Archives for category: Resistance

FAIRTest and other assessment reform allies call on the new Biden administration to suspend high-stakes standardized testing this spring. Please add your name to their petition! Open the link to add your name to this petition.

To: U.S. Secretary of Education and state education policymakers 
From: [Your Name]

We call on the U.S. Department of Education to waive provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act that require states to administer standardized exams to students in the 2020-2021 academic year. We also call on the states to cancel their own additional testing mandates and to waive any consequences attached to their results, at least for the current school year.

Simply reducing testing stakes is not enough. It is critically important to suspend all government-mandated standardized exams so that educators, who know their students firsthand, may focus on teaching and learning, address students’ social and emotional well-being, and connect with families.

The use of standardized tests in public education has long raised concerns. Too often, these tests have supplanted teacher assessments of student performance; forced schools to focus on a narrow set of skills and subjects; limited opportunities for low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and penalized schools for test results without providing them with the support they need to succeed. Instead of being a good measure of teaching and learning, test scores have always correlated closely with students’ socioeconomic status.

In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, waiving standardized testing requirements is especially important right now. The time and resources required to test students this year would be better spent educating and supporting them. 

● The results won’t be valid, reliable, or useful. Teaching, learning, and testing conditions vary widely and continue to be in a state of flux. Since students will not have covered all the material the tests are supposed to measure, the results will not be comparable to results from other years or jurisdictions. We don’t need test scores to know that low-income children in poorly resourced schools have fallen even farther behind in a pandemic. In addition, more parents than usual are likely to opt their children out of taking the tests, further skewing the results.

● There are better ways to know how students from different backgrounds and learning needs fared during the pandemic. In addition to classroom-based assessments, sampling exams can provide data on trends in learning without distorting the curriculum or subjecting all students to standardized tests this year. Instead of more testing, we should be focusing on solutions that address poverty, racial inequities, and school funding disparities.

● Most parents oppose testing this spring. According to the Understanding America Study done by the University of Southern California, support for canceling the tests rose from 43 percent in mid-April to 64 percent in mid-October. The opposition is strong across all demographic groups but is especially high among Black parents, 72 percent of whom favor cancellation.

In a time of scarcity, funding must be used to support underserved and at-risk students, not enrich commercial test makers. It’s time to waive federal testing requirements and eliminate high stakes for state and local assessments.

Let’s seize this opportunity to provide better options for our students. 
Our children, their families, and their teachers deserve it.

Ken Rice was an elected member of the Oakland Unified School District from 1997-2000. That was before the billionaire disrupters decided to take control of Oakland and turn it into their own petri dish for “reform” (i.e., privatization). Rice wrote the following description of the recent school board election, in which grassroots organizations stood together and beat the candidates of the out-of-district/out-of-state billionaires. He is a member of Educators for Democratic Schools (EDS), an Oakland-based organization composed primarily of retired public school teachers, administrators and school board members. When Ken Rice ran for school board, his race cost $12,000. Due to the intrusion of big money, grassroots groups are always outspent and usually overwhelmed. But Rice explains here how Oakland parents and educators fought back and won.

He writes:

Apparently Money Isn’t Always Everything–$300,000 Beats $900,000 In The Oakland School Board Elections!

In nearly 20 years of privatization push into Oakland, this is the first time since 2003 that Oakland schools will be returned to local control by a school board that values and embraces authentic public education. Remaining hopeful for the future, and look forward to strengthening and improving Oakland’s schools.” ~ Diane Ravitch 

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the petri dish for school privatization for the past two decades, might have an answer.  I ran and was elected to the Oakland school board and served one term (1997-2000).  I raised $12,000.  My opponent raised about the same amount.  In those days the school board elections were neighborhood races funded by local supporters. There was no out of state money or PACs involved. 

That began to change about ten years ago:  huge donations from individuals and foundations began to pour into Oakland school board races.  The money was funneled through the California Charter School Association and GO (Great Oakland Public Schools), a pro-charter organization.  The money also came from Michael Bloomberg, the Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, Laurene Jobs (Steve Jobs’ widow), and several more.  The goal was to elect a pro-charter, Board of Education. Unsurprisingly, the pro-charter organizations were successful.  

The Oakland school board has approved about 65 charter school applications over the last twenty years–many of them in the last 12 years.   Of those charters, about twenty have closed their doors—in some cases during the academic year, causing great dislocation to families who had to find another school for their children mid-year.  OUSD now has 30% of its 50,000 students in charter schools—the highest percentage of students in charters of any school district in California. 

What is surprising is what happened in the 2020 election.  For the first time in memory no incumbents were running for any of the four of the seven school board seats up for election.  Thus, there was a possibility of greatly changing the make-up of the school board, whose majority has opted for policies of charter school approval, school closures and lack of responsiveness to the greater Oakland educational community.  This was an opportunity to flip the board . . . and flip it did!

The charter community recognized this opportunity, and poured almost $900,000 into electing their candidates for the four open seats! Yet when the votes were counted, three of their four candidates lost.

Trying to understand how and why this happened can provide an insight into the educational landscape of not only Oakland, but urban cities nationally.  While it might be early to know for certain why the charter candidates were defeated, we can make some educated guesses.

Strong Local Candidates

Two of the three candidates who won had deep Oakland roots.  Two had been teachers (one in Oakland, one in San Francisco) and the other had worked in Oakland’s after school programs.   Two had been community activists around school issues for years.  

Oakland elections are calculated by ranked choice voting (RCV).  When the RCV was tabulated, Sam Davis, the candidate in District 1 received 62% of the vote.  Sam built a stellar campaign focused around school communities. He held zoom meetings with each school community in his district hosted by a combination of parents and teachers who worked in those schools.  VanCedric Williams, in District 3, got 61%.  VanCedric, a public school teacher for almost twenty years, had strong support from the teacher’s union as well as other unions. Mike Hutchinson in District 5 got 56%.  Mike had run for the Board previously, networked with other education activists nationwide, and had built a reputation of challenging Board policies by going to Board meetings for years and reaching out on social media. 

