Archives for category: Supporting public schools

Today is #GivingTuesday, a day to support the organizations and causes you believe in. If you care about public schools, if you oppose the efforts to privatize them, please support the Network for Public Education.

Whether it is voucher legislation, charter expansion, wild disruptions of school board meetings, or the slashing of school funding, it is clear that the extreme right-wing is waging war against public schools. NPE is the only national organization dedicated to stopping school privatization, which is the extremists’ ultimate goal. That is our primary mission.

Please give to NPE this Giving Tuesday and join us as we push back against the school privatization agenda. If you give $250 or more, we’ll send you a signed copy of one of NPE President Diane Ravitch’s books.

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Privatization is making progress. In Arizona, almost 20% of all students attend charter schools. An additional 99,000 students are receiving vouchers. For the first time, more than half of our states have a voucher program–many with multiple programs. Ohio now has six! All of these programs rob our public schools of precious resources, and when disappointed families return to public schools, their children are often woefully behind.

Won’t you join the fight and give to NPE this Giving Tuesday?

Your gift supports our research and advocacy. Our reports receive national attention and combat the campaign of disinformation and biased reporting from privatization think tanks like Ed Choice, Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

But we can’t do that work without your help. Please make your tax-deductible donation today.

Donate Now

New Book: The Privatization of Everything

Speaking of privatization, consider giving yourself a holiday present by purchasing this important new book written by good friends of NPE.

The Privatization of Everything by Donald Cohen, the founder of In the Public Interest, and bestselling historian Allen Mikaelian chronicles the efforts to turn our public goods into private profit centers from the era of Libertarian Milton Friedman to the present. Privatization has touched every aspect of our lives, from schools, water, and trash collection to the justice system and the military. You can find the book at your local independent bookstore or on Bookshop.org.

We wish you a wonderful and healthy beginning to your holiday season. Thank you for all that you do, and please, help us keep the lights on by giving to NPE.

You can view the post at this link : https://networkforpubliceducation.org/fight-school-privatization-give-to-npe/

As we wade through the muck of a national effort to privatize public schools and replace them with “school choice,” via privately-run charters and vouchers, it’s important to recall why we have public schools. Education is not a consumer item. It is an integral part of a democratic society. Contrary to the propaganda from the right, our public schools do not indoctrinate children. They are tasked with transmitting the knowledge and skills to help young prople become productive citizens and to keep our democracy strong. At their best, they teach young people to question authority and to think for themselves. Thanks to Professor David Berliner for sharing this essay with me.

This article was written by a Canadian educator who was educated in the U.S.

Why public schools are public

Charles Ungerleider, Professor Emeritus, The University of British Columbia

Parents seeking programs that they believe are in the “best interests” of their own children sometimes act as if the education they seek is a private benefit. In seeking an education that is in a child’s or grandchild’s best interest it is easy for parents or grandparents to lose sight of why public schools are public.

If education were primarily a private benefit, it would not be something supported by governments; it would be left to families to determine the why, the what, and the how of educating the young. But in enrolling their children in public school they do not have that discretion.

Governments provide for schooling because it is a public good, something of benefit to everyone. Few people read the legislation establishing public schools but doing so is instructive. The purposes of education are often set out in a public schools or education act that is readily accessible.

The Public Schools Act in Manitoba, for example, proclaims that “a strong public school system is a fundamental element of a democratic society.”[i] Alberta’s act simply says, “Education is the foundation of a democratic and civil society.”[ii] Ontario’s act declares that “a strong public education system is the foundation of a prosperous, caring and civil society.”[iii] Despite differences in the way it is expressed, the contribution of schooling to a democratic, civil society is among public education’s paramount purposes.

Several acts speak specifically about the active connection between public schooling and the health, prosperity, and well-being of society. Manitoba says that “public schools should contribute to the development of a fair, compassionate, healthy and prosperous society.”[iv] Nova Scotia describes that the primary mandate of its publicly funded school system is “to provide education programs and services for students to enable them to develop their potential and acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”[v]

In the context of setting out the purposes of public schooling, the various statements of purpose refer to individual students. However, they make clear that the development of the individual is in service to the [re]creation of society. Some are quite explicit about the link between the student and the student’s social contribution. Alberta, for example, states “the role of education is to develop engaged thinkers who think critically and creatively and ethical citizens who demonstrate respect, teamwork and democratic ideals and who work with an entrepreneurial spirit to face challenges with resiliency, adaptability, risk-taking and bold decision-making.”[vi]

In addition to the general references to democracy and civil society, some statements of purpose are more specific. British Columbia’s School Act says that educational programs are “designed to enable learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.”[vii] BC complements its School Act with a ministerial order devoted to the mandate of the school system that provides the rationale for the emphasis on social and economic goals:

Continued progress toward our social and economic goals as a province depends upon well-educated people who have the ability to think clearly and critically, and to adapt to change. Progress toward these goals also depends on educated citizens who accept the tolerant and multi-faceted nature of Canadian society and who are motivated to participate actively in our democratic institutions.[viii]

The BC ministerial order makes clear that individuals have an obligation to contribute to the development of that society, and specifies that the educational program is designed to produce citizens who are:

  • thoughtful, able to learn and to think critically, and who can communicate information from a broad knowledge base;
  • creative, flexible, self-motivated and who have a positive self-image;
  • capable of making independent decisions;
  • skilled and who can contribute to society generally, including the world of work;
  • productive, who gain satisfaction through achievement and who strive for physical well being;
  • cooperative, principled and respectful of others regardless of differences;
  • aware of the rights and prepared to exercise the responsibilities of an individual within the family, the community, Canada, and the world.[ix]

The public schools and education acts and related policies make clear that education is instrumental in developing the knowledge, values, and behaviours that citizens need to maintain a socially cohesive and productive society. The territory of Nunavut is perhaps the most explicit about the importance of the education system in preserving Inuit values and traditional knowledge.

It is the responsibility of the Minister, the district education authorities and the education staff to ensure that Inuit societal values and the principles and concepts of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are incorporated throughout, and fostered by, the public education system.[x]

The principles and concepts of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit define what it means to be a citizen in Nunavut:

  • Respecting others, relationships and caring for people (Inuuqatigiitsiarniq);
  • Fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive (Tunnganarniq);
  • Serving and providing for family or community, or both (Pijitsirniq);
  • Decision making through discussion and consensus (Aajiiqatigiinniq);
  • Development of skills through practice, effort and action (Pilimmaksarniq or Pijariuqsarniq);
  • Working together for a common cause (Piliriqatigiinniq or Ikajuqtigiinniq);
  • Being innovative and resourceful (Qanuqtuurniq); and
  • Respect and care for the land, animals, and the environment (Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq)

The curricula of the provinces and territories are intended to express what students must know and be able to do to prepare for adult citizenship. Public schooling benefits all of us by making sure that each student is prepared for adult citizenship. Public schooling is not about you or me, but about us.

 



[i] Manitoba, The Public Schools Act C.C.S.M. c. P250,

[ii] Alberta, Education Act, Statutes of Alberta, 2012  c. E-0.3

[iii] Ontario, Education Act, RSO 1990, c. E.2 

[iv] Manitoba, Ibid.

[v] Nova Scotia, Education Act,

[vi] Alberta, Ibid

[vii] British Columbia School Act, RSBC 1996

[viii] British Columbia, Statement of Education Policy Order, OIC 1280/89

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Nunavut, Education Act, S.Nu. 2008

oneducationcanada@gmail.com

A new international organization has released five case studies of low- and middle-income nations, demonstrating that PUBLIC EDUCATION WORKS.

I received this mailing:

We are delighted to launch a new important piece of research on public education, titled Public education works: lessons from five case-studies in low- and middle- income countries”. The study shows that well-organised public education systems are possible and working everywhere, with political will and use of locally relevant practices.

It showcases positive examples of public education in different contexts and settings. The cases – from Bolivia to Namibia, including Vietnam – challenge the disseminated idea that public education needs privatisation for quality and point to a rights-aligned and socially committed definition of quality – including the aim for social inclusion and equity, the engagement of community and local actors, valuing teachers and respecting local culture.  It concludes that public education must be the way forward for building more equal, just and sustainable societies.

The research was produced collaboratively by 12 organizations and is part of GI-ESCR’s continuous efforts to reverse the adverse impact of the commercialisation of education in the context of the unprecedented expansion of private-sector involvement in education.

The launch of this study is a follow-up to the publication of a policy brief released ahead of the Global Partnership for Education summit in July 2021. Its release during the virtual session of the World Bank’s Civil Society Policy Forum adds to the call on the World Bank and other investors to prioritize their support for public education in their efforts to build back more resilient and equitable education systems for all.

The research is available in three formats: a Working paper, Research brief and Policy brief.

To support the publicity of this new, exciting research, please share widely.

#PublicEducationWorks

READ the Working paper or Research brief here

GI-ESCR is a non-governmental organisation that believes transformative change to end endemic problems of social and economic injustice is possible only through a human rights lens.

Denis Smith worked for many years in the Ohio State Department of Education, finishing his career in the Office of Charter Schools. He writes in the Ohio Capital Journal about the existential threat posed to our democracy and our society by the privatization of public schools. His advice: Be careful what you wish for.

