Archives for category: Privatization

In the race for governor of Virginia, Republicans have focused their campaign on hot-button issues like banning “critical race theory” from the schools, opposing mask mandates, and taking a stand against tiny numbers of transgender students. Republicans have also argued that parents should be able to determine what teachers are allowed to teach and to ban books that they don’t like. And of course, they support school choice. In short, the Republican candidate has decided to base his campaign on “culture war” issues, offering no proposals to improve the schools.

In contrast, the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has promised to raise teachers’ salaries, expand pre-K, and protect students from the virus. He has also taken a stand against parents dictating what should be taught, instead leaving those decisions to teachers. In these times, he has shown that principle and courage are possible when running for high political office, which is why he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education Action. We will learn on November 2 whether principle and courage can beat rank opportunism.

Lisa Lerer wrote in the New York Times about how unusual it is to have a statewide race centered on education. .

WINCHESTER, Va. — …From fights over evolution to desegregation to prayer, education battles have been a staple of the country’s divisive cultural issues for decades. But not quite like this.

After months of closed classrooms and lost learning time, Republicans in Virginia are making the schools the focus of their final push to capture the governor’s office, hoping to rally conservatives around both their frustrations over mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations and their fears of what their children are being taught.

Vocal groups of parents, some led by Republican activists, are organizing against school curriculums, opposing public-health measures and calling for recalls of school board members. And Mr. Youngkin, a former private equity executive, has capitalized, seizing on conservatives’ concerns about instruction on race and the rights of transgender children to argue that Democrats want to come between parents and their children’s education.

Mr. Youngkin’s attacks have forced Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic former governor trying to win back his old job, onto the defensive, and have thrust the ordinarily local issues surrounding schools into the middle of a rancorous nationwide shouting match.

The Virginia race offers an early electoral test of that conservative energy.

A victory by Mr. Youngkin would mark the first statewide win for Republicans in a dozen years and likely trigger a political panic within the Democratic Party about its prospects in next year’s midterm elections. Some Republican officials and strategists liken the surge of activism to the Tea Party, the anti-government movement that helped them win control of the House in 2010 and unleashed a revival of outrage politics that would define their party for the next decade.

“There’s just so much focus on the schools, and it’s visceral,” said John Whitbeck, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia from Loudoun County, where acrimonious school board meetings have led to arrests, death threats and constant airtime on conservative media. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m against the debt ceiling.’ This is like, ‘You’re destroying our children’s education.’ And, look, angry people vote.”

Polling in recent weeks has shown a tight race, with Democrats less enthusiastic than Republicans about voting. Mr. McAuliffe, who was barred from seeking re-election in 2017 by Virginia law, is faring worse in the fast-growing, voter-rich Northern Virginia suburbs than Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, did when he won four years ago, according to some surveys.

Mr. Youngkin’s focus on schools may not resonate as strongly with the broader electorate.

Measures such as mask and vaccine mandates are cutting differently in the governor’s race in more liberal New Jersey and are overwhelmingly popular among Virginia’s independents and Democrats. Critical race theory — an advanced academic concept generally not introduced until college — is not part of classroom teaching in Virginia and many voters say they do not know enough about it to have an opinion.

And turning schools into a cultural war zone by railing against equity initiatives, books with sexual content and public health measures avoids tackling issues like budget cuts and the other thornier problems facing American education.

But in an off-year election, when both sides anticipate a sharp falloff in voting, victory may hinge on which candidate can best motivate their base. Mr. Youngkin and his strategists believe that in the fights roiling schools they have discovered the rare issue that can galvanize their voters, even in places that are shifting the state to the left.

Frustration with education is an issue that unites Republicans, energizing moderates eager to ensure their children remain in school as well as conservatives who see a liberal plot to indoctrinate their children with the belief that white people are inherently racist.

“The former governor is saying, ‘Hey I’ll decide how to teach your kids, not you’ — that’s really the issue driving this,” said John Fredericks, who led Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign last year. “Glenn Youngkin is the candidate that’s been able to straddle both sides of the party. And so far he’s given us just enough where we can enthusiastically vote for the guy.”

Republicans have centered much of their closing argument around a statement by Mr. McAuliffe in last month’s debate.