Backing of the Teacher’s Union

Last year, teachers in Oakland led a successful strike. The union’s ability to drum up enthusiasm with their members was one contributor to that success.  Teachers recognized that if their future demands were to be met, they needed to have a responsive Board.  Specifically, the current Board was considering a plan that would close up to 24 schools in Oakland, mostly in Brown and Black communities.  At the same time, none of the 44 charter schools in Oakland were under threat of closure.  Teachers made the connection between a charter friendly board and school closures of the public schools and were determined to change the direction of the district’s “blueprint”.

Teachers phone banked, texted, walked to drop off literature, and held zoom meetings in support of the three candidates who won.  As Sam Davis noted, many voters tend to rely on their friends and neighbors who know something about the schools.  The friends and neighbors were telling each other to vote for the candidates they trusted.

Backing of Other Groups:  Building a Coalition

The three candidates were endorsed by the Democratic Party.  This wasn’t an accident.  Educational activists pushed the local democratic clubs to endorse candidates who would not be friendly to charters and wouldn’t owe their election to big money.  These clubs, in turn, pushed the local Democratic party.  In California the state Democratic party has taken a critical stance towards charter schools, and this was replicated locally.  Organizers noticed that as people walked to the polls on election day, many of them carried the Democratic Party door hanger with them. Some of these candidates were also endorsed by :

  • The Alameda Central Labor Council
  • SEIU 1021
  • State Assemblyperson Rob Bonta
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond
  • Network for Public Education

Also, other community organizations like Educators for Democratic Schools, Democratic Socialists of America, and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club helped to call, text, and walk precincts.

The Word is Out

You can fool some of the people all of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, or so Lincoln believed.  Over time, the general public has begun to understand that there is an attempt to buy their votes.  As I dropped off a flier at one home, a parent came to the door and asked, with hostility, “This isn’t the candidate who is getting all that money from Bloomberg, is it?”  Several media sources reported on money from Bloomberg ($500,000 from Bloomberg alone!) and others pouring into Oakland.  

After recovering from the astonishment that anyone would spend that kind of money for a school board election, voters became leery of candidates receiving those huge amounts of money.  In District 1 where I live–and the charter candidate received nearly $300,000!–I found glossy fliers in my mailboxes more times than I could keep track of.

It is profoundly disturbing and a huge threat to our democracy that this big money trend has filtered down to local school board races. The Oakland community fought back against the billionaires’ spending advantage, and when the new board is seated in January, it will have a clear pro-public school majority.  With appealing candidates and strong ground games, Oakland voters have shown that big money can be defeated. While Oakland will never go back to the days when a local neighborhood candidate spent only $12,000 to be elected, this recent victory over out of state billionaire bucks and their agenda sends a clear signal that our community will not be bought.

(Ken Rice is former OUSD board member, a member of Educators for Democratic Schools and currently has a daughter attending an OUSD school.) 

Thanks to the energetic leadership of Marla Kilfoyle, who is former executive director of the BATS, the Network for Public Education has developed a strong grassroots network. Here is her report:

The Network for Public Education 

Grassroots Education Network-November 2020 Newsletter

The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 155 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 marlakilfoyle@networkforpubliceducation.org

Notes from Marla

November saw us on the precipice of a historic election.  With the incoming Biden/Harris administration, we hope that we can finally get someone in the USDOE that stands strong for our public schools, our public schools students, and our public school parents. We need a USDOE secretary rooted in equity and a vision that will get our public schools what they need to serve all of our children and families.  With that being said, NPE and our amazing partners launched the Keep Your Promises this month. We congratulate President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, on their historic victory. We look forward to working with them as they fulfill their promised commitment to our nation’s public schools. The promises made during the campaign drew support from public education advocates across the nation. With those promises in mind, we listed the top five K-12 priorities that they should keep at the forefront as they govern. In order to this, we need Pro-Public education leadership in the Department of Education. Let’s make sure that Joe Biden chooses a public education advocate for the next Secretary of Education. We need a leader who rejects corporate reforms, high-stakes testing, and school privatization. It is time to rebuild our public schools. We are encouraging people to please send an email to the Biden team. You can use our letter or create your own.  We make it easy and fast using Action Network.  Go here to send your email today, and please share. 

National Organizing

Network for Public Education President Diane Ravitch and Executive Director Carol Burris wrote a powerful piece in the Washington Post about who education advocates want to see as the next Education Secretary.  NPE also hosted another Conversation with Diane episode this month.  Diane hosted Kevin Welner on November 12th.  They had a great conversation about his new book Potential Grizzlies: Making the Nonsense Bearable and much more. To view that conversation, go here. Defending the Early Years proudly announced that Kisha Reid has joined their advisory board. Kisha has been an early childhood education advocate for years.  She is the founder and director of the Maryland-based Discovery Early Learning Center. Listen to In the Public Interest’s executive director Donald Cohen on Feet to the Fire podcast with James Lardner. Donald spoke about the importance of building trust in public institutions as the new administration ramps up its plans. The Journey for Justice Alliance podcast On The Ground, hosted by Jitu Brown, airs every Monday at 6 PM CST. J4J also released powerful videos from their Town Hall last month. You can see them here, here, and here. Fairtest publishes a newsletter each week about the misuses and flaws of standardized testing. They are a valuable resource and clearinghouse for everything testing and test reform. Fairtest has published a list of test-optional universities and colleges.  Head over to their open Facebook page for updates and their weekly newsletter. Rethinking Schools released the very powerful Teach the Struggle for Voting Rights this month. It is a must-read and share. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy is a valuable resource for all that is student, parent, and educator privacy.  Check out their website for valuable toolkits on the topic. Parents for Public Schools published a fantastic new article on their blog this month. The article titled Family Involvement vs. Family Engagement: What’s the Difference? Is a must read and share. Parents Across America provides position papers and key documents on their website.  It is a great list to keep handy for advocacy work in your area. Congratulations to The Schott Foundation who received a $2.25 million grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation!  

