In my travels these past few years, one of the most remarkable people I met was Kipp Dawson in Pittsburgh. She is a middle school teacher who is dedicated to her work and her students. She is a warrior for social and economic justice. Before she became a teacher, she spent ten years as a coal miner. I knew about her before I met her and expected to meet an Amazon. But Kipp is diminutive in size with a mighty heart. If I have not already named her to the honor roll of champions, I add her now for her tenacity in fighting for children and public schools.

She wrote:

“The article which follows is a vicious attack on public schools in Pittsburgh, and thus, by extension, on our public schools as a whole. It is on the front page of the Forum section of today’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette. I post it as a call to action to all of those who are fighting to save and improve our public schools, and against those who are working double-time to shut us down.

“Here is the response I just posted on the Post-Gazette page:


“Ms. Amankulor makes it personal, and I respond, at first, in kind.

“Like her, my family is biracial (my white mom married my black dad in 1952). Like her, I am from Northern California, via NYC, to Pittsburgh, though I have been here since 1977. LIke her, my grandmother was an Eastern European Jew who escaped the Holocaust by finding refuge, and becoming a social justice fighter, here in the U.S. (though she soon lost her husband to murder at the hands of xenophobic anti-Semites in Erie in 1922 — motivated much like the anti-immigrants of today). Like her, my passion is for our children. BUT.

“Unlike Ms. Amankulor, I have allied myself with those children — all of them — and WITH our public schools, even as Ms. Amankulor and her organization have been part of the billionaire-backed forces who first undermined our schools via hostile “reforms,” then stood back, looked at the problems they helped to create, pointed fingers at our public schools, and called them “failing,” even as their “solutions” are to do even more to destroy one of our most basic democratic institutions.

“The “reforms” included closing schools, overcrowding and under-resourcing those that remained, sending Gates-funded “evaluators” to terrorize teachers and drive out many who would not be thusly debased, replace trained teachers with untrained TFA-style passing-through young people (some of whom were highly motivated and so badly mistrained), destroy elected school boards and replace them (not here; not yet) with appointed anti-public-school politicians (Philadelphia and Chicago being among the most outstanding), and then use them to shut us — public education — down, by any means necessary.

“Please, everyone who cares, read up on PennCAN. Please read Diane Ravitch’s prescient book, “Reign of Error,” which predicted this demise.

“Then join us to do the hard but necessary work to make our PUBLIC schools the schools all of our children deserve. ALL of our children.”

Kipp Dawson