In the last few months, Americans have witnessed a series of assaults by the political right on key parts of the bedrock principles of democracy. Those attacks include new restrictions on voting rights in more than half of the states, the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by thousands of insurrectionists, and most recently, clear evidence that the former president pressured the top leadership of the Justice Department to help him overturn the 2020 election results.

Certainly these scary developments are newsworthy and have garnered banner headlines and filled airtime on the evening news. But these high-profile assaults on our democracy have served to obscure another, perhaps even more serious threat, an added variant and supplement to the seditious behavior of insurrectionists and a twice-impeached president who encouraged their assault on democracy.

In the midst of the chaos caused by angry militia types working to keep in power a rogue administration, and being mindful of the distraction these events have caused, it’s past time to get educated about the future viability of public education.

While the U.S. Capitol was placed under assault some months ago, public education has been targeted for forty years, when Ronald Reagan signaled his followers that the public sector was undesirable and that private enterprise was always preferable in the nation. His attitude was immortalized in his remark that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

This observation has been interpreted by the right as a command from Reagan himself to privatize about everything in the public sector — except the military — as part on an ideology which holds that a private enterprise is always preferable to a public function. That thinking has morphed into a crusade to destroy perhaps the most recognized and common artifact in any community: the public school.

Individual liberty v. community responsibility

For those who know this institution’s place in American history, the terms public school and common school are used interchangeably, and the leading proponent who believed that every community should offer a program of education was Horace Mann, considered the father of American public education. In his role as the first commissioner of education in Massachusetts, Mann believed that “education should be free and universal, nonsectarian, democratic in method, and reliant on well-trained professional teachers.”

As Mann’s nineteenth-century idea of the common school spread across the new American Republic, in villages, small towns and cities where a community’s shared and accepted values were honored and embraced, the little red schoolhouse became an icon, the force that helped to mold the very idea of community.

That was the America we recognized until several decades ago.

Today, attacks by insurrectionists attired in their cammies and state legislators dressed in business suits are hard at work to undermine that very sense of community, of place. Instead of embracing the idea of place, the community and its schools which educated generation after generation, those same legislators mumble vaguely about something they call “socialism” or “government schools” and instead espouse something else called “educational choice.”

That word choice, used often in the same sentence with freedom, serves as the anti-government elixir peddled by legislators to further encourage insurrectionists and religious zealots who do not accept the idea of community – and its public or common schools.

And with the frequent use by the right of such terms as choice, freedom, and liberty, that tattered social fabric we should be concerned about is worn down even more.

Indeed, words – particularly those three – have consequences.

Several years ago, the New York Times columnist David Brooks critiqued the work of author Marcia Pally, who observed that Americans project a prominent duality – a need to explore as well as be “situated” – i.e., having a sense of community. But today, our very sense of community is under stress, a weakened social fabric fueled by politicians who in their continuing mischief and purposeful vandalism promote divisive policies that result in the transfer of public funds away from our common schools to support private, religious, and charter schools.

In spite of these destructive policies adopted by state legislatures that are antithetical to societal cohesion, the need for community comes at the very time, in Pally’s analysis, when the forces of global migration, globalization, and the internet are proving to be transformative and thus challenge the very idea of community, of being situated.

But it was Brooks’ added observation that a fourth force, in the form of individual choice, gained my attention then and now, particularly in the current and growing national atmosphere that proclaims it’s all about me and my freedom to choose, regardless of compelling community needs, including health, safety, and the transmission of a common cultural heritage, as Horace Mann, John Dewey, and other visionaries labored to establish in another, more unified time in our history.

The byproduct of this thinking — that it’s all about me — centered as it is on the individual and not the community, is seen in both the Capitol insurrectionists and the anti-vaxxers. These protesters are seemingly also armed with the idea that personal freedom and individual choice trump any responsibility in caring for the well-being of others, whether by wearing a mask or being vaccinated against COVID.

To hell with elections. It’s all about me and what I believe, we are being told by those who protest the warnings of scientists and public health experts. And to hell with masks and vaccinations. We don’t need tyranny, they tell us.

And while we’re at it, to hell with the idea of community. When it’s all about me and what I believe, there is no room for what you value.

It doesn’t take many dots to connect this thinking with the deterioration of the idea of community, of being situated, and of having common values like the public schools that were created to serve all the youth in a particular community. We hold that truth (or should we use the past tense now?) to be self-evident. Not.

But in all of this, of slogans like freedom and choice, be careful what you wish for.

In my reaction to Brooks and his review, I wrote this in April 2016:

“…how we preserve freedom serves to illustrate the certainty of unintended consequences for conservatives, viz., how can you promote the concept of choice, particularly educational choice, as a desired public policy outcome, while also warning about weakened community cohesion and a frayed, tattered, strained social fabric”?