The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) appears on The Rick Smith Show every Wednesday night.  Head over to this link to access show and date information. Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education (USA) has a public Facebook group that features information from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. about how communities are navigating the worldwide COVID crisis. The Ontario (Canada) Secondary School Teachers Federation released a statement on how the Ford government budget fails students, parents, education workers, and teachers. Wear Red for Ed has an active open Facebook page that tracks the Red for Ed movement nationwide. It is also tracking education issues that are surfacing due to the shutdown of our schools. Be sure to check out the Uniting to Save Our Schools (USOS) event tab on their website. This month they held a Zoom meeting on what it means to return safely to school. First Focus Campaign for Children wrote a letter this month to candidates and elected officials asking them to commit to kids. Kinderchat continues to host its popular Twitter chat every Monday night at 9 PM EST. The chats are informative and provide great resources for teaching kindergartners during school closures. Check them out on Twitter at #Kinderchat. Kinderchat also has a fantastic website full of resources. Instituto Nueva Escuela focused on their Montessori Public campaign this month. To learn more about this campaign, visit their Facebook page. Be sure to check out Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood blog Teach Over Tech. The blog features articles from educators, academics, parents, and students, Teach over Tech is a platform for sharing solutions to screen overuse in schools. Topics range from equitable access to high-quality learning, opting out of EdTech, outdoor teaching and learning, to parenting during distance learning, and more. Check it out here.  Equal Opportunity Schools shared and supported, the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color 2020 Fall and Winter series. This month they hosted a Virtual Gathering of Leaders: It’s Time to use Your Influence for the Liberation of School Spaces. Dr. Angela M. Ward led this interactive session on personal and collective decision making. When Public Schools Reopen has launched its new website!  Uniting for Children and Youth (Canada)  hosted a Child Friend Community Conference this month. We will have updates on that in our next newsletter. National Educators United signed onto the network this month. We are honored to do this work with them. To learn more about their work, check out their Twitter feed and their page on Instagram.  If you are an educator, please ask to join their closed Facebook group to help with organizing.  

NPE Grassroots Education Network – State Organizations Support  Public Education

Please use this clearinghouse of information to inform people in the various states about the NPE Grassroots Education Network organizations.  Please encourage people to join them and support their work! Call on family, friends, and colleagues to join the fight to save public education. This section is also a place to get great ideas on organizing and actions. 

Alabama

SOS (Support our Students) was excited to announce that Little Free Libraries would be installed outside every school in Birmingham’s District 2. They asked the public to please help them build the book selection.  

Arizona 

Voices for Education shared information on why Prop 208 was a lifeline for public schools in Arizona. Arizonans for Charter School Accountability update their website frequently about charter corruption across the nation and in Arizona. Save our Schools Arizona hosted a talk this month called Addressing Education & Health Disparities in Latinx & Native American Communities. We will post the archived video in our next newsletter. Arizona Educators United, along with all of the organizations in Arizona, celebrated the passage of Prop 208.  

California

California Educators United shares how labor is rising up to meet the challenges we face in our communities and schools.  Check out all the news on their open Facebook page.The Public Core program, Between Two Teachers, is informative. To view all their archived programs, go here. If you live in the Los Angeles area, or know anyone who does, encourage them to connect with The Association of RAZA Educators.  They hold organizing meetings each month. Check out Bay Area Collective Keeping Privatizers Away from Community Schools (BACKPACS) on Facebook to keep up with all their movements in fighting back the charter lobby in the Bay Area. 

Colorado

Pueblo Education Coalition co-hosted a police-free schools Zoom event late last month with the National Education Policy Center and the CU Research Hub. They have been compiling Pueblo specific data to help guide a discussion on moving toward police-free schools. 

Connecticut

Children Are More Than Test Scores share, and discuss, information about testing in a public Facebook group of 3500 members.  Head over there and join the conversation. 

Re:public Ed informs Connecticut residents about the state, local, and federal education policies that impact teaching and learning. New London Parent Advocates updates their open Facebook page weekly with all that is happening in the New London Public Schools.

Florida

Please go to Facebook and follow  Fund Education NOW, Florida BATs, and Broward BATs to keep up with all that is happening in Florida education. Be sure to give Pastors for Florida Children a follow on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all their actions and movements. Make sure to check in with the Florida Council of Churches Facebook event tab. They support, promote, and conduct powerful events in the state of Florida. Opt-Out Florida Network continues to fight the use of tests to rank and sort children, and schools. Pinellas Parents Advocating for School Improvements organizes on a private Facebook page. If you know of anyone in the Pinellas area, have them join to connect. Protect Our Public Schools, Manasota believes that free, quality public education is a right for all children and is necessary for the optimal functioning of a democratic society. To keep up with their movements during the COVID-19 crisis, go here

Georgia

If you live in Georgia, or know someone who does, make sure they connect with Public Education Matters Georgia.  Moms and Dads Now Enduring Surrealistic Stupidity (MADNESS) has a vibrant public Facebook group that discusses how education in Georgia is going during the COVID crisis. If you are interested, here is the link to that public group. Opt-Out Georgia organized the opt-out movement in Georgia via a closed Facebook group of over 8,000 members. If you live in Georgia or know someone who does, encourage them to connect with this group. The Georgia Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) was founded in 1990 to bring together individuals from all academic levels and disciplines and from diverse educational institutions and other organizations, occupations, and communities who had an interest in multicultural education. NAME is committed to a philosophy of inclusion that embraces the basic tenets of democracy and cultural pluralism. To keep up with their movements visit their website

Hawaii

Parents for Public Schools Hawaii shared a powerful audio diary of how Hawaii’s children are weathering the pandemic. 