The comment came after Mr. Youngkin attacked Mr. McAuliffe over his 2017 veto of a bill permitting parents to opt out of allowing their children to study material deemed sexually explicit. The dispute was prompted by a mother who objected to her son, a high school senior, reading literary classics including Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”

Mr. McAuliffe shot back that he did not believe “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” In the weeks since, he’s stood by those remarks, saying that the state Board of Education and local school boards should determine what is taught in the classroom.

But Mr. Youngkin and Republicans, stripping the quotation from its context, have turned the footage into the core of their argument that Mr. McAuliffe would side with government over parents.

Video of the remark was featured in a flurry of digital ads and a statewide television commercial accusing Mr. McAuliffe of going “on the attack against parents.” Mr. Youngkin’s team began scheduling “Parents Matter” rallies in exurban counties, as they actively courted parent activist groups.

And Mr. Youngkin has also voiced support for Byron Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher in Loudoun County. Mr. Cross was suspended after announcing at a school board meeting that he would not address transgender students by their preferred pronouns because of his Christian faith.

At a campaign rally last week in Winchester, a small town in the Shenandoah Valley in one of the fast-growing exurb counties around Washington, Mr. Youngkin made little mention of Mr. Trump, vaccines or the coronavirus. Instead, he repeatedly invoked issues around schools as top priorities.

He drew some of the loudest applause from the overwhelmingly white audience when he promised to ban critical race theory on his first day in office and vowed that schools would never be closed again.

“This is what big government means for Terry McAuliffe. He not only wants to stand between you and your children. He wants to make government a tool to silence us,” Mr. Youngkin told the crowd of nearly 200 people at a farm stand. “This is no longer a campaign. This is a movement. It’s a movement led by parents.”

Mr. McAuliffe has dismissed the outrage surrounding critical race theory as “racist” and “a dog whistle.” He supports mask and vaccine mandates for students, teachers and school staff. (Mr. Youngkin says he encourages Virginians to get vaccinated against the coronavirus but does not support mandates.)

But there are signs that Democrats sense danger.

Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign has returned to highlighting his education proposals to undercut any argument that Mr. Youngkin could be stronger on the issue, promising to invest $2 billion in education, raise teacher pay, expand pre-K programs and invest in broadband access for students. On Friday, Mr. McAuliffe released an ad saying that Mr. Youngkin would cut billions of dollars in education funding and bring “Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s education policies to Virginia.”

The parent organizations in Virginia say they are nonpartisan and more focused on school board elections than national politics. But many are led by Republican activists, raise funds from Republican Party donors and are helped by conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, which has held briefings to discuss model legislation to block critical race theory. Last month, the Republican National Committee ran ads attacking “fascist mask mandates” and highlighting video clips of angry parents yelling at school board members.

On September 22, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools put out a press release boasting of unprecedented enrollment growth during the pandemic. The report asserted that charter school enrollment increased during the pandemic in at least 39 states, with a 7 percent overall increase. The charter lobby said that this growth “is likely” to be “the largest rate of increase in student enrollment increase in half a decade,” as charter schools added nearly a quarter million students.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, conducted a state-by-state analysis of their claim and discovered that it was a half-truth at best. Maybe a quarter truth. Maybe less.

What she discovered was that most of the enrollment gains occurred at the worst-performing segment of the charter industry: virtual charter schools. Many brick-and-mortar charter schools actually lost enrollment.

Writing on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post, Burris documented the hollowness of the charter lobby claim.

She began:

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has been broadcasting a 7 percent surge in charter school enrollment during the 2020-2021 pandemic school year. Parents are “voting with their feet,” according to its new report, preferring charters to their local public schools. What the authors of the report avoid telling readers is that much of the increase — and likely most of it — was in virtual charter schools, the worst-performing in the charter sector. This occurred even at the expense of brick-and-mortar charters.

The report says this:

“Although a school-level analysis was not conducted as a part of this paper, in some states (e.g., Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Utah), charter school enrollment increases were primarily driven by enrollment in virtual charter schools. This explains some but not all of the enrollment increases experienced by the charter school sector nationwide last year.

What exactly does “primarily” mean? How bad is the problem? To find out, the Network for Public Education did a school-by-school analysis of virtual charter growth in the states with the largest proportional enrollment increases.

We began with the three mentioned states. In Oklahoma, the virtual charter-school sector more than doubled enrollment. Ninety-seven percent of the more than 35,000 new students in charters enrolled in virtual schools — most in the for-profit EPIC, which has been repeatedly under investigation for misreporting costs to state officials, improper financial transfers and more.