Five years later, I stand by those words. In light of recent events, that strained social fabric is even more fragile, and approaching an irreparable state of repair. It follows that with such disrepair, the idea of community in this country may soon be on a ventilator.

Cookie-cutter legislation

The enemy, it seems, is within. We witnessed this bashing of democracy with the images of militia-types beating police with flagpoles. Another version of that assault is the introduction of cookie-cutter legislation, some of which was crafted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Council, which exists to destroy education by taking the word public out of it, and replacing elected local school boards with charter schools whose boards are hand-picked by for-profit chains rather than being elected by voters in a community.

When state legislators vote to create educational vouchers that subsidize private and religious school tuition with public funds, they are making a decision to support schools that often teach content that has not been subject to a thorough review process, as public schools are. By contrast, vouchers mean that students can now be attending schools, free from state regulation, that may not even teach science or other subjects, or use instructional materials that do not support appropriate knowledge about our world.

The image of a caveman and a dinosaur, coexisting in an earlier time, as displayed in a Kentucky museum, comes to mind. It’s not too hard to imagine that under a voucher scheme, if a church affiliated with the museum operated a school and offered a curriculum in line with such a view, it could be eligible for state educational choice dollars.

Yes. Your tax dollars. And mine.

But where is the proper public purpose for taxpayer support of such an imagined school? Right now, for example, the proposed expansion in some states including Ohio of so-called educational choice vouchers to religious schools could make such situations possible in the future. One wonders what would happen if private and religious schools would first be required to agree to a set of very detailed assurances, including the teaching of specific courses of study consistent with the curricular offerings of local public schools, before receiving any state funding in the form of educational vouchers.

I think we know the answer to that. It’s called having it both ways – getting public money with no accountability and no strings attached.

The purpose of public schools

And then there is the subject of citizenship and our common heritage. Besides its purpose to produce skilled and literate individuals, public schools have also been charged to prepare young people to be caring and ethical citizens. By contrast, it can be argued that with private and religious schools, their own unique missions may not place civic-related ideals in the top rank, but instead subordinate civic education and awareness to a more narrow or sectarian purpose that mirrors the defining purpose of the school.

But if in the name of freedom and educational choice there is already enough concern about the use of public tax dollars to help fund private, religious and charter schools and thus undermine public education, weaken our democracy, and further damage our social fabric, there is yet another problem created by the actions of state legislatures to fund religious schools through vouchers.

It’s the Establishment Clause.

A product of The Enlightenment, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause was crafted by the nation’s founders, who knew that religious wars had consumed Europe in the centuries preceding the American Revolution. Currently, in my home state of Ohio, a coalition of school districts is preparing a court challenge to check the legislature’s intent to expand the state’s voucher program as not only a violation of the constitutional prohibitions against supporting sectarian schools but also a violation of the Ohio Constitution’s purpose to establish a “system of common schools.”

I trust that this language from the Ohio Constitution is illustrative of how other states establish a system of public education.

[Article VI, Sec. 2 Education] The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State; but, no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this State.

Certainly, private and religious schools do not meet the definition of a common school that must be supported by public funds, yet in the name of educational choice there is a nationwide movement to expand voucher programs that will support private and religious schools, in spite of any Establishment Clause violation and other legal prohibitions.

So we return to the purpose of the common school as a unifying force to build community and not be a dividing force, as private and religious schools will be, if they are put on an equal footing with public education through support with public funds.

If all of these issues might seem to be troublesome, there is one which will likely prove to cause the most damage: How can you maintain the concept of E Pluribus Unum when public policy seems poised to support all types of schools and thus erode the idea of the common school, in this case the Unum in our national motto, as the essential driver to ensure that children who come from many backgrounds form a single nation through our common schools?

Indeed, we know that the mission of public education is to prepare young people to be skilled, literate, and ethical citizens. But that’s only part of it.

Let’s take a look at the Unum part of the equation. In an essay about the role of public education written two decade ago, Kenneth Conklin, a Hawai’i philosophy professor, raised some concerns about how a fragmented educational system can itself cause a fragmented society.

“If an educational system is altered, its transmission of culture will be distorted,” Conklin wrote. “The easiest way to break apart a society long-term without using violence is to establish separate educational systems for the groups to be broken apart.”

Public tax dollar support of private, religious, and charter schools clearly represent the establishment of separate educational systems. Such tax support violates the very idea of Horace Mann’s common school, the very image of democracy in every community.