Illinois

Illinois Raise Your Hand sends brief email newsletters with updates and upcoming events. To read all the updates about LSC Elections and CPS Quarter 2 PreK & cluster programs go here. Illinois Families for Public Schools informed the public that when the amendment to the Illinois Student Online Personal Protection Act goes into effect next July, for the first time schools and ed tech companies will be legally required to notify families when student data is breached. 

Indiana

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education shared a summary of what the Indiana Governor promised public education. Indiana Coalition for Public Schools – Monroe County informed the public that the Indiana Department of Education is seeking public comment on its request to the US Department of Education to waive certain federal requirements pertaining to federal accountability for the 2020-2021 school year. This request is in response to the direct impact of COVID-19 on the ability to produce valid, reliable, and comparable accountability data and results for the 2020-2021 school year. Information on the request is available on IDOE’s website! Public comments should be submitted. The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education published a powerful essay by Stu Bloom on their open Facebook page. 2020 Medley #25 – It’s Always Been About Relationships is a must read! If you know anyone in Northwest Indiana, have them connect with Northwest Indiana Coalition for Public Education by sending them a message on Facebook. They hold monthly organizing meetings and so much for the children, and public schools, of NW Indiana. 

Iowa

Do you know anyone in Iowa?  If so, make sure they join Iowans for Public Education.  Send them here to join and connect. You can also follow their movements on their open Facebook page .

Kansas

Game On for Kansas Schools exposed dark money involved in their elections. 

Kentucky

Here is the latest Dear JCPS and Kentucky SOS podcast. They cover important topics such as local and statewide election results.  Be sure to give the Pastors for Kentucky Children a follow on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with all of their movements. 

Louisiana

Step Up Louisiana  continues their fight for living wage jobs, sustainable community schools, affordable housing, stopping city worker furloughs, and public defender equity. They are encouraging citizens to submit a public comment on the city budget. Also this month Step Up Louisiana had a Facebook live event called Is School Choice the Real Choice for Public Schools in New Orleans?  You can view that event here

Maryland 

The Baltimore Algebra Project signed onto a petition last month with the Baltimore Movement of Rank and File Educators for Police Free Schools.  

Massachusetts

Citizens for Public Schools continue to advocate for cancelling the MCAS.The New Bedford Coalition to Save our Schools shares a wide array of events happening in their area on their open Facebook page.  Be sure to check it out weekly for new updates. 

Michigan

The Michigan Network for Equity in Education shares up-to-date information about their State Board and local boards addressing COVID and safe workplaces. 

Save Michigan’s Public Schools notified their members who are educators and work in districts where students are virtual, but staff is still being required to report to the buildings to work that the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA) initiated a “statewide order calling for employers to allow workers to stay home whenever possible” as required by Emergency Rule 5(8). Michigan Parents for Schools discuss, and organize, in a public Facebook group.  If you are from Michigan, or know someone who is, head over there and join the discussion. MI Ed Justice hosted a meet and greet this month to share their goals, work, and upcoming events. Give Trusted Voices ED a follow on Twitter to keep up with their events and issues. 

Minnesota 

Parents for St. Paul Schools continue to work hard to get a charter moratorium passed in their state and city.  Visit their open Facebook page for all the latest.  Minnesota Collective for Educational Equity published a report last month detailing how the overwhelming majority of learning disabilities in MN have been identified using discredited methods. This practice continues to this day and will persist until MN amends 3525.1341.  

Mississippi

Parents for Public Schools – Moss Point continues to support their community with information about storm resources, education, meals, and much more. Parents For 

Public Schools of Greenwood and Leflore County are still hosting Early Childhood Development programs for their community. They have been doing this since March. For more information on their programs, go here. Parents For Public Schools of Philadelphia advocates for children and schools in the Philadelphia Public School District. Make sure you give them a follow on Facebook. Parents For Public Schools of Starkville is a local organization working to strengthen public schools in Starkville. They promote the great work being done in the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District.

Missouri

Keep up with the Missouri BATs by giving them a follow on twitter. Columbia Parents for Public Schools promotes parent engagement to improve education and build public support for public schools in Columbia. 

Nebraska

Stand for Schools reported on the Nebraska Legislature Education Committee, which seems to be open to allowing privatizers in. Read more hereNebraska Loves Public Schools new film, Standing Up to Covid is out.  

Nevada

Educate Nevada NOW issued a public comment for the Commission On School Funding.

New Hampshire

Barrington Educators Association is the local chapter of the New Hampshire-NEA.  You can view updated work here.  To contact them about issues happening in NH, go here

New Jersey

Save our Schools NJ shared that the Education Law Center (ELC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) are urging Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration to improve data collection and public reporting on the presence of police in New Jersey schools and the use of public school funding for such purposes.

Be sure to check out the The Newark Students Union events tab on their Facebook page. They post events that students can take part in to have their voices heard. 

Delran Education Association is a local organization committed to ensuring excellence in public education. Give them a follow on Facebook.  If you are a resident of Elizabeth, ask to join the Elizabeth Parents and Students Care closed Facebook group to connect. Montclair Cares About Schools uses its open Facebook page to inform the community about school openings and the COVID crisis. Give Our Children Our Schools a follow on Twitter to keep up with any future events. South Orange-Maplewood Cares About Schools organizes in its closed Facebook group. If you live in this area or know anyone who does, please ask to join the group here. Paterson Education Fund works hard to keep the community informed about Board of Education meetings and food distributions. Go here for more information and share it with anyone you know who lives in Paterson. 