In Pennsylvania, 99.7 percent of the charter enrollment growth occurred in virtual charter schools. Enrollment in the Commonwealth’s traditional brick-and-mortar charter schools increased by a mere 78 students.

Cyber charters accounted for over 131 percent of the growth in Utah, with enrollment in traditional charters declining.

We expanded our analysis to see if this trend occurred in other states. We began with Michigan, a state whose auditor general had recently released an audit finding that cyber charters could not document participation in at least a single course in more than half of the inspected student records.
The enrollment surge in that state’s cyber charters accounted for 237 percent of the increase. Cyber charters enrollment increased by 5,071 students, while traditional charter enrollment dropped by nearly 3,000.

We then looked at Arizona, a state where families have been bombarded with cyber charter ads and billboards. Over 94 percent of the charter enrollment growth in that state was in the cyber charter sector.

Burris then includes a graph of every state that experienced at least a 10% increase in charter enrollments; there were 13. The graph shows how many students switched to online charters and how many to brick-and-mortar charters. In sum, 95.5% of the enrollment growth was virtual charters. Some brick-and-mortar charters lost enrollments.

Why does this matter? The virtual charter schools have a record of low academic achievement, high attrition, and low graduation rates. In addition, the sector has experienced massive scandals, like the A3 chain in California, whose founders pleaded guilty to phantom enrollments and are repaying the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Like ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) in Ohio, which collected $1 billion over 20 years, gave generously to politicians, then declared bankruptcy rather than comply with a court order to repay $67 million to the state for padded enrollments.

Seeing this increase in schools with abysmal performance is cause for alarm. A study of virtual schools by CREDO in 2015 concluded that students who attend these schools lose ground. While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

Students may have”voted with their feet” to enroll in virtual schools during the pandemic, but we have to wait for the evidence to find out if they stayed or returned to public schools. If they decide to stay in virtual schools, we should be alarmed.

Jeremy Mohler of the nonpartisan, anti-privatization organization called “In the Public Interest,” opposes ridiculing anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. He thinks that those who support science should try to dispel their suspicion of government. Do we want to turn vital public services—like police, firefighters, the military, national parks, beaches, highways, protection of the air and water, and many other public services—to private entities? Ask them if they plan to refuse Social Security and Medicare.

Watch The Daily Show interview he refers to. It is horrifying.

Mohler writes:

You have to watch this Daily Show clip of anti-maskers at a school board meeting in North Carolina (despite the host, Jordan Klepper, self-righteously making fun of them, which doesn’t sit right with me).

It’s like an anthropological study of tactics that right-wing leaders use to divide us so that the wealthy few can maintain and expand their political and economic power.

“I’m against all mandates, whether it’s masks or vaccinations. I’m against it all,” said one protestor.

“[We’re here to] save the kids from all that’s going on with Critical Race Theory,” said another.

What really stood out was a phrase printed on t-shirts and written on protests signs throughout the clip: “I don’t co-parent with the government.” By which, I guess, protestors meant that democratically elected school boards shouldn’t be deciding how to make public schools safe for students and teachers.

This isn’t surprising. For decades, attacking government—perhaps more than any other idea or issue—has united right-wing forces, from white supremacists to the religious right. As political historian Nancy MacLean documents in her book Democracy in Chains, “The idea [is] to get voters to direct their ire at [public] institutions and divert their attention away from increasing income and wealth inequality.

Journalist Jeff Bryant nailed it when he tweeted, “The confluence of anti-masking with efforts to rid schools of teaching the truth about structural racism is where American libertarianism meets white supremacy.”

This is why we need to be loud and clear that public problems—inequity in public education, climate change, Covid-19—require public solutions.

We must defend our public institutions, make them more democratic, make sure they’re adequately funded, and wholeheartedly articulate the value of public things. (BTW, you can sign up for our Executive Director Donald Cohen’s new email newsletter—called Public Things—here.)

To be sure, it’s not that everything the government does is automatically great. I hate getting parking tickets. I get angry every time I go to the DMV. I’ve been waiting for a city-issued trash can for more than a year now.

But the answer isn’t to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy few even more. Or get rid of the DMV. Or privatize the sanitation department. Or—in the case of public schools—hand them over to privately managed, unaccountable charter school management organizations.

It’s to defend, fund, and improve the public institutions we rely on every day. And it’s to call out the obvious attempts by right-wing leaders to divide us against each other.

