Author Diane Ravitch, a hero of unionized teachers, is leading a new politically active national organization whose purpose is to “give voice to the millions of parents, educators, and other citizens who are fed up with corporate-style reform.”
The Network for Public Education, announced Thursday, hasn’t decided whether it will contribute to candidates, but it will promote them, in the hope that its endorsements will mobilize educators and parents to defeat candidates backed by big-dollar groups like former Washington, D.C., chancellor Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and wealthy donors like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Ravitch and her supporters staunchly oppose what those donors generally back – an expanded use of standardized test scores, including using them to evaluate teachers and principals, an expansion of charter schools and closure of poor-performing neighborhood schools – and have accused them of trying “to elect candidates intent on undermining and privatizing our public schools.”
The Network will “grade candidates based on our shared commitment to the well-being of our children, our society, and our public schools. We will help candidates who work for evidence-based reforms and who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of core academic functions to for-profit corporations,” its announcement states.
Anthony Cody, a retired teacher from Oakland and writer of a column in Education Week, will be the new organization’s treasurer. He said in an interview that the Network organizers were heartened by the victory this week of two California school board candidates despite big-money campaigns against them. Steve Zimmer, with the help of United Teachers Los Angeles, retained his seat on the Los Angeles Unified school board. Sarah Kirby-Gonzales, a national board certified teacher, trounced a candidate back by StudentsFirst and charter school advocates for a seat on the Washington Unfied board in West Sacramento. These are examples of candidates that the Network would back, Cody said.
Along with Ravitch as president and Cody as treasurer, other board members are Robin Hiller, the executive director of Voices for Education; Phyllis Bush, a retired English teacher who formed Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, which organized to oust that state’s superintendent of education; Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group working for smaller class sizes; Renee Moore, an English instructor at Mississippi Delta Community College and 2001 Mississippi Teacher of the Year; Julian Vasquez Heilig, an associate professor of Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin; and Larry Lee, retired director of the Center for Rural Alabama.