New York

Class Size Matters, New York Allies for Public Education, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy are working together this month to survey parents about which online apps or programs are being employed by schools throughout New York state and whether they are sufficiently protective of children’s privacy. LI Opt-Out, the national leader in the Opt-Out movement, has a vibrant public Facebook page. There are important discussions going on about school reopening on Long Island. NYC Opt Out also has a public Facebook group that is currently having important conversations about the reopening of NYC schools. If you live in NYC, go here to connect. The Alliance for Quality Education launched a campaign to tell NYS legislators to support solutions not suspensions this month. Give Change the Stakes a follow on Facebook to keep up with what is happening in NYC education during the COVID crisis. Be sure to check out the NY BATs open Facebook page. They post upcoming events and actions. Keep up with FUSE (New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees) by checking out their news and views. MORE-UFT announced that in collaboration with union leadership and educators within the Movement of Rank and File Educators and Black Lives Matter at Schools NYC Group, the following resolution is being presented at the next UFT delegates assembly. Jackson Heights People for Public Schools supports, and shares, important events for their community and the surrounding area. Parents for Public Schools- Syracuse has been posting important information about special education events in their area. Croton Advocates for Public Education (CAPE) advocates for fair assessments, enrichment opportunities, and funding for their schools. The Port Washington Advocates for Public Education closed Facebook group is a place to connect and organize if you live in Port Washington, NY. North Country Alliance For Public Education works to end the reliance on high stakes testing and to stop the privatization that is taking over their schools. If you live in the North Country of New York, consider joining their closed Facebook group to connect. Visit the Rochester Coalition for Public Education website for all that is happening with Rochester education. 

North Carolina

Public Schools First NC and Wake County hosted a webinar called School Psychologists: Supporting Children In School, At Home, and In Life this month. We will have the archived video in our next newsletter. North Carolina Families for School Testing Reform launched a petition this month to keep High School students safe and waive the end of course (EOC) exams. Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods hosted a Organizers Circle this month with special guest Dr. Valerie Johnson, Dean of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities at Shaw University. Dr. Johnson, who also serves as a Professor of Sociology and as a fierce advocate for HBCUs, joined Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods to discuss how we can make the connection between hot topics in environmental justice and the community. Pastors for North Carolina Children joined the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries in a discussion about how churches can get involved in education.  Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County hosted an online chat with  Hope Middle School parents this month. PPS Pitt County continues to host community forums so that parents and the community can share their  experiences with Pitt County Schools. 

Ohio

Ohio BATs organize in a closed Facebook group of over 2000 members.  If you live in Ohio or know someone who does, send them this link to connect. It Takes A Village To Tackle HB70 and It Takes A Village hosted a statewide town hall on the future of public education this month.  Here is the archived video. Northwest Ohio Friends of Public Education shared a powerful piece by Sylvania teacher, Kelly Duwve, TPS Administrator Jim Gault, and Northwestern OEA Exec Director about educating students during the pandemic. Public Education Partners (PEP) are encouraging Ohio citizens to contact the Senate Finance Committee and tell them to bring the Fair School Funding Bill before the full Senate before the end of the year. Parents For Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati post upcoming events on their open Facebook page. 

Oklahoma

Pastors for Oklahoma Kids announced that Gov. Kevin Stitt removed the president of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board who recently led the initiation of termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools. To read more on that go here

The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee serves as an umbrella organization for local PLAC groups and affiliated organizations that advocate for a strong public education system in Oklahoma. If you know anyone who lives in Oklahoma please have them connect with OKPLAC. Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education & Oklahomans for Public Education organize in a private group on Facebook.  If you live in Oklahoma or know someone who does, join up to connect. Oklahoma Teachers – The Time Is Now organizes in a private Facebook group of over 64,000 members. The purpose of the group is to unite all educators in the state of Oklahoma, so they can come together and educate, collaborate, and discuss what options they have moving forward to improve Public Education. If you know any Oklahoma educators, send them to this group to connect. 

Oregon

Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE) shared a fantastic event in their area called Sacred Breath: Writing and Storytelling by UW Department of American Indian Studies. To learn more, and to keep up with their supported events, go here

Check out Oregon Save Our Schools on Facebook for all the latest in Oregon education. Oregon BATs organizes in a closed Facebook group.  If you are an Oregon teacher or community member, ask to join and connect.

Pennsylvania

The Keystone State Education Coalition publishes a daily PA education policy roundup.  Pennsylvania School Board Association video EDition Chief Advocacy Officer John Callahan and CEO Nathan Mains discussed surprises and implications of the 2020 election results this month. Talks turned to state budget possibilities and what to watch for in the coming weeks. The Pittsburgh Task Force on the Right to Education topic in this month’s webinar was Recommendations for Positive and Effective Parent-School Parenting During Covid 19. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, or know someone who does, share The Pittsburgh Task Force on the Right to Education Facebook link with them to connect. Education Voters PA co hosted 

a webinar this month with the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and Public Interest Law Center about Pennsylvania’s school funding lawsuit. Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools has been unbelievably busy this month. First they are staying on top of the situation with Renaissance charters schools. To read more about that go here and here. Second, they also have their eyes and ears on the Board of Education. To learn more about that go here

Rhode Island

The Providence Student Union is publishing a new monthly newsletter that is for  youth by youth. Check it out for upcoming programs, events, resources, and more! Want to contribute to the newsletter by sharing an art piece? Your project? Maybe even some free thought? Read on to see how you can share. To keep up with what is happening in Rhode Island, give the Parents Across Rhode Island Facebook page a follow. 

South Carolina

The Quality Education Project is a fantastic group doing great work in South Carolina.  If you know anyone in South Carolina please share this information about their monthly meetings so they can connect. 

Tennessee

The Momma Bears have a great blog full of information about the fight for public education in Tennessee. Check it out here. Make sure to give Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence (TREE) a follow on Twitter to keep up with all that is going on in Tennessee education. Pastor Ladd, who is a Board chair for Pastors for Tennessee Children, is doing amazing work in Chattanooga, where churches have come together to serve underprivileged children during the pandemic. To read more about Pastor Ladd’s work go here. Tennessee Strong administrator and journalist Andy Spears reported Gov. Bill Lee has selected former State Rep. Bill Dunn to serve in an advisory role to embattled Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. Dunn has been a long-time critic of public education and a full time cheerleader for Lee’s voucher scheme.  