Nora de la Cour is a high school teacher and writer. This article about the sham of for-profit remote instruction appeared in Jacobin. Study after study has demonstrated the poor results of virtual instruction, but the research does not deter the greedy entrepreneurs who see the profit in virtual charter schools. You may recall the recent press release from the National Alliance for Charter Schools about how charter schools increased enrollment by 250,000 during the pandemic; what the press release didn’t admit was that the “increase” was due entirely to growth in virtual charter enrollments, which may turn out to be a temporary response to the pandemic.

De la Cour sees the push for for-profit remote learning as another front in the privatization movement.

She begins:

In spring of 2020, we saw signs that billionaires and neoliberal politicians were looking to use the COVID-19 lockdown to finally eliminate one of the last remaining venues where Americans convene in the practice of democratic self-governance: the brick-and-mortar schoolhouse.

Plutocrat-funded techno-optimists giddily suggested we use the temporary requirement of virtual learning to test-drive modelsthat give families more “flexibility” and “freedom.” Then-governor Andrew Cuomo formed a partnership between New York state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore a post-pandemic future without “all these physical classrooms.” Betsy DeVos announced $180 million in grants for states to “rethink” K–12 learning, and her cohort of privatization pushers began licking their chops.

Advocates of public education were rightly horrified, recognizing that this would amount to a further hollowing out of one of our last remaining public goods. Fortunately, a combination of factors turned the discourse emphatically back in favor of preserving in-person K–12 learning as the American standard — for now.

The nearly universal problems with remote instruction last year made it politically impossible for the privatization crew to continue arguing that e-learning is the glittery new frontier of educational progress. In fact, survey data shows that a majority of parents disapprove of any kind of change to traditional schooling. This is despite a relentless onslaught of rhetorical attacks on public schools — from the bipartisan vilification of teachers’ unions to right-wing attempts to use mask mandates and critical race theory to breed ill will among parents. The term “school choice” has apparently become so distasteful that school choice conservatives are looking to rebrand their body blows to public education as a “school freedom” and “parents’ rights” movement. They’re winning legislative battles in diverse states, but they’re losing the war for public opinion.

It’s widely accepted that in-person schools meet critical developmental needs and are necessary for most students. Nevertheless, the pandemic has swiftly accelerated the expansion of digital instruction. Public education advocates are now at a crossroads. We can either proactively define the relationship between remote and in-person schooling, or we can watch from the sidelines as private companies claim a monopoly over distance learning and use it to undermine public education.

Open the link and read the whole article.

Jeanne Dietsch, former state Senator in New Hampshire, reports here on the predicted cost of the state’s new voucher program.

Voucher Update
Costs at 60 times budget, so far!

Taxpayers are in for a surprise when the bill comes due for vouchers. Instead of the $140,000 budgeted for 2022, current projected spending is $6.9 million, with 800 more applications pending! Applications soared after Americans For Prosperity [the Charles Koch organization] sent out mailers andcanvassed door-to-door urging parents to apply. Many applicants are parents already paying for religious, home or private education who might apply for free money. The NH scholarship organization decided that it could not handle program administration. It subcontracted Florida firm Class Wallet to distribute and track the funds. Class Wallet will take the lion’s share of the 10%-off-the-top administration fee.

The organization called “UnKoch My Campus” does a great job of tracking and exposing the influence of billionaire Charles Koch in schools and higher education. Join with them in calling attention to Koch’s Dark Money:

Essential Information C/O UnKoch My Campus (EIN 52-1299631)

Each year in October, UnKoch My Campus coordinates a National Day of Action that focuses on building public awareness of the impact of the Koch network within institutions of education and our broader democracy. This year, we will take collective action and reach out to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, requesting that he address the issue of dark money in education, all the way from Kindergarten through college. Our K-12 and Critical Race Theory reports have shown us the role dark money’s influence has in destabilizing our democracy, advancing climate denial, and prioritizing private profits over people and our planet.

Join us October 28th and 29th! We want to make sure Secretary Cardona knows about the impact of the Koch network and how they are leveraging our institutions of education to spread climate disinformation and destabilize our democracy.

Click the link below and we’ll do the work for you. Simply enter your information and we’ll add your name and return address to the postcard. SIGN UP FOR A POSTCARD BEFORE OCTOBER 15th.

