New Student Initiative: Students United for Public Education
It’s finally here. It’s time we share this initiative widely.
Ever since the fantastic work students at University of Wisconsin-Madison did a few months back, I was fortunately connected to so many like-minded students. Since then, an initiative has been under construction.
There has been a significant amount of criticizing, discussing, and debating, but we all recognized such action can only get us so far. Of course it is pivotal that we continue bringing in differing perspectives, but we must go beyond the regular avenues of discourse and exposure to ensure further progress.
With this purpose in mind, we are working together to build a new national student organization with a clear agenda of what we believe in and what we support.
Whether you are a student in college or high school, a parent, teacher, professor, community member, researcher–any interest in promoting educational equity whatsoever–we are in search of your support and input.
We hope you will take a couple minutes to read through our goals and our beliefs. If you find yourself aligning with our positions, we hope you will join our network as we work together to promote quality education for all. There is much work to be done and actions to be planned, but we believe creating a national network is the necessary first step.
We thank all of you who have inspired and supported us to take action, and hope you continue to support us as we launch a new aspect of the student movement.
Your core founders of Students United for Public Education
Stephanie Rivera, Rutgers University
Michael Billeaux, University of Wisconsin-Madison
René Espinoza Kissell, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Create a national network of students who are committed to fighting for educational equity in America and to work collectively to organize action that works towards this vision.
- Work together with students, teachers, parents, community members, education professionals and their organizations to promote, defend, and fight for quality public education for all.
- Amplify all student voices, especially those who are too often silenced e.g. students with disabilities, immigrant youth (documented and undocumented), students of color, English Language Learners, LGBTQ students, and students from low-income backgrounds. All students should have a say in their education.
- Create productive dialogue that will provide alternative perspectives and collaborative thinking on the critical issues in education. Thus, establishing a way forward for education based on the principle of equality for all rather than profit.
- Saving and fighting for our public schools.We recognize that public schools are a public good from which we all benefit. Therefore, efforts should be aimed towards improving the quality of education for all students. We recognize that problems exist within our public schools, but we do not believe attacking them with privatization and “turn-arounds” are effective approaches. We believe in working with the schools in order to have the maximum impact on all students and ultimately guarantee quality education for all.
- Working with those being impacted the most by education reform and education policy.We seek to listen to students, teachers, parents, and communities as a whole. We believe the members of each of these communities know better than outsiders what is best for their students.
- Helping communities have an elected school board with student representation on board.The first step in assuring that a community’s voice is heard is to have elected school boards. We also believe that anybody that makes policies for schools should have a student representative to act as a liaison and share the concerns of fellow students.
- Looking at all other factors that are affecting our students. Many education reformers and policy-makers seek to have us ignore factors that have long been recognized to negatively impact students. In contrast, we affirm the primacy of racial and economic inequality. We believe factors such as lack of access to opportunity, large class-sizes, lack of access to proper health care, limited food availability, the school-to-prison pipeline, community safety, and other concerns prevalent in impoverished communities must be addressed, not ignored or considered secondary.
- Eliminating high-stakes testing. We believe students across the nation are not receiving the education they deserve largely due to the push for more high-stakes testing. We believe each student is an individual, not a test score. High-stakes testing fuels many harmful policies such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT), which inevitably leads to “teaching to the test” and the increase of cheating scandals. Although we believe accountability is necessary, there are other approaches that could be implemented that do not rob students of their access to genuine learning. With the elimination of high-stakes testing, teachers are granted more flexibility in creating more innovative and critical curricula for their students.
- Working with and supporting teachers’ unions.Unions protect the rights of teachers and fight for the students that they serve. Without the protection of the union, it becomes much more difficult for teachers to fight for what they know is right for their students. We believe in supporting the emerging social justice and class struggle unionism that allows for their active participation in the many critical issues of justice impacting education. We have seen positive results from taking action and serving as allies with unions e.g. the Chicago Teachers Union strike this past September.
