I have waited a few days to digest the exciting events of last weekend.

My first thought is: I wish you had been there.

You would have seen teachers, parents, school board members, superintendents, researchers, college students, and lots of others who want to save their schools from privatization and save their students from endless over-testing. They came not to defend the status quo, but to fight the status quo.

At every NPE conference–in Austin, Chicago, Raleigh, Oakland, and Indianapolis–the spirit and goodwill were infectious. The same was true in Indianapolis.

Many people saw friends that they met at last year’s conference, or met their favorite blogger or researcher.

Every year, I hear the same statement: “This was the best conference yet.” And I believe it.

This was the first year that NPE awarded the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. The winners were the teacher-activists in Arizona who won the right to put a referendum on the ballot about vouchers. This was a high point of the first day. The award will be given out every year for teachers, parents, and other activists who display courage, tenacity, and heroism on behalf of public education and the common good.

I won’t report on all the keynotes but want to be sure that you watch Pasi Sahlberg.

Pasi Sahlberg was amazing. He talked about the “Global Education Reform Movement” (GERM) and accompanied his talk with slides and even a video (all of which were posted by him on Twitter @pasi_sahlberg. Pasi wrote the wonderful book Finnish Lessons and Finnish Lessons 2.0. His new book, with William Doyle, is Let the Children Play. Pasi talked about the birth of GERM as a reflection of the exuberant belief in the 1980s that markets and standardization solved all problems. Pasi showed the spread of GERM, especially in English-speaking countries. He is now based in Australia, and he told us that the government of New Zealand has dropped national standards and will soon eliminate national testing. He predicted that Australia would drop its NAPLAN tests and standards in the not-distant future. You can watch him on this video; his presentation begins at 27:00.

I attended several panels. One was exhilarating, another was very sad.

The exhilarating one was a presentation by teachers from Arizona who are active in #RedForEd and in the effort to stop a legislative plan for universal vouchers. The teachers pointed out that 95% of the children in Arizona attend public schools, which are underfunded. They described their fight against the Koch brothers, whom they beat in court when the brothers tried to get their referendum knocked off the ballot. The vote on the referendum takes place November 6. VOTE NO on PROP 305! Congratulations to these wonderful teachers, who have done all this work on their own dime and stood up to the most powerful rightwing machine in the nation!

The other panel was a presentation by four Puerto Rican activists, who described the effort to close and privatize the Island’s public schools. The Governor is working with the hedge fund managers who are salivating over the chance to close down public education. Nothing seems to stand in their way, although it was clear that the Island’s teachers are adamantly opposed to the takeover. A woman named Julie Keleher was imported to do the dirty work for Wall Street.

I also sat in on a panel led by Mercedes Schneider, Darcie Cimarusti, and Andrea Gabor, in which they explained in detail how to “follow the money.” They gave specific directions about sources that tell you who is funding what, how to unearth “Dark Money.” The session was packed, and attendees took notes. Darcie is our communications director and half-time staff at NPE, she is a school board member in her community, and she is an expert on following the money.

The closing speaker was the national chairman of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson. I will post his remarks as soon as the video is available. He was eloquent and spoke without a note. He talked about the systemic racism that has harmed African American children and teachers for many generations; about promises made and broken; and about the importance of making the child the center of all education. He was brilliant in recounting the history of legal efforts to establish rights for black children and about efforts to sabotage those rights. He gave us all a lesson in legal history. He stayed to answer every question. The leaders of the NAACP in Indiana and Indianapolis expressed their great concern about the Mind Trust and its plans to privatize the public schools of Indianapolis. The session–and conference–ended with yet another standing ovation.

It was a wonderful conference, well organized, well attended, filled with energy. As soon as videos are prepared for the sessions that were live-streamed, I will post them here.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am to be a part of this inspiring organization, how happy I am that Carol Burris is the executive director, how grateful I am to the other members of the board, and to the many volunteers that made it work. NPE can’t match the dollars of the billionaires, but we far exceed them in numbers, passion, dedication, and conviction. NPE expects to support grassroots organizations in every state for many years to come. We expect to work with them in making our schools better and more responsive to the needs of our children.

The next conference will be better still!