In Solidarity,

Jasmine Banks, Executive Director SEND A POSTCARD

I am posting this notice after the press conference described here, but the details are important nevertheless. A group called Oakland Not For Sale formed to fight privatization and just won a major settlement. For many years, the Oakland public schools have been a plaything for billionaire privatizers and a succession of Broadie superintendents.

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: September 23, 2021, 3:30 PM PT

CONTACT: Melissa Korber, 510-541-9669 or Amanda Cooper, 917-930-7552

Parents, Teachers, Atty Dan Siegel Announce Settlement with OUSD Over Police Brutality at 2019 School Board Meeting,

Plans to Donate Funds to Fight Public School Closures & Privatization

Parent and Teacher Members of Oakland Not For Sale (ONFS) Will Hold Press Conference With OUSD School Board Member Mike Hutchinson To Address Settlement, Donation Plans and Update in Kaiser School Fight

Oakland, CA — On Thursday, Sept. 23, at 3:30 pm PT, Oakland Not for Sale (ONFS) will host a press conference for parent and teacher plaintiffs and their attorney Dan Siegel to announce a six-figure legal settlement with the Oakland Unified School District as well as plans to donate toward the fight against school closures and public school-supporting Board candidates in the 2022 election. OUSD School Board Member Mike Hutchinson will also be present.

“We have reached a settlement of our dispute regarding the school board’s October 2019 meeting. We reached an agreement for a total amount of $337,500 in damages,” said Saru Jayaraman, plaintiff in the litigation Jayaraman v. OUSD. “We’re thrilled to be announcing not only this settlement with the District, but our ability to now give a six-figure donation to our fight to stop public school closures and support candidates who will fight the privatization of the Oakland Unified School District. We’re also thrilled that in the same moment, we can declare victory in that Kaiser Elementary, which we fought to keep public, will indeed remain a public facility — and we will build on these victories with resources to continue to fight all future public school closures.”

The settlement resolves litigation filed by the parents and teachers, many of whom are members of ONFS, over police brutality at an October 2019 school board meeting protesting the proposed closure of Kaiser Elementary School. At the press conference on Thursday, parents and teachers will announce that they plan to make a six-figure donation to continue the fight against further public school closures and privatization. They will also discuss their victory in keeping Kaiser Elementary a public facility.

“While it isn’t exactly what we would have hoped, we’re happy Kaiser is being used as a public facility for students and that we were able to resolve the litigation,” said Amy Haruyama, OUSD teacher who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, taught at Kaiser Elementary, and now teaches at Sankofa United Elementary School.

These actions come in the context of a long history of OUSD School Board decisions to close 17 public schools, mostly majority Black and brown schools, almost all of which have been replaced with charter schools. OUSD’s history of closing schools and allowing them to be replaced by charters has been driven by both the state of California, which retains trusteeship over OUSD, and by outside billionaire charter school advocates like Michael Bloomberg and Eli Broad.

ONFS was formed after the announcement that Kaiser Elementary School would become the latest in a long line of school closures that was intended for replacement by charter or private schools. After protracted peaceful public protest by parents, teachers, and students, and despite police brutality as a response to this protest, the School Board recently agreed to a public use for Kaiser Elementary. The school will house public early education .

Renee Sekel is a parent and public school advocate in North Carolina. She sends her children to public schools. She remembers when she naively believed that the state’s legislators supported public schools. Then the budget cuts started coming. Then charters. Then vouchers. Now, she says, public schools are in a race against time.

She wrote:

Four years ago, both Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina at least made a show of claiming to support public education, even as the legislature slashed budgets and passed one policy after another aimed at undermining public schools. What worries me today is how that rhetoric has shifted. Our Republican leaders now openly acknowledge that they are hostile to public education and would prefer to replace public schools with a voucher system. I know that the vast majority of North Carolinians from all across the political spectrum support public schools, but increasingly it feels like we’re in a race against time, trying to get citizens to understand that our schools are under attack. If it becomes orthodoxy in the GOP that public schools are anathema, and a critical mass is convinced that the schools their children attended−that they attended−should be destroyed, there is no going back.

Christopher A. Lizotte of the University of Washington and Dan Cohen published an interesting research paper about how market-driven policies have been promoted and sold. The paper was published in 2014-2015, and the trends described here have become more powerful, promoted by some of the wealthiest people in the nation. The title of the paper is “Teaching the Market: Fostering Consent to Education Markets in the United States.”