Texas

Pastors for Texas Children hosted an election eve conversation on Facebook live. Go here to view that conversation. The Baptist News Global interviewed PTC Executive Director Rev. Charles Foster Johnson. In the interview Rev. Johnson reflected on what he anticipated could happen in a Biden administration. CFISD Community Leadership Committee is a volunteer group of parents, business people, and retirees who believe that having a strong independent school district is important to the economic well-being of the Cypress-Fairbanks community. To keep up with their actions and events, visit their website. The Coalition for Public Schools Texas will be hosting a conversation about Virtual Vouchers next month. To register for this free event, to be held on 12/3, go here. Texas Kids Can’t Wait are advocates for equitable and adequate funding for Texas public schools and for a sane assessment system.They strongly oppose the corporate takeover of public schools. To follow their movements go to their open Facebook page. RootEd publishes a monthly newsletter called The Branch. Go here to view their newsletter from last month. If you know of anyone in the Houston community, please have them connect with Parents For Public Schools of Houston. They post important activities for the Houston community on their open Facebook page. 

Community Voices For Public Education has an open discussion page on Facebook.  To keep up with all that is happening in Texas public education, go here to join in the discussion. Keep up with Our Schools San Antonio on their open Facebook page. 

The Coalition for Equity in Public Education shares information on the elimination of the STARR exam in Texas. Texas AFT reported that in  just over two months, educators, employees, parents, & community members have submitted more than 3,600 reports to their #StopTheSpreadTX COVID-19 tracker.Texas AFT will continue to use these reports and stories in statewide and local fights, and they noted that they appreciate all those who are speaking out and shining a light on the situations at their campuses.

Vermont

Keep up with the The Vermont Coalition for Equity in Education on their open Facebook page and on Twitter. They are a new group, so make sure you give them a follow on both platforms and share their work. 

Virginia

Virginia Educators United conducted a webinar this month on Virginia’s COVID OSHA rules. Virginia BATs took part in a rally this month to protect students and teachers from unsafe school openings. Support Our Schools-Shenandoah County organizes to fight for public education in that region. You can connect here. To learn more about the Virginia Public Education Partners visit their Facebook page or give them a follow on Twitter.  

Washington State

WA BATs has an active Twitter feed full of powerful graphics. Check it out here

Washington Paramount Duty celebrated good news for Washington state public schools. They continue to push the Governor and the state legislature to tax the rich to ensure that students and teachers can recover from this devastating pandemic.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Public Education Network announced in a press release that the Department of Public Instruction budget proposal provides the support “our kids deserve.” Schools and Communities United are asking parents, guardians, and students to please take a few minutes to fill out a survey and let them know how remote learning is going.Survey results will be shared at a meeting and with Milwaukee Public Schools.Parents for Public Schools Milwaukee shared an article that Wisconsin lags the nation in education spending. To read that article go here

NPE Grassroots Education Network – Resources and Graphics

The NPE Grassroots Education Network has compiled a list of resources to help communities navigate the COVID pandemic.  We created a list of c3 organizations you can donate to help others in need. We have created a space for resources to help educators and parents trying to navigate remote learning. Finally, we are collecting stories highlighting how Public Schools are helping their communities. 

Here is a link to our resources page. It will help you navigate resources covering a variety of topics.  This is a live document and will be updated, so check back for new resources. 

Here is a link to our graphics page. It will provide powerful visuals for you to share on social media. This is a live document and will be updated, so check back for new graphics.

Parents, educators, and other concerned citizens petitioned in opposition to adding a charter school representative to their school board.

PETITION: RCSD United Against Privatization 

Sign the petition against charter school affiliates being appointed to the Board of Ed here: https://forms.gle/uFScKtgxwk1SNo1N9

Write to the Board and tell them what you learned:

Van Henri White – van.white@thelegalbrief.com

This is the petition:

RCSD United Against Privatization 

In response to the announcement that Walter Larkin, current CEO of U Prep Charter School is a finalist for the open board of education seat:

We, the educators, parents, and citizens of the Rochester City School District stand united against the continued attacks on our public school system. We are opposed to the appointment of any charter school employees or affiliates to the board. Not only is this a conflict of interest, but the students and educators of the Rochester City School District deserve board members who trust and value PUBLIC education. Any affiliation with a charter school is a conflict of interest, and can only lead to the further privatization of our school district.

These attacks go beyond the appointment of a single board member. Our newest Superintendent has hired charter school executives such as Dr. Kathleen Black, as our new Chief Academic Officer.

We are also seeing gross inequity between what charter schools are able to offer, as they scoop up 6 times more CARES act funding than the RCSD was able to. Currently the students of the RCSD are being deprived of their right to a sound and basic education, while charter schools are able to offer in person schooling because they have access to funding that the RCSD does not.

The writing is on the wall, the Rochester City School District, which serves 80% of the students of this city, is being defunded and dismantled. Charter schools are being handed cash and are expanding exponentially. Not only have charter schools been shown to show NO better performance than traditional public schools, but they are also contributing to the immediate starvation of the RCSD, with over 80 million dollars coming from the RCSD budget to charter schools last year alone.

We demand a pro-public education replacement be chosen for the open board of education seat. We need someone who has shown a lifelong dedication to the success of public schools, and who has a vested interest in their continued success. Nothing else will be acceptable to the students, educators, and community members of the RCSD.

Open the link to see the names of the signatories.

