One of the wonderful rewards of my travels is that I have met people in every community who are staunch defenders of public education. Most want to help but they don’t know how. In part, this is because there is no national organization leading the charge to stop privatization. But nonetheless, there are many people who soldier on, writing, speaking out, rallying their forces, and undaunted by the size of the challenge.

One of those people, whom I am privileged to call a friend, is Jan Resseger. Jan is a (lay) Minister for Public Education and Witness for the United Church of Christ. She is a fearless and tireless advocate for public education and for equity. She has a passion for justice and a deep and loving concern for people. She understands in a visceral sense that a decent society must sustain vibrant public institutions. She has posted her commentaries on education here. One that is especially powerful is here.

I don’t recall exactly when I met Jan, though I know it was by email. We exchanged many emails before I met her. She came to New York City to tape a short video about education issues, and we chatted. I told her that I was puzzled by a phenomenon that occurred time and again. When I went out to speak, especially to teachers, I would describe the forces that are now demonizing teachers and promoting privatization; to me, it is a somber, almost depressing message. Yet teachers would thank me profusely, and some said, “You have given me the strength to go on.” I asked Jan, “Why are they thanking me for giving them such bad news?” And she answered simply, “You have validated their truth.” I have kept that answer with me, in my heart. It explained so much about what I was doing and what I had to keep doing.

Just yesterday, I was part of an email blast from Jan in which she explained that her focus for the rest of this year would be to stand up against the injurious concept of competition, that has invaded our discourse about education. Instead of focusing on what children need, we focus on who will win the race. But I’ll let her say it:

I have decided this year I am going to make it a priority to challenge those who persist in framing public education as a race or a competition.  Competitive thinking is so pervasive that we all fall into it without even noticing.  This year I am going to make myself think about it.

My biggest beef is with the Administration’s transformation of Title I from a formula program that delivers federal funds (admittedly so small relative to the need that these dollars don’t accomplish what I wish they did) to schools with large numbers of or concentrations of students in poverty.  The goal of this program is to help those schools meet the students’ needs.  Title I was created back in 1965 as the cornerstone of the War on Poverty.  Its context was expanding civil rights for children who had been shut out or left out or left behind.  The current Administration and Congress have frozen the Title I formula program in the last two budgets and re-directed the money into competitive programs like Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants in which the states or districts with the best grant proposal writers can help their states or districts be winners. That means, of course, that a lot of states and school districts and schools are the losers.  If you have winners, you always have losers and I don’t think any state or school district or school that serves children in poverty ought to lose the chance to serve those children.  You may think this particular issue is way too deep in the weeds of policy to worry about, but for me it is a big, heartfelt worry—and let me warn you, I’ll be mentioning it again and again this year as part of my personal campaign against competition.

So, think about getting on her list. You will be glad you did. You can reach her at