Conklin provides some additional advice for us to consider:

“A society’s culture can survive far longer than the lifespan of any of its members, because its educational system passes down the folkways and knowledge of one generation to subsequent generations. A culture changes over time, but has a recognizable continuity of basic values and behavioral patterns that distinguishes it from other cultures. That continuity is provided by the educational system.” (Emphasis mine)

What’s next?

We’re in trouble. A community thrives on consensus, of shared values. The actions of agents of disinformation spreading lies about vaccines have undermined confidence in science and public health. And if we lose a consensus about public education and the shared values it represents, we have lost our democracy.

But there is hope.

In reaction to this assault on public education in Ohio, a group of 85 school districts have joined to challenge the intent of the Ohio General Assembly to greatly expand the Educational Voucher program and put private and religious schools on an equal footing to receive tax dollars siphoned away from constitutionally established common schools. Their position is that Article VI of the Ohio Constitution makes no provision for publicly supported but parallel and competing forms of education supported by public funds.

The Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which was itself established twenty-five years ago to ensure fair state funding for school districts irrespective of wealth, is facilitating the legal efforts of districts in challenging the constitutionality of educational vouchers and the blatant violation of the Establishment Clause in establishing funding for religious schools. With so much at stake for future state funding of public school districts, more districts are expected to join this lawsuit in the coming weeks

So what is the lesson to be learned from public support of private and religious schools, along with the privatization of what is left of public education?

Be careful what you wish for.

If you think freedom and choice are the purest ideals to possess and not a sense of community to hold us together, most prominently seen in our public schools, think again. Every vote in every state legislature to offer or expand choice in the end represents a choice for disunion, for a fragmentation of our cultural heritage, a basis for community – and our very nationhood.

We are on the brink. If there is not a counter-movement to roll back this destruction of our communities by the Ohio General Assembly through the planned destruction of the common school, we will get what we deserve.

Yes, be careful what you wish for.

Accurate link: https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2021/09/16/public-schools-vouchers-privatization-and-educational-choice-be-careful-what-you-wish-for/

Dountonia Batts is a parent advocate and community organizer in Indianapolis. she is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. She explains here why she once supported vouchers but no longer does.

I can remember exactly when my thinking about school vouchers began to change. I was attending a community meeting, waiting to find out whether my small children, then in kindergarten and first grade, were going to receive vouchers to attend a private school. The meeting was almost over when a community member stood up and told us how disturbed she was by the way we all kept talking about ‘my children.’ “We have to be focused on the children who do not have the choices you have,” she told us solemnly. “They’re going to fall through the cracks.” It would take me years to see for myself what she meant, but the seed was planted that night.

My two sons did get school vouchers and were accepted to a private Baptist K-12 school. As the years passed, I became more aware of the impact of the decision I’d made. It started with my own children. After the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, my oldest son wore a hoodie to school and it was viewed as a political statement. The signs that he wasn’t really welcome at a school that got less diverse in each successive grade became more apparent. I saw the eyes and heard the comments in the bleachers. My youngest son was the only Black child in his class. He started to get discouraged, convinced that he wasn’t smart. He never found his people at that school. I began to understand that school is about more than academics. The social element really matters too.

My perspective really began to change when my husband, Dr. Ramon Batts, decided to run for school board in Indianapolis. He could see what I’d been missing—that as charter schools and vouchers expanded, the school system in Indianapolis was falling apart. All of the high schools in our neighborhood had been shut down, even as charter high schools were popping up. Here was the neediest school system in the state, serving the neediest kids, and yet funds were being systematically drained away. And it was only getting worse. In the years that my children had been attending their private school, Indiana had expanded eligibility for the voucher program again and again. Today, families earning up to $140,000 can attend private schools at public expense. 

For the first time I really began to think about the impact of the decision I’d made on everybody else. By pulling away from the public system, I was leaving less for the kids who’d been left behind, including the ones who couldn’t get into private schools, or who got kicked out because they didn’t conform to what the schools wanted. The more I saw, the more it bothered me. I was using public dollars to perpetuate discrimination in the name of school choice. I decided that I could no longer accept school vouchers for my children because it was unethical. 

Today, both of my children attend public schools, and my younger son has finally found “his people.” And I’m now an advocate for public education. I try to get parents to understand that if we defund, undermine or privatize public schools we’re doing a disservice to the majority of parents for whom private schools are not an option. I try to help them see what I finally did: that the decisions we make when it comes to our own children have an impact on everybody else. All those years ago, that woman at the community meeting warned that we were drifting dangerously away from the idea of a common good. At the time, I couldn’t understand what she meant. I do now.

