July 28, 2014
By Diane Ravitch, President, The Network for Public Education
When a small group of parents and educators formed the Network for Public Education in 2013, we had a singular goal: to mobilize the allies of public education against the powerful forces supporting privatization and high-stakes testing. To advance that goal, we hoped to create a force to counter the large amounts of money that were being dumped into state and local school board races to undermine public education, to demoralize teachers, and to promote an agenda of choice, testing, and sanctions.
We knew we were up against some of the wealthiest people in the nation. We knew they included a bunch of billionaires, and we could never match their spending.
But we put our faith in democracy. We put our faith in the simple idea that we are many, and they are few. We believed — and continue to believe — that an informed public will not give away its public schools to amateurs, hedge fund managers, rock stars, for-profit corporations, athletes, fly-by-night entrepreneurs, and religious groups. Our goal is to inform the public, assuming that they would not willingly abandon or give away what rightfully belongs to the entire community.
We believed that we could exert influence if we established our credibility as genuine supporters of children, parents, teachers, administrators, and real education, as opposed to the data-driven, high-stakes testing policies that degrade education and to the consumer-oriented choice programs that divide communities and harm public schools.
Our budget can't match the budgets of those who want to turn our schools into profit centers. But we believe in the power of our message. During our short existence, we have proven on several occasions that our message can beat Big Money. We have seen candidates in state and local races triumph over well-funded adversaries. We think that our support gave them added visibility and contributed to their astonishing victories.
We supported Sue Peters for the school board in Seattle, and she won. We supported Monica Ratliff in a race for the Los Angeles school board, and she won. We supported Ras Baraka in his race for Mayor of Newark, and he won. This past week, we supported Valarie Wilson in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for state superintendent in Georgia, and she won. All of these candidates were outspent, sometimes by multiples of numbers.
Some candidates we endorsed lost their races. But our message has been consistent and powerful. All credit goes to the candidates themselves, of course, but we are proud that we gave them support and hope when they needed it most, and that our endorsement may have helped their fundraising and campaigning.
We urge you to join us as we promote the principles that will improve our public schools and repel those who seek to monetize them. We want our children to have a childhood. We want our teachers and principals to be highly respected professionals. We want parents and educators to stand together on behalf of their children and their community.
We oppose the status quo. We seek better schools for all children. We will work diligently with like-minded allies until we can turn the tide, turn it away from those who seek silver bullets or profits, and turn the tide towards those who work to restore public education as the public institution dedicated to spreading knowledge and skills, advancing equality of educational opportunity, and improving the lives of children and communities, while encouraging collaboration and a commitment to democratic values.
Join us! With your help, we will build better schools and better communities for all children.
*** This article also appeared in the Huffington Post