleveland City Club earlier in the year, i told him that if he organized a group to fight for public education, I would come back. He did and I did. He brought together 400 people from across the state to plan their strategy on behalf of public education. The counter-revolution against privatization and greed now begins in Ohio.
I then headed for Lansing, Michigan, where I was hosted by the Tri-County Alliance of school superintendents, who represent 86 districts and nearly half the students in the state. I met a room full of dedicated public servants who are outraged and baffled by the persistent effort to destroy public education in Michigan. The reactionary elements in the state come up with one scheme after another to try to destroy any community attachment to public schools and to turn education in the state into a free market of choices. I was stunned to learn that every district spends about $100,000 on advertising to poach students from other districts, to bolster their budget. the superintendents know it is wrong but this is the system that the legislature has imposed on them in an effort to create “schools of choice.” The pressure for an education marketplace has been going on for a decade or more and is now accelerating, with bills proposed to eliminate district lines and to allow “selective enrollments,” in which schools could choose to accept only one race or one gender or only high-performing students. The raid on public funding by for-profit charters is nonstop, as are the attacks on public schools and those who work in them.
Last stop was Minnesota, where I thought I would have a quiet dinner alone, but to my surprise and delight, was contacted by Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, who happened to be in town for another event. So we met with other educators over a pleasant Japanese dinner.
Today, I addressed Education Minnesota, which represents the teachers of Minnesota. The state and its educators are fortunate in having Governor Mark Dayton, who prevents some of the usual efforts to attack teachers and public schools. Minnesota has its challenges but it is very fortunate compared to Ohio and Michigan, where the ALEC forces are in charge.
So I am in the Minneapolis airport now, waiting to go home. What a week.
I was able to blog and tweet while I traveled, and if you noticed more typos than usual, blame it on my iPad.
The letter-writing campaign came to a conclusion. In only two weeks, nearly 400 educators, parents, students and others wrote eloquent letters to President Obama. Thanks to Anthony Cody for coordinating the campaign and doing the heavy lifting of collating and assembling what amounts to a book. It is worth pointing out that every letter we received was included and not one of them expressed satisfaction with the current direction of federal education policy.
My week is done, but our struggle for better education has just begun.