Archives for category: Networkfor Public Education Action Fund

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a time to reflect what we are grateful for.

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for life. Last year, I had open heart surgery, and for the first five days after surgery, my life hung in the balance. Yet here I am, reading, writing, thinking, alive.

I am grateful for my dear family: My wife, Mary. My children, my grandchildren. I am blessed to be with and near people I love who love me.

I am grateful to live in America. Despite all the challenges our country faces, it’s still a wonderful place to live, where communities come together in bad times, and strangers act to help others.

I am grateful to live in a country where I can speak and write what I wish without fear of punishment.

I am grateful for the rise of a young generation whose idealism and vision will change our country for the better.

I am grateful for the dear friends at the Network for Public Education, whose advocacy and passion on behalf of democracy, public schools, their teachers and their teachers inspires me every day.

I am grateful for the educators who put students first, who work tirelessly for one of the nation’s most important and vital institutions.

I am grateful for the readers of this blog, many of whom have become good friends, without our having met in person. I am grateful too for what I learn every day from you.

If you have read this far, I want you to know that I don’t intend to post much this weekend. Maybe nothing at all.

When the Network for Public Education met in Philadelphia April 30-May 1, I was surprised and delighted to encounter David Berliner. He had never attended one of our conferences, and he flew from the West Coast to do so. David Berliner is the most eminent education researcher in the United States, a giant in his field. He is now retired but continues to write and contribute to education studies and debates. His most recent book, which he edited with Carl Hermanns, is Public Education: Defending a Cornerstone of American Democracy. It contains 29 essays about the importance of public education, written by well-known scholars and educators.

I recently received this note from Dr. Berliner about his reaction to the NPE conference.

Dear Diane,

It was so nice to see you and Carol Burris at the annual meeting of our Network for Public Education. I know how hard you and others worked to make it a success. I write to tell you and Carol that it was exactly that for me.

As I think you know, I live pretty much by myself since my wife’s illness necessitated a move from Tempe to Oakland. Thus, I no longer have the same support group that I had in Arizona. Reading your posts, and NPE articles, is certainly edifying. Both sources of information do inform me, but they do more than that. They also signal me that there are many others who share our beliefs in the necessity for, and importance of, a successful system of public education.

My attendance at the recent annual meeting of NPE, in Philadelphia, was so very affirming of our common values. It reminded me that others with similar beliefs exist and are doing important work. I got to meet some of the published heroes of mine, whose work I often read, and with whom I share common purpose. But I also got to meet heroes I had not known about before. These folks often work at the local level, doing the hard work of keeping public schools public, decently funded, and building programs that improve the outcomes for America’s most impoverished youth. They do the hardest work, I think, and I was so happy to listen to them and know that we have so many like-minded folks on the ground, at the local level.

Everyone I met at the meetings I thought of as heroes trying their best to stop the onslaught of the privateers and our slide into plutocracy. I thought everyone I met believed, as I do, in words written by the late Paul Wellstone. I keep Wellstone’s words nearby to me when I work, as a reminder of what should be reflected in my own work. He said: “That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy. Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children, including poor children, is a national disgrace. It is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination, that we do not see that meeting the most basic needs of so many of our children condemns them to lives and futures of frustration, chronic underachievement, poverty, crime and violence. It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose, allied with one another in a common enterprise, tied to one another by a common bond.”

At the recent NPE meetings I witnessed participants called to common purpose, allied to each other in a common enterprise: To support and enhance America’s systems of public education. We shared our common bond. It was so satisfying to be there. I already look forward to attending again next year.

David C. Berliner

Regents’ Professor Emeritus,

Arizona State University

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, is now a significant chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement. He attended the recent national conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia and recapitulates the excitement we shared at being in person after a 2-year hiatus.

After every conference, attendees say, “This was the best one yet.” They enjoy meeting people who are doing the same work to fight privatization of their public schools. By the end of the conference, attendees say they feel energized, hopeful, and happy to know that they are not alone.

I urge you to read Tom’s post. You will get a sense of the embarrassment of riches available to attendees.

I should add that the Nebraska Save Our Schools group shared the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. Nebraska is one of the few states that has managed to protect its public schools and keep out both charters and vouchers, despite being a Red State.

The Pastors for Texas Children, a co-winner of the award, has repeatedly blocked vouchers in the Texas Legislature and has consistently fought for funding for public schools. PTC has opened chapters in other Red states, where they mobilize clergy to support public schools.

