The predominance of the data and evidence is clear: School “reformers” have failed spectacularly in Chicago and elsewhere over the past decade. Politicians and corporate interests have pressed for failing policies that have created an unprecedented effort to privately control public education by demonizing teachers, undermining the democratic role of parents, closing schools and reinventing public schools as testing factories.
Education policies promoting private control and profit in education have continued unabated with support from Democrats and Republicans alike. Claiming to be dedicated to making children “college and career ready,” these corporate entities, with the help of elected and appointed officials at the national, state and local level, are destroying the very institutions that should be dedicated to providing all children with the free, comprehensive and supportive public schools they need and deserve to live their lives to the fullest.
Their goals are becoming more clear: to turn public schools into profit centers for corporate investors. In contrast, across the nation there is a growing coalition of community leaders, academics, and other stakeholders leading the conversation to reform education reformers’ reforms.
Hundreds of these education stakeholders from across the nation will gather in Chicago April 25-26 for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Founded by Diane Ravitch, an education historian, best-selling author and renowned public education advocate, NPE has served as a focal point for those seeking to support public schools and push back against profit and private control of public schools.
NPE is a non-profit advocacy organization that exists solely to network education stakeholders across the nation to protect, preserve and strengthen public schools, which is essential if we want a democratic society.
NPE is holding their national conference to Chicago not only because the city has become a case study about how public officials are seeking to create private corporate control of education, but because of the great examples of how Chicago parents and teachers are fighting back by advocating for alternative democratic approaches to reform.
Instead of implementing the corporate “education reform” agenda, NPE believes public resources should be used to produce public schools that serve every child.
Yong Zhao, an author and researcher whose latest book is Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, will deliver a keynote speech on the seduction of testing and the dangers of following the wrong model. Jesse Hagopian, teacher and leader of the successful opt-out at Garfield High School in Seattle, will talk about his book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.
The conference will include a keynote by Diane Ravitch moderating a unique public conversation about education reform with American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten and the National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García. The conference will also feature Chicago’s own Jitu Brown and Karen Lewis
There are numerous workshops and panels planned, including a focus on new ideas for student activism, grassroots parent advocacy, the power of teacher voices and other sessions about how to ensure public schools get the support and attention they need.
All of Chicago is invited to join in the discussion and bring new ideas for democratically-based reforms to stem the tide of profit-seeking corporate controlled public education.
For more information about the Network for Public Education Conference, go to: http://networkforpubliceducation.org/
Robin Hiller, Executive Director, Network for Public Education
Julian Vasquez Heilig, NPE board member and education professor, California State at Sacramento