In the education world, currently controlled by a coalition of billionaires and the rightwing think tanks and legislators they finance, public schools have some valuable friends. Among them are the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Schlechty Center. If your school board is looking for a new superintendent who believes in public schools, these are the go-to sources. They are the anti-Broadies. Since James Harvey, the Director of the National Superintents Roundtable is retiring, the two organizations are merging. Jim Harvey is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

Here is their press release:


The National Superintendents Roundtable will merge with the Schlechty Center this fall


Seattle, WA – The National Superintendents Roundtable and the Schlechty Center have entered into a partnership to merge on September 30, 2021, bringing two veteran, non-profit organizations together under one roof to better serve school superintendents. The Schlechty Center will provide a legacy home to the National Superintendents Roundtable after its founder, Dr. James Harvey, retires at the end of the year.

Both organizations have spent decades delivering professional development and strengthening relationships among superintendents. The Roundtable, the successor to a Danforth Foundation network established in 1992, has operated since 2006; the Schlechty Center was founded in 1988 and its Superintendents Leadership Network was established in 1997. Both organizations believe fiercely in the value of public education.

The National Superintendents Roundtable and the Schlechty Center’s Superintendents Leadership Network will maintain their own names, membership, and programming, with opportunities for superintendents to join in some activities together.

“The Roundtable is delighted to become part of the Schlechty Center. There is great synergy between the two organizations. Dr. Phillip Schlechty was one of the giants of American public education over the past 50 years. The Roundtable is honored to be associated with his name,” said Harvey, the group’s executive director.

“The Schlechty Center is honored to become the legacy organization chosen to carry forward the excellent tradition and impact of the National Superintendents Roundtable. One of our cornerstone beliefs at the Center is the critical role of superintendents as moral and intellectual leaders. We are truly excited to broaden our interaction, design, and facilitation of deep learning with superintendents from across the nation. The impact of bringing together our cumulative 150 voices around the key issues that all leaders face in public education today will be high leverage for the field,” said Dr. Steve McCammon, president and CEO of the Schlechty Center.

Harvey will retire in December and assist the Schlechty Center part-time to facilitate a smooth transition in 2022. McCammon will become the Roundtable’s new executive director on January 1, 2022, in addition to the continuation of his role as president and CEO of the Schlechty Center.

About the organizations:

Based in Seattle, Wash., the National Superintendents Roundtable (superintendentsforum.org) is a community of 90 school superintendents committed to just and humane schools. Besides bi-annual conferences focused on policy and social factors in education, members take study missions to learn how other nations organize their school systems. The Roundtable also conducts research—adding to the conversation about U.S. school performance overall.

Based in Louisville, Ky., the Schlechty Center (schlechtycenter.org) is a private, non-profit organization that partners with education leaders to nurture a culture of engagement in their organizations, with the ultimate goal of increasing profound learning for students. Schlechty Center staff consult with school district leaders on strategic planning, school improvement planning, systems design, and the design of professional learning and classroom experiences for students. The Center’s Superintendents Leadership Network is a fieldtrip/experience-based network that draws on Schlechty frameworks and learning organization theory to build organizational capacity to focus on engagement at all levels.


Contact
National Superintendents Roundtable: Rhenda Meiser
(206) 465-9532, rhenda@rhendameiser.com
Schlechty Center:
Nicole Bigg
(502) 931-3046, nbigg@schlechtycenter.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The discounted rooms are going fast.https://book.passkey.com/gt/218126437?gtid=3b2e4f0403f2a2b9544e40207d650ccb
If you did not register for the 2020 conference, don’t wait. We have only about 50 spots left.
https://npeaction.org/2021-conference/
We need each other and NPE needs all of us to adovocate for public education.

See you in October!

The privatization movement is built on the ideology of “a backpack full of cash.” Give the money to the family and let them spend it where and how they want. The money is not actually in the child’s backpack, but handed out to families to spend as they wish. If they want their child to attend a religious school or a private school or a for-profit school or a virtual charter school or home school, here is a voucher worth $5,000.

This approach discounts the obligation of the community and society to provide certain basic goods and services that are available to everyone. We have public beaches, public parks, public transportation, police, firefighters, and other goods and services that are the responsibility of government. We pay taxes to maintain public schools, even if we don’t have children ourselves. We pay taxes to maintain public schools, even if our own children are grown and are no long in school. We pay taxes to maintain public schools, even if our own children attended private schools. That’s what a community does to make sure every child is educated. It is the job of the polity to assure that all public schools have equitable and adequate resources.

The “bait and switch” of the school choice is to individualize the social obligation and turn it into a consumer choice. This is a deceptive way of evading society’s obligation to ensure that every school, wherever it is located, has equitable and adequate resources. All schools should have the resources they need for the children they serve: well-tended buildings, a library with up-to-date technology, a full arts program, experienced teachers, small classes, a curriculum that includes history, science, civics, mathematics, literature and foreign languages.