The Pastors for Texas Children, great friends of public schools, invited me to come to Texas in April 2020. I was going to speak in Houston, Dallas, and Austin to activists for public schools. The events were organized by Charles Foster Johnson, the remarkable, wise, and tireless leader of PTC. He has launched similar groups in other states, including Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Then came COVID and my trip was scratched and replaced with a Zoom meeting in late October. I had a spirited conversation with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, a superb interviewer who had read my book Slaying Goliath carefully and asked incisive questions. This is the recording of the Zoom. I come in about minute 15 and the conversation is about 40 minutes.

I prepared for the day by studying up on what’s happening in my native state. Texas right now is ground zero for the hungry charter industry. The state commissioner, Mike Marath, who is not an educator, is gung-ho for more charters.

The public schools, which enroll more than five million students, have been underfunded since at least 2011, when the legislature cut the schools’ budget by more than $5 billion. That funding was never fully restored even though enrollment increased. The majority of the state’s public school students and Hispanic and African American. The majority of the legislators are white men.

Meanwhile, the rightwingers have been pushing for charters and vouchers. The Pastors for Texas Children and other civic groups repeatedly stopped the voucher bill by building a coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans. For now, vouchers are dead.

So, the privatizers have thrown their firepower into expanding charters. Betsy DeVos gave the state more than $200 million to open new charters. Texas is overrun with corporate chains. The public schools of Texas outperform charters by test scores. Public school students are better prepared for college than charter students. Charter graduates have lower earnings after they finish their schooling. Why, I wondered, do wealthy Texans continue to fund failure?

I hope you will take the time to watch.

Parents in Texas got disgusted 15 years ago when the Legislature almost passed a voucher law. They organized the Texas Parent PAC, which is a highly effective voice on behalf of public schools and more than five million students.

The website of Texas Parent PAC has a list of the endorsed candidates, both Democrats and Republicans.

Their guiding principles are a model for parents, grandparents, and civic activists in other states.

I recently heard from Dinah Miller, co-founder and co-chair, who explained the PAC’s origins. She wrote:

Texas Parent PAC formed in 2005 after taxpayer-funded private school vouchers failed to pass the Texas House by only one vote. Five PTA moms called a press conference during PTA Summer Seminar in Austin and announced we were forming a political action committee to elect better talent to the Texas House who would oppose vouchers and support public schools. We recruited Diane Patrick from Arlington who had local and state school board experience to run against hostile Texas House Public Education Committee Chair Kent Grusendorf who had been in office 20 years. We beat Grusendorf in the primary along with others and then knocked off another hostile education committee member in the general election. Those races put us on the map.

From our website: Texas Parent PAC is a bipartisan political action committee for parents, grandparents, parents-to-be, and anyone who supports high quality public education. The PAC has a track record of success, helping to elect over 63 current members of the Texas Legislature, and defeat 23 incumbents who were hostile to public education.

Endorsed candidates reflect traditional mainstream American values that honor and support children and their families, quality public education, strong communities, unlimited opportunities, and maximum citizen participation in our democracy. All endorsed candidates support the Texas Parent PAC Guiding Principles.

Fifteen years later, our volunteers are still fundraising for our endorsed bipartisan candidates for the November 3, 2020 election. Our website is www.txparentpac.com

Sincerely, Your Fan,

Dinah Miller

Co-chair and Co-founder

Texas Parent PAC

Jennifer Berkshire writes in this post about the educational awakening in Arizona, the result of #red4ed and the teachers’ revolt of 2018.

Proposition 208 is on the ballot. It calls for a 3.5% tax increase on people earning over $250,000 a year, to be used to raise teachers’ salaries and hire more teachers. Surprisingly, 60% of voters appear to favor the measure, including a sizable number of Republicans.

She writes:

That taxing the rich to pay for schools would emerge as a cause with bipartisan support in 2020 is not a complete surprise. More Arizonans now identify education, not immigration, as the top priority facing the state, reflecting mounting concern with schools that are notoriously underfunded, teachers who are poorly paid, and a teacher shortage crisis so severe that 28 percent of the state’s classrooms lack a permanent teacher.

Education has become a potent political issue since #RedforEd protests shone a harsh light on the condition of Arizona’s schools in 2018. After a historic teacher strike, educators doubled down on electoral organizing. Democrats gained four seats in the state House of Representatives that year. Now they’re poised to tip the House and possibly the Senate in their favor. If they succeed, voter dissatisfaction with the GOP’s embrace of controversial policies aimed at dismantling, defunding, and privatizing education will be a major reason.

A similar pattern is playing out in other key battleground states, including Michigan and Texas. In these states and others, the gulf between voters who believe in taxpayer-funded public education and GOP candidates who are hostile to it has created an opening for Democrats.

For decades, Arizona has been a petri dish for free market education experiments. Charter schools, publicly funded private schools, education savings accounts that allow parents to spend taxpayer funds on a dizzying array of education “options” with little state oversight or accountability—the Grand Canyon State has them all...

As school choice offerings in the state have ballooned, they have increasingly competed for funding with traditional public schools. “It all comes out of the same funding bucket, and the bucket wasn’t that big to begin with,” said Sharon Kirsch, research director for the grassroots public education advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona...

That hands-off, regulation-free vision is precisely what an array of deep-pocketed interest groups in Arizona are pushing. Organizations like the Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles Koch and the American Federation for Children, founded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are a major presence in the state. More recent arrivals to the school choice lobbying space include Yes Every Kid, which is another Koch project, and Love Your School, an offshoot of the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy.

Said Kirsch: “I’m not sure most people have any idea that these groups are essentially running education policy in Arizona...”

Berkshire points out that teachers are running for office, and their prospects look good. Arizona may be about to throw off the shackles of one-party rule that has crippled the state’s public schools and turned it into a free-market for privatizers, religious zealots, rightwing nuts, libertarians, and profiteers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 1,000 current and former officials at the Centers for Disease Control denounced the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19.

More than 1,000 current and former officers of an elite disease-fighting program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed an open letter expressing dismay at the nation’s public-health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and calling for the federal agency to play a more central role.