A high point for me was interviewing “Little Stevie” Van Zandt, a legendary rock star and actor (“The Sopranos”), who is dedicated to getting the arts into schools, not as an extra, but across the curriculum. we had a wonderful conversation. He has funded lesson plans based on rock and roll, available free at his website TeachRock.

All of the general sessions were taped. I will post them when they become available.

Please consider registering for the long-delayed annual conference of the Network for Public Education, April 30-May 1 in Philadelphia.

The speakers and panels will be outstanding. You will meet your favorite bloggers and supports of public schools.

Join us!

Due to the the Omicron surge of COVID, the Network for Public Education and NPE Action has again rescheduled our in-person conference. It will now be April 30-May 1.

Still in Philadelphia. Still a star-studded roster of parents, educators, and friends of public schools.

Certainties: Great speakers. Terrific panels. Ample time to discuss your concerns. Wonderful opportunity to meet your favorite bloggers. Guaranteed: excitement about joining with old and new friends to learn from one another and to plan for the future.

Please register now. All the details are here.

The Network for Public Education will host its annual conference in Philadelphia on March 19-20. The conference has been repeatedly delayed by COVID. We now feel confident that we can meet safely in person. Please join us!

Carol Burris writes:

We have reopened registration for our conference to be held in Philadelphia on March 19 and 20. We believe that when the current Omicron surge subsides, we will enjoy a safe and healthy conference. We appreciate that so many of you have remained registered these past two years.

If you previously registered for the conference, and never asked for a refund, there is no need to register again.

However, you must register for your hotel room. You can do that here. These are discounted rooms and they will go quickly.

If you have not registered, or, canceled your registration, you can register here.

Because we need to preorder food, which is a large part of the registration cost, no refunds will be issued after February 21.

In order to attend, you must be fully vaccinated. That is a requirement of both the hotel and the Network for Public Education. At this point, there is also a mask mandate in place (surgical or KN95 please).

It has been a difficult and long haul for all of us. Hopefully, we are nearing the pandemic’s end. We can’t wait to see you again! Let’s draw strength from each other this March.

New Board Members Welcomed by NPE and NPE Action

President Diane Ravitch is happy to announce that Cassandra Ulbrich and Keith Benson have joined the Network for Public Education Board while Gloria Evans Nolan joined the NPE Action Board.

You can read about these three accomplished public education advocates below. Last month we announced the addition of Georgina Cecilia Pérezto the NPE Board. We thank retiring Board members Denisha Jones, Susan Ochshorn, and Roxanazww as Marachi for their service.

Casandra E. Ulbrich, Ph.D.was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2014 to serve a second eight-year term expiring January 1, 2023. She serves as the President of the Board.

Casandra has spent the majority of her career in higher education administration, currently serving as the Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Prior to joining UM-Dearborn, Casandra was the Vice President for College Advancement and Community Relations at Macomb Community College for eight years, where she oversaw the college’s marketing and communications, public relations, cultural affairs, and foundation, as well as serving as the College’s Title IX Coordinator. Casandra began her career as a Press Secretary to the former U.S. House Democratic Whip David Bonior, acting as the official spokesperson for the Congressman.

Dr. Keith E. Benson is the author of Education Reform and Gentrification in the Age of #CamdenRising: Public Education and Urban Redevelopment in Camden, NJ (2019) and is currently the President of the Camden Education Association. A dedicated community and public education advocate, Keith taught in Camden City public schools for fourteen years prior to being elected to the Association’s presidency. Keith is also an adjunct professor at Rutgers University-Camden.

Gloria Evans Nolan has joined the NPE Action Board.

Grounded in her experience as a St. Louis Public School graduate and parent, Gloria is now serving as Interim Parent Liaison in the St. Louis Public School district. She has over 17 years of experience working in non-profits and fostering excellence in the lives of young people through her work supporting mentoring teams, managing school partnerships, and developing volunteers and caregivers.

Nolan holds a Masters’s Degree in college student personnel administration and a Bachelor of Science in therapeutic recreation. Gloria is a fierce advocate, championing equity and transformational policy change in true public education. Gloria draws her inspiration from being a devoted wife of Kevin Nolan (also known as Cocoa Santa) and the mother of Dylan & Evan.

There is no doubt that the privatizers will continue their fight to destroy public education in 2022. We already see voucher bills introduced and we are watching for charter expansion legislation as well. You can be assured that we will keep on fighting for our democratically governed public schools, the pillar of our democracy. Happy New Year and we hope to see you in March!!

Thanks for all you do,

Executive Director

The Network for Public Education is a 501 (c)(3) organization. You can make a tax deductible donation here.

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Dear Friends,

NPE wishes you happy holidays and Merry Christmas! Open the link to learn about our plans for 2022.

