Lessons from the Network for Public Education conference in Philadelphia
By Thomas Ultican / Tulticane
The Downtown Double Tree Hotel, where the Network for Public Education (NPE) conference was held, has excellent meeting facilities. Over the May Day weekend of learning and inspiration, it was an easy journey from five joint sessions in the Great Hall to six breakout sessions. The difficult part was choosing which of the eight panels available in each breakout session to attend.
I presented at a Saturday afternoon panel titled “The City Fund: Where They Developed and Implemented the Portfolio Model and Where They Hope to Release It Next.” At the same time, there were seven other signs: “Fighting Coupons in Tennessee”; “The Constitutional and Political Reaction Against Bonds and Charters”; “Gerrymandering, Education and Unaccountable State Legislators” and four others. Even I was conflicted about being on my panel and not being able to attend any of the other offerings.
The conference opened with Diane Ravitch igniting the crowd at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. For those of us on the west coast, that was like 5am. She proposed a new framing of the acronym WOKE as “Wide Open to Knowledge and Enlightenment”. Ravitch continued the demanding theme, “Let’s reclaim the word WOKE as public school activists!” “Wake up to iniquity”, “Wake up to injustice” and “Wake up and bring LIGHT to our public schools“.
After Diane, NPE principal Carol Burris introduced an activist she met when he was in high school and she was principal, Nikhil Goyal. He is now an educational adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders. Goyal demanded a “New Deal for Public Education“. He called for:
“Hundreds of millions of dollars for school infrastructure
“Ending standardized testing
“Ending Investment in Federal Charter Schools
“Building restorative justice
“Extend the child tax credit paid to 100%”
Goyal also remarked that “we cannot discuss public education without discussing poverty, gun violence, the opioid epidemic, and safe housing.”
Privatization is private control over public assets.
Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest shared his definition of privatization as private control over public assets during his panel. The panel was moderated by NPE co-founder Anthony Cody and included Professor Maurice Cunningham, author of Black money and the politics of school privatization and Professor Donald Reed co-author with Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. of Getting into Good Trouble at School: A Guide to Building an Anti-Racist School System.
Professor Cohen argued that what qualifies as a public good should be decided democratically and argued that privatization is an attack on democracy. He noted that markets always exclude people.
Maurice Cunningham pointed out that the right has redefined freedom as selfishness. Donald Reed has observed that shutting down the ability to learn with movements like anti-CRT is fundamentally an attack on democracy.
The panel presented strong evidence of why resisting privatization of public schools is fighting to save democracy.
For the rest of this article, go here.