“The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” said the letter, signed by current and former officers of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service of outbreak investigators. “CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency.”

Signers included two former CDC directors: Jeffrey Koplan, who led the agency under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Tom Frieden, who served under President Barack Obama.

All of the signatories were writing to “express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency” during the current pandemic, said their letter, which was published Friday in the Epidemiology Monitor, a newsletter for epidemiologists.

“CDC has today, as it has every day during its 74-year history, provided the best available information and recommendations to the American public,” the agency said in a response to the letter. “Since January, more than 5,200 CDC personnel have dedicated themselves to protecting the health of the American people.”

Long regarded as the world’s premier public health agency, the CDC normally plays a leading role globally in a response to epidemics.

The Trump administration has been deeply involved at times in the shaping of scientific recommendations at the CDC during the pandemic, raising objections to guidelines for reopening churches and schools and for wearing masks, The Wall Street Journal reported. An administration spokesman said that “the CDC occupies a critical seat on the (coronavirus) task force, which is made up of public health leaders with an array of valuable expertise.”

Nebraska is one of the few states that has thus far managed to keep the privatizers out. That makes it a tempting target. Here is a message by one of the state’s strong advocates for public schools.

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As you know, Stand For Schools is dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska. Our work involves not only advocating for evidence-based policies that would help schools serve all students better, but also being vigilant for and responsive to efforts to privatize our state’s public schools. 

Because Nebraska is one of only three states wise enough to avoid charter schools, private school vouchers, or scholarship tax credits, our state is viewed as prey by corporate reformers and proponents of school privatization. We have been aware of this target on the backs of Nebraska’s children and families for years, but something new and profoundly troubling has come to light this week. 

The American Federation For Children (AFC), an organization founded and largely funded by Betsy DeVos, is attempting to directly influence Nebraska elections.

Campaign filings reveal that William Oberndorf, a billionaire hedge fund manager from California, has donated $125,000 to Nebraska Federation for Children, and the organization is spending $25,000 in each of two legislative races in Nebraska

For decades, Oberndorf has spent huge sums of his fortune to influence elections and education policy across the country. Oberndorf succeeded Betsy DeVos as AFC board chair, so while he is not new to the school privatization agenda, his political campaign contributions are new to Nebraska.

Oberndorf was notably a board member of and major investor in Voyager, a computer software and hardware company masquerading as literacy curriculum, which not only produced negative academic outcomes but also cost taxpayers billions during the No Child Left Behind era – all while lining the pockets of Oberndorf and others. Government investigators would later find the entire organization was “very close to a criminal enterprise,” with referrals made to the Department of Justice.

Oberndorf’s large contribution caught our attention, but he is hardly the first out-of-state billionaire attempting to advance his agenda in Nebraska–a state where voters and nonpartisan legislators have rejected school privatization time and again.

Over the last few years, we have listened intently to testimony given at our State Capitol by paid fellows flown into the state by AFC. We read the editorial published in the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this year penned by a lawyer from another Koch-funded group, Institute For Justice. We have seen more than one nonprofit pop up in our state – one which failed to disclose their donors in a timely manner as required by federal law and another, Invest In Kids Nebraska, that is the local arm of AFC. And every year, we watch the governor host a rally on the steps of our Capitol coordinated and funded by National School Choice Week, which is itself an enormous web of dark money, special interests, and corporate lobbyists. 

The evidence is clear: School privatization does not benefit students or low-income families; it benefits wealthy privatizers like William Oberndorf. 

Nebraskans deserve to know about the presence of out of state money in our democracy and the attempted interference on education policy by special interests that will directly impact our schools and communities.

We are a state widely known and revered for our unicameral legislature. Our Second House is supposed to be the people of Nebraska and our best interests – not people like Californian William Oberndorf and his financial interests. Nebraska has some of the most lax campaign finance laws in the country, and that needs to change.

As always, Stand For Schools remains committed to advancing public education in Nebraska, and that means doing our part to inform the people of our state about threats to our public schools. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit that does not endorse any political candidate – but we believe Nebraskans deserve to know the truth about who is spending money in our elections. 

Stand For Schools is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing public education in Nebraska by advocating for evidence-based policies to close the opportunity gap and ensure schools have the resources they need to serve all students better – no matter their race, ethnicity, nationality, citizen status, language, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or
special need. You can find our organization’s Form 990 here. 

Dr. Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of education in Indiana, is a hero of public education. She has steadfastly sided with public schools and defied her own party’s embrace of charters and vouchers.

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld reports that Superintendent McCormick has endorsed Democratic candidates who support public schools instead of members of her own party aligned with the Mitch Daniels-Mike Pence privatization agenda.

Hinnefeld writes:

There was a time when Indiana Republicans supported public schools; at least, they supported their local public schools. The shift came in 2011, when Gov. Mitch Daniels got the GOP-controlled legislature to adopt school vouchers and expand charter schools. Today, many Hoosier Republicans have come very close to embracing the late economist Milton Friedman’s vision of a “universal” voucher program of unrestricted state support for private schools.

But McCormick, former superintendent of Indiana’s Yorktown school district, has been an outspoken advocate for public schools. Every time she spoke out for public school districts, you could see Republicans edging further away. When she announced in 2018 that she wouldn’t seek re-election, she implied that she was being elbowed aside. Legislators promptly changed the law so Indiana’s governor will appoint the state’s next chief education officer, starting in 2021.

Yes, support for public schools used to be bipartisan. Indiana has a long tradition of valuing public schools. But party leaders followed the Pied Piper, Milton Friedman, and determined to promote private school choice while defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of the state’s children.

Meanwhile, Hinnefeld writes, McCormick has endorsed Democrats because they, like her, believe in the importance of public schools.

I hereby add Jennifer McCormick to the Honor Roll of the blog, for her principled support of public schools and the common good and for her uncommon courage.