Abstract. Marked-based reforms in education have garnered the support of politicians, philanthropists, and academics, reworking the nature of public education in the United States. In this paper we explore the methods used to produce consent for market-based reforms of primary and secondary (K-12) schooling in the United States, focusing on two case studies to interrogate how this consent is generated as well as how these reforms are resisted in place. In doing so we illustrate how market-making in public services is a contested terrain and the importance of understanding the nature of their roll-out at the local level.

Here is a brief excerpt:

We understand this shift toward marketization in education and its recent acceleration as being situated within the broad neoliberal shift towards privatization and deregulation of formerly public goods that has taken place over the past thirty years. As in other sectors that have been subject to this treatment, this process has occurred not simply through the retreat of the state but through the deliberate repurposing of the state to reshape its institutions in the image of a market (Peck and Tickell, 2002); indeed, many of the reforms that have taken place within education are the result of explicit state policies to create market pressures within education (Lubienski, 2005): These policies include (to name a few): the imposition of standardized testing as a method through which schools can be ‘judged’ by the market, the threat of school closures for ‘failing’ schools, and the use of selective grants to reward schools and districts conforming most closely to principles of deregulation and privatization. Crucially, however, these marketization processes require careful priming in order to generate public consent for market-based reforms. In particular, the marketization of education is powerfully promoted through the notion of school ‘choice’. Presented as an apolitical and socially neutral mechanism for allowing parents to maximize their children’s educational opportunities, choice is endowed with a moral authority that obscures the power inherent in who can exercise the power to choose and the available range of choices. This choice, it is argued, finds its natural expression in the expansion of markets as a supposedly level playing field where the best-performing options rise to the top and those that fail are eventually discarded. Indeed, as Rose (1999) claims, choice, defined as the individual maximization of opportunities, has become the litmus test by which good membership in the polity is defined. In this light, the term, like those used to describe other market-making projects in public services, hides assumptions about what kinds of choice can be legitimately exercised and under what circumstances. The power to ‘choose’ as it is understood under contemporary capitalism is a highly individualized capacity that seeks to maximize one’s return on investment. Other alternative possibilities tend to fade out of view in the language of most market-based school reformers.

NPE ACTION’S NEW PROJECT TO BRING TALES FROM THE FRONTLINES OF PUBLIC SCHOOL ADVOCACY

Public schools remain incredibly popular among Americans across the political spectrum, even under the strains of a global pandemic and a divisive political culture being inflamed by opportunists seeking to push radical, unpopular agendas. Parents, students, volunteers, and communities who rely on and cherish their public schools deserve to be heard now more than ever. Public Voices for Public Schools, a community project of the Network for Public Education Action, launches today with tales from the frontlines of public school advocacy.

Unfortunately, public education in America has been under systematic attack for decades by an axis of right-wing political radicals, self-appointed reformers, opportunists, segregationists, and wealthy special interests, all working together to dismantle and privatize our treasured public schools. Their efforts have done lasting harm to students and their communities, and it is time those communities have a platform where their stories can be shared.

“After my two sons enrolled in a private school thanks to vouchers, I began to understand that school is about more than academics,” said Dountonia Batts, a former voucher parent. “As charter schools and vouchers expanded, the school system in Indianapolis was falling apart. All of the high schools in our neighborhood had been shut down, even as charter high schools were popping up. I realized I could no longer accept school vouchers for my children because it was unethical.”

People like Batts rarely get a chance to be heard, especially by policymakers who are often targeted for pressure by pro-privatization groups with access to campaign donations and full-time public relations machinery. That’s why Public Voices for Public Schools is so important, as it is a place to elevate the regular people in our community and help them have access to the tools to engage their elected representatives directly.

“Once I understood that our funders wanted us to help them burn down the entire public school system, I realized I had very different intentions than the school reform movement,” said Gloria Evans Nolan, a former Missouri education reformer. “I could see for myself the toll that education “reform” was having on my city. The result was that our sense of community was dropping away. We were also losing our history. Every school I attended is now closed.”

Public Voices for Public Schools will regularly bring you stories from parents like Batts and Nolan, students, academics researching the effects of privatization, along with many others. Visit us at pv4ps.org where you can join our shared community and always be kept up to date. You will learn what you can do to preserve a pillar of our democracy, our neighborhood public schools.
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