Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney who writes frequently for the Stamford Advocate. In this column, she reviews two important books: One shows how deeply embedded public schools are in our democratic ideology, the other describes that coordinated assault on the very concept of public schooling. The first is low professor Derek Black’s Schoolhouse Burning, the other is A Wolf at the Schoollhouse Door, by journalist Jennifer Berkshire and historian Jack Schneider.

Lecker writes:

In his scrupulously researched book, Derek Black emphasizes that the recognition that education is essential to democracy predated public schools and even the U.S. Constitution. He describes how the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787, which applied to 31 future states, mandated funding and land for public schools, declaring that education was “necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.” Education was not explicitly included in the U.S. Constitution. However, after the Civil War, the United States required Southern states guarantee a right to education in their state constitutions as a condition for readmission. Northern states followed suit. State education articles were based on the notion that education was necessary to citizenship and democracy.

These lofty ideals were often not matched by reality. Enslaved African Americans neither had their freedom nor education. However, African Americans recognized early on that education was the key to full citizenship, and fought for the right to equal access and treatment for all. For Black, the struggle of ensuring equality in public education is intertwined with the struggle for political equality.

Black posits that attacks on public education throughout American history are attacks on democracy itself. Recent events prove his point. For example, Rutgers’ Domingo Morel showed that when majority African-American elected school boards won gains such as increased school funding, states took over those school districts, neutralizing the boards’ power. Northwestern’s Sally Nuamah found that in Chicago, where there is no elected school board, the city’s closure of 50 schools in one year despite protest by the African-American community decreased political participation by that community afterward.

A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door” complements “Schoolhouse Burning” by detailing the specific mechanisms those who attack public education have employed in recent years. In this eminently readable book, the authors describe the “unmaking” of public education and the players behind this effort. They explain how the attacks on public schools are part of a larger effort shrink government and in general what the public expects from the public sphere. One target is the largest part of any education budget: teachers. Anti-public education advocates have pushed cutting state spending on education, attacking job protections, de-professionalizing teaching, weakening unions and promoting failed educational ideas like virtual learning- where teachers are replaced by computers. These “unmakers” also aim to deregulate education, including expanding unaccountable voucher and charter schools.

Schneider and Berkshire demonstrate that attacking public education has also torn at the social fabric of America. Attacking unions weakened the base for democratic electoral support. Deregulation resulted in the gutting of civil rights protections for vulnerable students in charter and voucher schools.

Put them both on your Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa shopping list. They are important wake-up calls.

This is a beautiful article by Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York. It appeared in the New York Daily News. When Virginia O’Hanlon attended Hunter College, the City University was tuition-free. In 1976, CUNY began to charge tuition, but it remains far less than private colleges and universities, and many students can piece together aid packages from state and federal funds.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” It may be the most famous sentence in the history of local journalism.

Virginia O’Hanlon of 115 W. 95th St. was just 8 years old when she composed a letter to the editor, writing: “Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

Yes, there is, the paper guaranteed her. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

Those in the know must have been shocked to learn that the words came from the pen of veteran journalist Francis Pharcellus Church, brother of the Sun’s editor. Known to colleagues as a hard-boiled cynic, Church had never written so sentimentally. Now he tenderly assured young Virginia: “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Soon enough, thanks to free public higher education, Virginia saw those wonders for herself. Many of today’s newspaper readers know about the editorial. It has been widely reprinted, in the Daily News among many other papers, each year since it first appeared. It has inspired musical pageants.

But few know what happened to Virginia — or that her path in life actually followed Church’s advice to imagine the best.

The daughter of an NYPD coroner, young Virginia soon began harboring dreams that stretched beyond St. Nick’s annual visits. She aspired to teach — and motivate — children herself. So 10 years after writing to the Sun, Virginia O’Hanlon enrolled at Hunter College, which then, as now, educated many of the teachers employed by the New York City school system. Crucially, Hunter offered higher education to women of all races and religions — a rarity at the time of the school’s 1870 founding.

Graduating in 1910, Virginia went on to earn a Master’s and Ph.D., lived through the 1918 influenza pandemic, and taught grade school for decades. Eventually, she became junior principal of PS 401 in Brooklyn, a school renowned for providing an early version of “remote learning” to chronically sick children confined to the borough’s hospitals.

In 1949, Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas returned to Hunter to address students at her alma mater (and of course, retell her Santa Claus story). She retired in 1959, and died nearly 50 years ago, in 1971.

