The Network for Public Education has now held three national conferences. The first was in Austin, Texas; the second in Chicago; and the 2016 conference just concluded in Raleigh, North Carolina.


About 500 activists, mostly teachers, but also principals, administrators, school board members, parents, and even representatives of the Newark Student Union were there. Most of the best-known education bloggers were there. I haven’t done a count but we had representation from nearly every state, including people who flew in from California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nebraska.


Every one of these conferences has been exciting. It is exciting to meet the people you know online but have never met face to face. It is exciting to be surrounded with people who share your beliefs and values. It is exciting to know that you are not alone. There was a sense of collegiality and camaraderie that occasionally felt like joy, just plain joy.


The speakers were outstanding. Reverend Barber brought the audience to its feet repeatedly. He is a grand preacher and orator. We even had call and response going. Phil LaNoue, the National Superintendent of the Year, talked about what really mattered most in schools, and he talked about children and their social and emotional needs, not their test scores. Bob Herbert brought a keen perspective to the role of education in a changing economy. Jesse Hagopian of Seattle and Karren Harper Royal of New Orleans engaged in a discussion of the issues that concern NPE members most: privatization, high-stakes testing, and the struggle to improve education under adverse conditions.


In times, all the keynote speeches will be posted, as well as several of the panels. Here is Reverend Barber’s speech. 


In addition to excellent general presentations, there were nearly 50 workshops. Many could have been general sessions by themselves. It was an embarrassment of riches that we all could share. The hardest part was deciding which workshops to attend. I enjoyed Jitu Brown’s workshop on state takeovers, where speakers documented that takeovers lead to privatization, that they inevitably are targeted at black and brown communities, and that 96% of the students whose schools are closed are African American. Jitu pointed out that the closure of a school precipates the closure of the local police station, the grocery store, and other community amenities, robbing the community of basic necessities. I also enjoyed hearing the Texas Pastors for Children, whose work has stopped vouchers in Texas; they reach out to fellow clergy in rural communities and advance the principal that “we do not need Caesar’s gold to advance God’s work.” I am crazy about Pastor Charles Foster Jones.


I expect we will hear from the many bloggers who were there.


Every year we ask ourselves how we can possibly top this year’s conference. We did it. And we will do it again next year.


Next year, the conference will be held on the West Coast. Stay tuned.