Join us in our work of supporting, defending, and improving our nation’s public schools. Join the 350,000 devotees of public schools who are part of NPE. Help us to fight budget cuts and privatization of our most valuable public assets. Help us defeat the billionaires and grifters who want to grab the funding of public schools and devote it to charters and vouchers. Stand with us as we press for reduced class sizes and the misuse of tests and technology.

2021 has brought both good and bad news for our public schools.

Schools were able to open, and although COVID is surging and difficult to manage, our students are in class with the teachers they love. We thank all of our educators for their heroic efforts during such difficult times.

The bad news is that a new war on public schools has begun. Public schools and teachers became a target after the 2008 recession; sadly, it is happening again. Post-2008 brought teacher evaluations by test scores, Common Core testing, and a push for charter schools. This time we face book-banning, anti-CRT laws, and more charter schools and vouchers.

Here is a quote from The New York Times:

Chris Rufo, the right-wing intellectual entrepreneur behind the anti-critical race theory campaign, told me last month that the next phase of his offensive will be a push for school choice, including private school vouchers, charter schools, and home-schooling. “The public schools are waging war against American children and American families,” he said, so families should have “a fundamental right to exit.”

The Network for Public Education will defend our communities’ right to have well-funded, neighborhood schools open to all students and governed by the public. We believe in the ultimate goodness of our communities, even when times are dark. Public education is a pillar of our democracy; privatized “choice” is its wrecking ball. We must fight it in all of its forms.

Won’t you help us keep the lights on and continue the fight? Please give generously.

On behalf of NPE,

Diane Ravitch, President

Carol Burris, Executive Director

Darcie Cimarusti, Communications Director

Marla Kilfoyle, Grassroots Coordinator

I’ll be sending you occasional notices to remind you that the end of the pandemic means the return of the annual conference of the Network for Public Education. This will be your opportunity to make connections with friends and allies fighting for public schools across the nation. Join us!

Our Network for Public Education Action conference will be an in-person conference on October 23 and 24 in Philadelphia.It will be terrific. So much has happened in the world since the 2020 conference was canceled due to Covid-19.

We will have wonderful keynote speakers including Little Steven, Jitu Brown, and Noliwe Rooks.

We will have panels that include stopping school privatization, lifting up community schools, creating inclusive schools free of systemic racism and valuing democracy in schools. That is just a sample. The full schedule will emerge soon.

Best of all, we will be together in a beautiful hotel in the City of Brotherly Love.

The conference theme is Neighborhood Schools: The Heart of our Community. As we emerge from a year of isolation, that theme is more important than ever.

If you registered for the 2020 conference and did not request a refund, you are registered for the conference but be sure to register for the hotel.

The discounted rooms are going fast.
If you did not register for the 2020 conference, don’t wait. We have only about 50 spots left.
We need each other and NPE needs all of us to adovocate for public education.

See you in October!

Marla Kilfoyle, director of the Network for Public Education’s Grassroots Network, summarizes the work of the 160 or so organizations across the nation in 2020, that used their energies to promote, defend, and improve public schools.

Marla begins like this:

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 160 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign on. If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network, please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison, at

Notes from Marla

Needless to say, 2020 was a very difficult year.  Despite the many hardships that individuals and organizations in the network have faced, we continued to rise up to help others.  As you read the year-end roundup, you will see organizations and individuals ravaged by the impact of COVID and social injustice continue to organize with impact. The NPE Grassroots Education Network 2020 roundup is a testament to a small sample of work that has had a lasting impact on our nation. The 2020 roundup is organized into regions. I know that  2021 will be a year of continued solidarity and respect for the work we each do every single day.  