Her life — both the storybook version and the equally uplifting reality — serves as a reminder not only of faith questioned and reignited, but of the opportunities New York public education continues to provide, even now, amid the most stressful and prolonged crisis in city history.

In fact, when CollegeNET recently released its annual Social Mobility Index rankings of America’s colleges, it did not look at all like the usual “Best Colleges” lists topped by Ivy League names. The index, which analyzes colleges’ success at graduating low-income students into well-paying jobs, was front-loaded with public universities. Hunter ranked 9th out of 1,449 schools.

More than a century after Virginia matriculated, Hunter’s student population still offers a springboard to opportunity. Hunter has already served as the launchpad for, among others, Bella Abzug, Martina Arroyo, Ruby Dee, Pauli Murray, Dr. Rosalyn Yalow — and from our high school, such luminaries as Elena Kagan and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Always, we’ve taken particular pride in students, from here and overseas, who are the first in their families to attend college.

Just look what the most recent graduating class is up to. Elliot Natanov, the son of immigrants who fled anti-Semitism in Uzbekistan, is now pursuing a career in sports medicine. Ahmet Doymaz, who immigrated from Turkey as a child, studies cancer and cell regulation. Evelyn Tawil, daughter of Syrian refugees, is pursuing a graduate degree in landscape architecture. Jennifer Dikler, whose parents fled Russia, won a coveted Luce Scholarship to study trade policy in Asia.

Among recent grads, Margarita Labkovich became a Schwartzman Fellow in 2020 and will spend a year at Beijing’s Tsinghua University before returning to medical school and resuming her career as chief operating officer of Retina Technologies (she already holds two patents). And Thamara Jean, daughter of a Haitian-born synagogue superintendent, now attends Oxford University as Hunter’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar. These remarkable young people are soaring above their circumstances, with Hunter’s full support at their backs — and no debt collectors at their front doors.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: it’s called public education.

After four years of Betsy DeVos and her antagonism toward public schools, civil rights protection, and students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges, the U.S. Department of Education needs a thorough makeover. A house-cleaning. A thorough disinfecting.

Larry Buhl of Capital &Main describes in this article what the Biden administration must do to de-DeVos the Department.

Is it possible to reverse the ways in which she attempted to destroy public schools, civil rights enforcement, and fair dealing with college students who have borrowed more than they can ever pay back?

That is the job facing the new Secretary of Education. Bring out the Lysol!

Journalist Florina Rodov taught for several years in a New York City public schools, but she was turned off by the testing craze and the paperwork. Then she heard about these remarkable new schools called “charter schools.” She heard they were academically superior, safe, free of the bureaucracy of public schools, and she applied to work in a charter school in Los Angeles. The principal told her that the school was like a family. It sounded wonderful.

But then her eyes were opened.

I soon realized there was a gulf between charter school hype and reality. Every day brought shocking and disturbing revelations: high attrition rates of students and teachers, dangerous working conditions, widespread suspensions, harassment of teachers, violations against students with disabilities, nepotism, and fraud. By the end of the school year, I vowed never to step foot in a charter school again, and to fight for the protection of public schools like never before.

On August 15, my first day of work, I dashed into the school’s newest home, a crumbling building on the campus of a public middle school in South Los Angeles. Greeting my colleagues, who were coughing due to the dust in the air, I realized most of us were new. It wasn’t just several people who had quit over the summer, but more than half the faculty — 8 out of 15 teachers. Among the highly qualified new hires were a seasoned calculus teacher; an experienced sixth grade humanities teacher; a physics instructor who’d previously taught college; an actor turned biology teacher; and a young and exuberant special education teacher.

When the old-timers trickled in, they told us there’d been attrition among the students, too: 202 of 270 hadn’t returned, and not all their seats had been filled. Because funding was tied to enrollment, the school was struggling financially.

Her first-person tell-all pulls the curtain away from the charter myth. On Twitter, Rodov describes herself as a “fierce advocate for public schools.” Read this article and you will understand why.

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.

For those of us who are nervous about what President-Elect Biden will do in education, specifically, whether he will revive the failed ideas of Race to the Top, this interview should be comforting. It is a report on a webinar in which Stef Feldman, Biden’s national policy director, spoke to members of the Education Writers Association. It was reported by Erik Robelin in Education Week.

There are many different topics addressed.

