March 19, 2019 9:10 pm

Phyllis Bush: Our hero of public education remembered

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It is with profound sadness that the Network for Public Education announces the passing of one of our founding board members Phyllis Bush after a courageous battle with cancer.

NPE President, Diane Ravitch, remembers how impressed she was when she first met Phyllis. “I will never forget meeting Phyllis. I spoke at a university event in Indiana, and no sooner did I step off the stage, then I was surrounded by Phyllis and her team. She wanted me to know everything about what was happening in Indiana. I realized I was in the presence of a force of nature. When Anthony Cody and I began creating a national board for the new Network for Public Education, I immediately thought of Phyllis. She was loved and respected by everyone with whom she came into contact. We will miss her. I will miss her.”

Phyllis was a warrior for public education. A retired public school teacher, Phyllis taught English Language Arts to students in Illinois and Indiana for 32 years. Upon retirement, she devoted her energies to fighting high-stakes testing and school privatization. She founded the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education and devoted her energies to lobbying for sound public education policies in her state and the nation.

“Whenever I spoke with Phyllis, she was preparing for, or coming back from traveling to Indianapolis where she would speak with legislators about the importance of supporting public schools. It did not matter whether they agreed with her or not—she was walking
into their office and making her case. When she was not lobbying herself, she was organizing others to do the work. Grassroots groups in Indiana and Ohio looked to Phyllis for leadership. And she led them all with incredible smarts, dedication and a fabulous sense of humor.” said NPE Executive Director, Carol Burris.

This year Phyllis was delighted to help host the Fifth Annual Network for Public Education Conference in her home state of Indiana. During that conference, Phyllis presented the first annual Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing. That award was presented to SOS Arizona, which stopped ESA voucher expansion in its tracks.

Teresa Shimogawa, a teacher from Anaheim, California, wrote about meeting Phyllis at the conference. “Life is short and painful and messy, but people like Phyllis use their fleeting time to champion noble causes. Saving public schools is saving democracy. Phyllis is a true patriot. Her legacy is something that will transcend her physical life.”

Phyllis is survived by her soulmate, retired teacher Donna Roof, who she married in early December of 2018. She also is survived by her son David, her two grandsons, her older brother and sister and her nieces and nephews.

We will miss Phyllis every day. Her humor, hard work and devotion to the public school children of our nation were extraordinary. She was a joy and inspiration to everyone at the Network for Public Education.

Please give to the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing fund so that we can continue to honor her memory for years to come. You can make a tax-deductible donation to that fund here.