But some very rich people don’t like paying taxes so poor kids can have what their children have, and they have persuaded many legislators to buy into the hoax of school choice. Persuasion takes the form of campaign contributions, and they are very generous with their efforts to evade taxes that serve the good of all.

This reader explains:

I just don’t get why it is so hard to get the message across that we are not purchasing our own child’s education, we are providing a public good that educates all children. We are not buying the right to use roads or police and fire services, we are participating in the funding of those common goods for the entire community.

This situation points out the importance of avoiding public/private partnerships or at least structuring them much differently (to avoid huge tax write-offs). If everyone pays their taxes, the needs of the community will be met through that common collection. When private sources get to direct what happens, that means the common good has been sabotaged. No private entity should be dictating what the common good will be.

Tom Ultican explains why he spends so much of his time fighting for public schools.

The original cause for my supporting public education was that my rancher father married a school teacher. Growing up on a southern Idaho ranch, I learned many philosophical and theoretical reasons for supporting the establishment and maintenance of public schools from my mother. However, it was from watching mom and her dedicated colleagues in action that I learned to truly respect and appreciate public school.

I remember stories of my father being warned that he better not treat that women wrong. For several years in a row she won the Elmore County sharp shooting contest. She didn’t like to chop a chicken’s head off so she would pull out her rifle and shoot it off.

Mom had some old school attitudes but maintained a mind of her own. There was a period in which she had to come home at lunch time and milk the cow. One Friday, after having to chase the cow across King Hill creek again, she had had enough; didn’t discuss it just loaded that cow into a trailer and took it to market.

In my home, there was no doubt about the value of education and also an abiding belief that the American public education system was unparalleled. My father was a high school basketball referee and an ardent supporter of music study.

As was common in the community, school events were family events. Helping the local school was one of the main missions of our civic organizations whether it was building viewing stands at the football field or sewing costumes for school plays.

My grandfather was an immigrant from Scotland who came to America on the Lusitania. Three years after his arrival that ship was sunk by a German U-boat killing 1,800 passengers and further pushing America into engaging with World War I.

It was through family in Scotland that my mother became familiar with the British Education system. She learned of its high stakes testing which was deciding a child’s education path; if that education would continue and weather it would be academic or vocational. To her, the great advantage for America’s schools was they did not have these kinds of tests determining a child’s future. American students were not immersed in testing hell.

Instead of being sorted out by testing, American students had multiple opportunities to reenter the education system in whatever capacity they desired. Immature 11-year olds, did not have their futures decided by dubious testing results.

Still today, Idaho has a greater than 90% white population making it one of the whitest places in the world. It used to be even whiter.

I did not meet a Black person until I was a 17 years-old high school student. That year the University of Idaho Vandaleers gave a concert at my high school. A local rancher’s wife threw an after party for the choir and that is where I met Ray McDonald. Not only was he a talented singer, he was also one of the top running backs in America who would soon be drafted in the second round by the Washington DC professional football team. All I really remember is I was star struck and he was a friendly guy who played piano.

Although there was very little racial diversity in the community there was significant religious diversity. We had Mormons, Mennonites, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Assembly of God and other denominations attending our schools.

In a 2001 interview conducted at the Gathering, Richard DeVos lamented that it was awful that public schools had replaced churches as the center of communities. He did not identify whose church was going to be accepted as the community center.

The unifying factor in Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho was the public schools. Children from rich families and poor families grew up together in those schools. At school functions, parents from the disparate religious sects came together and formed common bonds. Political decisions concerning community governance were developed through these school based relationships.

Public schools became the foundation for democratic governance in the region plus it was literally where people voted. To me, it is unfeasible that a healthy American democracy does not include a healthy public school system.

America’s Founding Fathers Believed in Public Education

The second and third presidents of the United States advocated powerfully for public education. Thomas Jefferson saw education as the cause for developing out of common farmers the enlightened citizenry that would take the rational action a successful republican democracy requires. Jefferson contended,

“The qualifications for self government are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.”

When Jefferson who was a former ambassador to France was queried about the French Revolution, he responded, “It has failed in its first effort, because the mobs of the cities, the instrument used for its accomplishment, debased by ignorance, poverty and vice, could not be restrained to rational action.” He called for the establishment of universal free public education claiming it as a requisite for the survival of a democratic republic.

Jefferson and his peer John Adams were integral to the founding of the United States. Jefferson is credited as the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Our system of government with its bi-cameral legislative branch, judicial branch and executive branch came about in great measure because of John Adams’ advocacy.