This is what she said about charter schools:

“As President, Biden will ban for-profit charter schools from receiving federal funding because he just fundamentally believes that if they aren’t doing right by their students, no one should be getting rich by taking advantage of our kids. He will also, for nonprofit charters, Biden will make sure that we stop funding for charter schools that don’t provide results. Biden believes we shouldn’t be wasting the scarce resources that our public schools need so badly. And we’ll require every charter school, including online schools, to be authorized and held accountable by democratically-elected bodies like school boards and also hold to the same standards of transparency and accountability as all public schools. That means things like regular public board meetings and meeting all the same civil rights, employment, health, labor, safety and educator requirements that public schools must. That’s the fundamental premise of the vice president’s belief that every child, regardless of zip code or parent’s income, race or disability, should have equal access to a high-quality public neighborhood education in their school.”

[Asked to define what “results” charters would need to demonstrate, Feldman said “that would be an important priority for a Biden/Harris Department of Education at the beginning of an administration to figure out some rules to set standards that would measure that.”]

“Vice President Biden doesn’t think that we need to do away with all charter schools. He absolutely wants to support our traditional public schools. But … he feels that the way in which he has designed his policy will allow for charter schools that are delivering results to continue, while also making sure that our funding is focused on our traditional neighborhood public schools.”

On the subject of turning around low-performing schools:

“The first step is to make sure that we are providing these schools with the resources they need to provide a high-quality education to our students. Many times, Title I schools are disproportionately serving students who come from low-income communities. And the schools themselves are under-resourced. Oftentimes, they do not have the basic funding needed to make sure that you have enough teachers, to make sure you have school supplies. … These are schools where they probably have no mental health provider. … They might not even have a school nurse.” 

You can watch the video and see the whole interview.

Mitchell Robinson, a professor at Michigan State University, has advice for state Democratic parties about their message to voters. He suggests what they need to do to attract new voters and turn red legislatures blue. Two big ideas: expand internet access and promote public education, K-16.

He begins:

1. Better, more affordable access to broadband internet service

In a digital age, access to fast, secure internet service is not only a basic human need–akin to utilities like electricity, water, and gas/oil–but it’s a requirement for candidates building a digital campaign infrastructure. Not being able to reliably connect to persons in remote areas of your state, or to those who live in urban areas plagued by internet deserts, severely hampers the ability to convey a candidate’s or party’s message, policy beliefs, or positions on issues. It also leaves persons without reliable internet access to the mercies of our information sources like Fox News or the Detroit News–meaning that they are less informed than someone with no media access at all.

2. Improve support for public education, including community colleges and state universities

One of the single largest predictors of voting patterns is the level of education among a group of potential voters. In general, the more educated a person is, the more likely that person is to vote, and to vote for Democratic candidates. Areas and states with a lower percentage of college-educated voters tend to vote Republican, and more educated areas tend to vote for Democrats. It just stands to reason that increasing the number of college-educated voters would lead to a more Democratic populace.

At the same time, the concerted attacks on public institutions under Republicans have decimated public schools in both our largest cities and the most sparsely populated regions in the country. Aside from race and ethnicity, the demographics and socio-economic issues in cities and rural areas are surprisingly similar–including the damage that has been done by Republican and neoliberal ed reform policies to students, teachers, and schools in both urban and rural communities.

  • Imagine a Democratic platform that features free community college tuition and affordable access to state colleges and universities, and a return to the kind of financial support from state legislatures that was common as recently as the late 1970s.

Open the link and read his other strong ideas to change the political dynamic.

A few days ago, I spoke to a statewide group of public education advocates in Texas, brought together by my friends at Pastors for Texas Children.

For some reason, Texas is ground-zero for the charter industry right now. Betsy DeVos has given over $250 million to the IDEA charter chain (the one that wanted to lease a private jet for its executives, and she recently gave $100 million to the State Commissioner Mike Morath to expand charter schools. Morath was in business; he was never an educator. Businessmen like competition; educators know that competition belongs on the sports field and is not a way to improve schools.

I did my due diligence comparing charter schools to public schools in Texas and this is what I found: charter schools have lower test scores than public schools; charter schools have lower graduation rates than public schools; charter school graduates enter college with lower GPAs than public schools; charters have no effect on test scores and a negative effect on earnings after school. All of these articles and studies were published on my blog.

So, why, I wondered are billionaires like John Walton, Tim Dunn, the Waltons, and DeVos expanding this low-performing sector? What smart businessman would continue to pour money into a failing enterprise?

