November 6, 2023 12:05 pm

Grassroots Education Network- October 2023 Newsletter

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The NPE/NPE Action Conference, was held October 28 to the 29th, and was attended by over 400 passionate defenders of public education. The conference, held in our nation’s capital, was the 10th Anniversary of the NPE/NPE Action Conference. There were over 195 presenters and over 40 panels. The theme of the conference this year was Public Schools: Where Democracy Grows. 

This newsletter is replacing our monthly Grassroots Network Education Newsletter. It features members of the grassroots network who attended and presented at the conference. A full write-up of the conference that will include all of the panels will be coming out soon on the NPE newsletter. Again, this newsletter highlights only the grassroots groups that presented.  Our regular grassroots newsletter will resume in November. 

Friday – October 27th 

NPE President Dr. Diane Ravitch and staff member to the Nation at Risk committee James Harvey started off the conference with a special session to discuss the Nation at Risk report. On Friday evening Diane and Jim spoke to a packed house about the hoax of the report and the damage it has done to education.  Diane discussed the implications of a Nation at Risk with Jim who was in the room when the report was created. 

Saturday – October 28th

The opening Keynote that kicked off the conference was NPE President Diane Ravitch who addressed attendees and introduced the opening keynote Gloria Billings Ladson. Gloria’s powerful keynote set the tone for the conference.  Gloria made it clear that “Choice is a synonym for privatization.” Gloria’s powerful keynote will be available soon. 

In Session 1 the  Indiana Coalition for Public Education partnered with their former Superintendent of Instruction Jennifer McCormick to give a fantastic panel that discussed how privatization becomes personal. The Pastors for Texas Children, Pastors for North Carolina Children, and Pastors for Kentucky Children were joined by Rev. Golden, founder of Pastors for Florida Children, in their panel Mobilizing Faith Leaders. The panel discussed grassroots strategies to identify, recruit, train, and commission pastors, rabbis, imams, and lay congregational leaders for public education advocacy. The Hillsborough Public School Advocates and the Hillsborough Teachers Association were joined by NPE Action Board Member and St. Louis powerhouse Gloria Evans Nolan to discuss power in numbers. The panel talked about successful coalition building techniques–among community members and with teacher unions. 

In Session 2,  SOS Arizona represented by Beth Lewis, Sharon Kirsch, and Yasmin Kassel discussed how they are pushing back and successfully making the case to the public for a full rollback of the universal program in the first state in the nation to pass universal ESA vouchers. Community Voices for Public Education was represented on the State Takeover of Houston Public Schools panel with the Houston Federation of Teachers. The panel discussed the hostile takeover of Houston ISD by the state.  The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools and Education Voters PA were present and had a vibrant discussion about the 26 year push for charter reform in Pennsylvania: Advocates for Public Education Policy flew out from Colorado and discussed the challenges facing portfolio districts in the face of enrollment decline, with a specific focus on Denver Public Schools. They were joined by public education advocate Phil Sorensen, educator Anna Noble, and former Denver school board candidate Jane Shirley  The lunch Keynote was Dr. Marvin Dunn who discussed the dark history of racism in Florida and the attempts to rewrite it. Dr. Dunn also won The Diane Ravitch David Award this year which represents a person who has taken down a Goliath. You will be able to view Dr. Dunn’s keynote soon. 

Congratulations to the Ohio Public Education Partners won the Phyllis Bush Award for grassroots organizing.   

After lunch, Session 3 panels began.  Parents for Public Schools National gave an amazing panel on parent engagement and how to create effective school board members. The Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida discussed  their experience as school board members and the impact of the increased politicization of educational issues and school board races. The Journey for Justice Alliance, Schott Foundation, Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, Dignity in Schools, and the United Educators of San Francisco discussed federal policy opportunities for advancing Community Schools and supporting equity and justice through public education.  Public Schools First NC explained how school choice in North Carolina through school vouchers and charter schools has resulted in significant discrimination and segregation in our schools and in some cases, fraudulent use of tax dollars.  Stand for Schools, SOS New Jersey, SOS Arizona, Families for Strong Public Schools, Wisconsin Public Education Network shared some of the things they have learned by comparing what’s working and what’s not, and explored avenues for further collaboration that would benefit public school students nationwide in their organizing across the states panel. 