National Front

The Network for Public Education was very busy this year. In August of 2020, NPE published Broken Promises: An Analysis of Charter School Closures From 1999-2017.  Thereport provides the first comprehensive examination of charter failure rates over time—beginning in 1999 and ending in 2017. By following all charter schools from the year they opened, we were able to determine how long they lasted before closing down. We also determined how many students have been displaced by failing charter schools and where those closures are most likely to occur. In November 2020, NPE exposed that charter schools took between $1-2 Billion in PPP COVID funds meant for small business owners. To read that report, go here. Mark your calendar for the new date for the NPE/NPE Action National Conference. Due to the ongoing dangers posed by COVID-19, the National Conference has been rescheduled to October 23/24, 2021. The conference will still take place at the same location, the Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia. NPE  will be sending more information to registrants shortly. Know that your conference registration is secure, as is NPE’s commitment to speakers and panels.  FairTest launched a petition in late 2020 to call for the federal government and states to suspend high-stakes standardized testing in spring 2021.  Please make sure you sign and share the petition. Bob Schaeffer, interim Executive Director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, sent a great update on what Fair Test is working on. “In part due to COVID school closings, 2020 was a surprisingly good year for the testing reform movement.  By the numbers: Colleges and universities with ACT/SAT optional policies for fall 2020 applicants were at 1,070.  In 2021 colleges and universities with ACT/SAT optional policies increased to 1,685. States waiving federal standardized testing requirements in spring 2019 was at 0. In 2020 that number increased to 50. Jurisdictions requiring seniors to pass high-stakes exit exams to graduate in spring 2019 was at 13. Jurisdictions requiring seniors to pass high-stakes exit exams to graduate in spring 2020 fell to 0. Pages viewed by visitors to in the calendar year 2019 was at 995,000, and by 2020 that number increased to 1,637,000.” Defending the Early Years has had a successful year of working toward and accomplishing their mission by providing resources for parents and teachers of young children, advocating for appropriate early childhood education, and fighting for the rights and needs of young children. Here are their 2020 accomplishments…by the numbers! Published one COVID-19 resource to help parents and teachers in the early days of the pandemic, published two comprehensive reports, produced three videos, broadcasted three webinars, announced seven policy priorities, awarded thirteen mini-grants, wrote eighteen op-eds, articles, and blogs, had sixty-two advocates sign up for DEY’s Working Groups, had five hundred and fifty-nine parents and teachers participate in their DEY survey, one thousand twenty-one people registered for the DEY Summer Institute, reported over four thousand subscribed to their DEY  monthly newsletter, and have over ten thousand followers on social media. In the Public Interest is a research and policy organization that studies public goods and services.  They have published so many powerful newsletters that the list would be enormous.  Please head over to their website to see all that they did in 2020.  The Journey for Justice Alliance’s powerful Equity or Else campaign highlighted the demand that schools are opened safely and equitably. Schott Foundation and Journey for Justice Alliance were two organizations that co-hosted the Democratic Presidential Candidates in a Public Education Forum in December of 2019. Rethinking Schools book Rethinking Ethnic Studies was named 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year. Here is a list of some of the other outstanding 2019/2020 accomplishments.  Rethinking Schools made effective and powerful use of their important book Teaching for Black Lives by hosting webinars for thousands of educators, parents, and community activists to enhance anti-racist teaching. They expanded The New Teacher Book webinar into a series of bi-weekly workshops to apply the book’s themes to teaching in the pandemic and to build ties with one another. They also produced new teaching guides to give educators practical, hands-on strategies for bringing social justice teaching to life. They published Teacher Unions and Social Justice, an anthology of more than 60 articles documenting the history and the how-tos of social justice unionism. Together, they describe the growing movement to forge multiracial community alliances to defend and transform public education. Rethinking Schools also redesigned and strengthened their digital infrastructure to bring social justice teaching stories to the fingertips of thousands of more educators to better serve their readers. They expand their focus on climate justice education work through their Teach Climate Justice campaign with the Zinn Education Project, and regular articles in the magazine. Finally, they published four issues of Rethinking Schools magazine — including an expanded “Teaching and Learning in the Pandemic” issue — and launched a new feature in the magazine of contributions from a diverse selection of education activists.

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed legislation to take money away from Ohio public schools and divert it to privately managed schools, vouchers for religious schools, charter schools, and home schooling. She is following in the footsteps of Betsy DeVos, who spent four years trying to eradicate public schools.

If you live in Iowa, contact your legislator and Governor Reynolds! Speak up for your public schools! Resist the privatization of public funds!

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds proposed SSB 1065, (now known as SF 159) which is being fast-tracked through the state Senate.  The vote may be today. This “school choice” bill would:

  • Provide up to $5,200 per student in “state scholarships” for parents to use for private school tuition or homeschooling expenses. 
  • Greatly expand charter schools in the state by allowing applicants to start a charter school by going straight to the state board, bypassing the school district.  No longer would districts be the only decider for charter schools. 

If you love your public schools, you need to drop what you are doing and get to work!

1. Call your state senators NOW and ask them to support public schools by OPPOSING Senate File 159, SSB 1065. Or say, “I oppose the school choice voucher/charter bill.” You can find your Senator and their phone number by going here. Click on their name for their phone number.

2Click here and send an email in opposition to SSB 1065/SF 159  NOW.

3. Share this link with friends and family who live in the state

Don’t wait. Act now. 

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Network for Public Education