Like Jefferson, Adams also saw public education as crucial for the survival of our fledgling democracy. In a 1775 essay, he wrote:

“reformation must begin with the Body of the People which can be done only, to affect, in their Educations. the Whole People must take upon themselvs the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expences of it. there should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselves”

Shortly before the American Revolution, Jean-Jacques Rousseau had published the controversial novel Emile, or On Education. He was widely condemned by the ruling elite for the religious views expressed in the book. However, the main portion of the book was about education. Rousseau’s character in the book was a tutor for children of the wealthy. That was the nature of education in the 18thcentury. Only children of the wealthy had the wherewithal to be educated by private tutors or in one of the few private schools.

Jefferson and Adams were calling for egalitarian progress giving common people the tools required to be self-governing. They were calling for a public school system.

It was the Massachusetts education advocate, Horace Mann, who more than any American political leader was responsible for the nationwide spread of public schools. With the challenges of industrialization, immigration and urbanization, public schools became the fabric of social integration. Horace Mann became the spokes-person for schools being that instrument.

It was Mann’s point of view that children in the common school were to receive a common moral education based on the general principles of the Bible and on common virtues. The moral values to be taught in public school were Protestant values and the political values were those of republican democracy.

Integrating the Protestant religious view into the common schools caused a split in communities. The burgeoning Catholic immigrant population did not want their children indoctrinated with an anti-Catholic ideology. Following the civil war, these influences irrupted into the “Bible Wars.” Author Katherine Stewart shared that it was in this atmosphere that “President Ulysses S. Grant declared that if a new civil war were to erupt, it would be fought not across the Mason-Dixon Line but at the door of the common schoolhouse.”

Stewart also shared an insightful admonition from Grant:

“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. With these safeguards I believe the battles which created the Army of Tennessee will not have been fought in vain.”

Early in the 20th century, public schools had been established serving every community from coast to coast. The results from this vast American public education experiment shine like a lighthouse beacon on the path of Democracy and social happiness. A nation that entered the century as a 2nd rate power ended the century as the undisputed world leader in literacy, economy, military power, industrial might, cultural influence and more.

Today, unbelievably, more and more forces are agitating to undo public education and even American Democracy itself.

As the 21st century dawned, the American public education system was facing a billionaire financed attack. Instead of financially enhancing public schools, libertarians called them “failures” and too expensive. They called public schools “monopolies” shutting out private business that would surely outperform “government schools.” Hopefully the aphorism attributed Lincoln is true: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

Peter Greene is well-known as a blogger, a teacher, a columnist for Forbes, and a humorist. He taught in the public schools of Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years. He wrote this article at my request.

He wrote:

I believe in public education.

I believe in the promise that every child should have a free quality education. And not by going out to shop for it, to hunt it down like looking for deals on a toaster or a used car, nor to travel far from home to find it, nor to have to beg and apply and hope that the school will accept them, but to have it delivered to them in their own community without exception.

Not that we’ve always hit the bullseye in this country. Our system of tying school financing to housing leaves much to be desired. The same forces of racism and economic inequity that twist and turn our society as a whole also leave their mark on our education system. Those forces include the rise of “I’ve got mine, Jack” culture in which folks don’t want to have to worry about what anyone else needs.

We’re living through a time of unprecedented assault on public education. Members of the data cult, free market advocates, social engineers, profiteers and privatizers (some sincere in their concern, and some motivated by base opportunism) are looking for ways to dismantle the system, disenfranchise parents and taxpayers, and to “liberate” billions and billions of taxpayer dollars. Their ranks are filled with education amateurs who don’t really know what the heck they’re talking about. 

What none of these disruptors promise is an education system that delivers a quality education to every single child in the country. Nor do they promise accountability to the taxpayers who fund the system, nor a system that is owned and operated by the citizens of the community. 

Only public education has those goals as its North Star.

I devoted my professional life to public education because I believe in it. I believe in the goals and promise of public education. I believe that every child in this country deserves a chance to learn, to grow, to discover and become their best selves, to learn what it means to be more fully human in the world (a whole host of things beyond the measure of a bad standardized test). I believe in a system that brings trained, qualified professionals into every community, for every child. 

We will always struggle with challenges. What is required for a quality education? How can each child’s individual needs best be mt? What makes a good teacher? But as long as our North Star is the promise of public education, and not a higher test score or a better ROI, we can navigate those difficult discussions. And we can navigate them in a thousand different ways, as individual communities work out the local education system that best suits them.

That’s the other beautiful part of our public education system—it’s not actually one education system, but thousands and thousands of local individual systems set in every kind of community imaginable. All the variety present in America is there in our schools as well. It is a big, beautiful, sprawling, messy monument to our highest aspiration, our dream that every child can grow and rise because we all, together, work to lift every child up. 

So I believe in the promise of public education. May we continue to sail toward that North Star.