This is a terrific column by Valerie Strauss describing the work of the Network for Public Education. I wish she had been there to share the excitement of the 600+ education activists from across the nation–teachers, parents, students, retired teachers, principals, school board members. Wherever they came from, they feel isolated and powerless as the anti-public education forces rampage through the lives of children, teachers, and schools, claiming that their rush to turn the schools over to entrepreneurs is “all about the kids.” Yet in Chicago, they met many others and felt the positive energy of being part of a movement. It was incredibly energizing to meet others who are waging the same battles in Ohio, Michigan, Florida, California, New York, Indiana, Washington, Texas, and many other states. There was a genuine spirit of camaraderie, even joyfulness, as we interacted with the leaders of the Newark Student Union, BATs from everywhere, and parents who had crossed the country to join us.

 

The keynotes were wonderful. The panels were led by activists sharing what they had learned. Most of them had overflow crowds. One in particular was especially enlightening–Jesse Hagopian’s discussion of the racist history of standardized testing, accompanied by Rita Green, the Director of Education for the Seattle NAACP, which has endorsed the opt-out movement. Green told the audience that the NAACP locals do not share the enthusiasm of the national organization for standardized testing. The room for that session was packed, with audience members sitting on the floor and lining the walls.

 

The keynote speeches and most of the panels will be posted on the website of the Network for Public Education as soon as they are ready. (Here is a picture of the Grand Ballroom at the Drake Hotel with Karen Lewis in the forefront.) We will soon announce the location of our 2016 conference. We aim to top the previous conferences of 2014 in Austin and 2015 in Chicago. We are many, they are few. We will reclaim our schools and make them far better than they are today. We want transformation, not privatization. We want schools that are places of joy and learning for all children, schools that respect children and parents, schools that prepare children for today and for lives of purpose.