Session 4 was packed with some powerful panels. Defending the Early Years described their national campaign to restore the link between high quality education and early childhood and how you can participate in the work. Fund Education NOW in their panel, What the Florida (WTF), shared the signs along the road to privatization and how, learning from the destruction of public education in their states, others can be proactive in defending public education before it’s too late. Network for Public Education Action board member Gloria Evans Nolan, along with Kentucky state representative Tina Bojanowski, and former pro-voucher lobbyist for the Goldwater Institute Charles Siler discussed how to effectively advocate for the education issues you care about. The Wisconsin Public Education Network and the Indiana Coalition for Public Education sat on the panel Lessons from the Midwest with state leaders and organizers from Wisconsin and Indiana. The panel opened a conversation on how we can best come together, maximize our impact, build a base of future leaders, and use what power and influence we have in the roles we hold to stand up for students attending our public schools. 

The evening Keynote began with U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro accepting the first Mother Crusader Award which honors the late NPE Communications Director Darcie Cimurusti.  Darcie’s family joined us for the evening and her daughter introduced the award.  After the Mother Crusader Award, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Josh Cowen, and Jon Hale discussed the privatization of public education and the attacks on teaching and learning. 

Finally, NPE attendees were excited to have Jessica Piper (“Dirt Road Democrat”) and Rob Rogers (Data Disruptor) at the conference. They conducted a special session in the evening on how to use TikTok and other forms of social media to get out your message.   

Sunday – October 29th

Session 5 began bright and early on Sunday morning. The Journey for Justice Alliance engaged in a panel discussion and work session that interrogated racism and the aftermath it leaves in Black, Brown, Indigenous and working class communities. Community Voices for Public Education and Pastors for Tennessee Children provided critical descriptions and information from those who have seen state takeovers firsthand. The panel also discussed the damage to communities and schools that occurs when districts experience a hostile takeover by the state. Education Voters PA partnered with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, League of Women Voters PA, and SEIU 668 in a session that provided resources, tools, and strategies to organizers so that they can help advocate for changes to school facility policy and management practices that ensure safe school buildings for students and teachers. Wisconsin Public Education Network brought their dynamic team from Wisconsin and conducted a panel that shared lessons learned from real wins and losses across the state. They provided messaging tools for coming together to keep the focus on students’ needs, even when things get ugly at the local level. 

The brunch Keynote packed the Presidential Ballroom. After a video welcome by Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York, NPE President Diane Ravitch sat down with the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and the National Education Association President Becky Pringle. The conversation was informing, inspiring, and motivating.

After the amazing brunch discussion Session 6 kicked off.  Education Voters PA shared strategies to use when right-wing extremists make attempts to take over your local school board.  Pastors for Florida Children and the Florida Policy Institute panel discussed how to provide quality education for every child and gave participants an important road map on how to create legislative agendas that promote diverse curricula and discourage privatization. Uniting to Save our Schools board members shared their 2023 Campaign of Critical Dialogues in their efforts to fight for truth and equity in our nation’s public schools.. 

Session 7 was the final session of the conference. The Florida Policy Institute and Families for Strong Public Schools taught participants how to  calculate the cost of vouchers, communicate strategies that highlight vouchers’ impact on school funding, and grass top to grassroots approaches that empower education advocates. In the Public Interest discussed what a community school is, explained how the model is being won and implemented in a number of states, and showed how it’s improving the lives (and test scores) of students from suburban Florida to downtown Los Angeles. The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and Illinois Families for Public Education described the ongoing efforts to protect student privacy at both the state and federal levels. The Network for Public Education President Diane Ravitch sat on a panel with a crew from Documented. Nick Surgey (Executive Director for Documented) and his team uncovered the right wing plot to destroy public education. The final keynote for the conference featured Texas superstar Georgina Pérez. Georgina is also a former Texas State School Board Member and NPE Board Member.  Georgina spoke about her time on the Texas State School Board and the development of the state’s first ethnic studies course. 

Stay tuned for information on the NPE/NPE Action 2025 conference. In the coming weeks, we will publish videos of the sessions described above. 

NPE Grassroots Education Network – Resources and Graphics

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.