Public schools are better than charter schools by every measure, but they are underfunded. The Legislature cut the school budget by $5.4 billion in 2011 and has still not restored that funding, even though enrollment has grown.

If competition worked, Milwaukee and Detroit would be the best districts in the nation. Milwaukee has had vouchers and charters for more than 20 years. Sadly, all three sectors perform about the same, and Milwaukee is one of the lowest performing districts in the nation.

I asked the Texas audience whether it would make sense to fund two or three different police or fire departments in the same community. Would that improve their performance? Of course not! It would be a duplication and triplication and would be wasteful. I remembered that in the early 19th century, New York City had multiple fire departments. They would race to the scene of the fire, then fight each other for the right to fight the fire while the buildings burned down.

The Pastors for Texas Children turned these thoughts into a delightful article.

Public schools are a public service. They should be properly funded because they are creating the future. The teachers of Texas and every other state are developing their future leaders and citizens. They are heroes and should be respected and professionally compensated.

Derek Black, Jack Schneider, and Jennifer Berkshire wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the future of public education is on the ballot on November 3 (for the record, I got a credit for doing some minor editing).

Should Trump be re-elected, you can count on him and Betsy DeVos to continue their brazen assault on public schools and to continue their demand to transfer public funds to private and religious schools as well as to pour hundreds of millions of federal dollars into charter school expansion. Draining public dollars away from public school has been Betsy DeVos’s life work and she would have four more years to staff the U.S. Department of Education with likeminded ideologues who hate public schools.

The authors write:

When Trump selected Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, many took it as a sign that he wasn’t serious. After all, DeVos seemed to know little about public schools. But that was a product of her extremism. Over the last four years, she has been crystal clear that her primary interest in the public education system lies in dismantling it. For evidence, look no further than her proposed Education Freedom Scholarships plan, which would redirect $5 billion in taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Unmaking public education is a long-standing goal of libertarians and the religious right. Conservative economist Milton Friedman conceived of private school vouchers in 1955, and four decades later was still making the case for “a transition from a government to a market system.” As they see it, public education is a tax burden on the wealthy, an obstacle to religious instruction, and a hotbed for unionism. Rather than a public system controlled by democratic values, they’d prefer a private one governed by the free market. If they had their way, schools would operate like a welfare program for the poor while the rich would get the best education money could buy. The result would be entrenched inequality and even more concentrated segregation than now exists.

This extreme view has never caught on, largely because public education is a bedrock American institution. Many states created public education systems before the nation even existed. Massachusetts, for instance, was educating children in public schools long before tea was dumped in Boston Harbor. In 1787, the federal government explicitly mandated that the center plot of land in every new town in the territories — land that would become states like Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois — be reserved for schools, and that other plots be used to support those schools. After the Civil War, Congress doubled down on that commitment, requiring readmitted Confederate states, and all new states, to guarantee access to public education in their constitutions. In each of these foundational periods, leaders positioned public education at the very center of our democratic project.

The founders and their successors recognized that public education is essential to citizens’ ability to govern themselves, not to mention protect themselves from charlatans and demagogues. Public education is the surest guarantee of individual liberty, the founders understood — no less essential than a well-trained army to the survival of the nation. That’s why they recognized that the education of American citizens couldn’t be left to chance...

We are here to sound an alarm to Republicans and Democrats. The future of our nation’s public schools is at stake. And insofar as that is the case, the democracy envisioned by our founders — one with universal, tax-supported schooling at its core — hangs in the balance.

Katherine Stewart and I were invited by the Massachusetts Historical Society to discuss the assault on public schools by the religious right, libertarians, billionaires, and entrepreneurs.

Stewart is the author of an important new book called The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.

Since Massachusetts was the birthplace of public schools, it was a fitting venue for our conversation.

Webinar recorded 30 September 2020 — Will Public Education Survive?: A Look at the Threats to Education Systems from Privatization and Religious Nationalism with Katherine Stewart and Diane Ravitch, New York University The rise of the Religious Right has coincided with the privatization movement in public schools. While some may feel that this is coincidental, there is reason to believe there is a directly causal relationship between these two factors. Two scholars, from different disciplines, will discuss how their work comes together to help explain the history and current state of efforts to diminish, if not dismantle, the American public education system. Katherine Stewart has written on the rise and increasing power of the Religious Right in her book The Power Worshipers. She will be joined by Diane Ravitch who has written extensively on education and, in her recent book Slaying Goliath, explores the history of the school privatization movement and the efforts to oppose it.

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