- Protecting teachers and the teaching profession.We see the value of the teaching profession. The escalating attack on educators and public education has resulted in low morale leading to high teacher-turnover rates which is damaging to student learning. We believe we must support teachers in their efforts to defendagainst unjust attacks on their profession; e.g. advocating for fair evaluations, bringing to light the negative effects of merit-pay, aiming for an across-the-board increase of teacher pay, and granting educators professional autonomy. In addition, we hope to support university/college level students in their transition to becoming educators and education policy leaders in their communities. We aim to provide effective alternatives that stray away from problematic programs that hinder progress towards educational equity.
- Recognizing the importance of connecting our local communities to the global picture.We believe the revitalization of our public schools involves support by and for urban and suburban communities. Such support facilitates and enlivens solution-oriented action regarding social issues such as housing rights, environmental justice, and access to medical care, to name a few. While working collectively in local communities is important, we must also think about where our vision fits in the larger, global picture.
- Recognizing the complexity of addressing the educational inequity crisis, while observing that current policies being implemented are hindering progress.We recognize there are no simple or easy solutions to reaching educational equity. Yet, by working with professionals in the field, reviewing the research, and hearing from students being directly affected by inequity, we can bring to light policies which are preventing educational equity from becoming a reality. By recognizing problematic policies, we are able to credibly point out ineffective methods in hopes to prevent them from continually being implemented.
Form to get involved and sign onto list of supporters can be found below.
List of Supporters
The support of individuals and groups below do not necessarily reflect the opinions of their respective institutions.
Bowie State University
City University of New York
Isabelle N. Jagninski
Florida Atlantic University
Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne
New York University
Northwestern High School (Maryland)
Mauricio Maluff Masi
Niabi Kendra Schmaltz
Ohio Virtual Academy
Ohio State University
Richard J. Daley College
School of the Future High School (New York)
Seton Hall University
Lee Nave, Jr.
Social Justice High School (Chicago)
Southern PolyTechnic State Univeristy
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Las Vegas
University of Michigan
University of Missouri-Columbia
University of New Mexico
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Maxwell John Love
René Espinoza Kissell
University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh
William Patterson University
Educators & Professionals
Kathy Carter, Teacher in Willcox Unified School District
Anthony Cody, Retired Teacher
James A. Miller, Jr. PH.D, Teacher in Los Angeles
Joan Kramer, Retired Teacher, Librarian in Los Angeles
Nancy Goldberg, School Board Member at Culver City Unified School District Culver City
Peggy Robertson, Teacher and Administrator of United Opt Out National
Al Ciuffo, Teacher in Stamford
Andrea Conway, Librarian
Anthony Giordano, Teacher in North Haven
Christine Ladd, Teacher in Hartford
Del Shortliffe, Teacher
Linda Hall, Teacher in New Milford
Richard Weyel, Teacher in Mansfield
Chris Spiliotis, Teacher in Seminole
Ginney Libbey, Retired Teacher from Lake Pend Oreille Sch. District
Jan Waldrup, Retired Teacher from Lake Pend Oreille School District
Gretchen Conley, Teacher in Mount Vernon
Heidi Weiman, Professor, Early Childhood Education in Chicago
Jean Sachs-Nygard, Retired Public School Chicago Teacher
Katie Osgood, Teacher in Chicago
Kenzo Shibata, Teacher at Chicago Public Schools
Xian Barrett, Teacher at Chicago Public Schools
Charles Allen, Teacher
Diana Underwood-Gregg, Assoc. Prof. Math Ed. Purdue Calumet
Hilary Gard, Teacher in Crown Point
Mary Louise Bewley, proud Traditional Public Ed grad
Stewart Bloom, Retired Educator
Dixie Moore, Teaching Artist
Jim Randels, Teacher at New Orleans Public Schools
Paul Grehtel, Retired Teacher from St. Bernard Parish School System-
Suzie McGlone, Teacher at Boston Public Schools
Matt Becker, Teacher
Suzanne Mears, Teacher at Minneapolis Public Schools
Frankie Condon, Teacher at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Mary Beth Franzeo, Teacher in Clark County School District
Sebring Frehner, Education Activist & Policy Analyst
Brian Ford, Teacher of Social Studies, Montclair Public Schools
Dave Zirkle, Teacher at Perth Amboy, NJ public schools
Katie Strom, Teacher Education and Teacher Development Doctoral Fellow, Montclair State University
Marco A. Martinez, New Jersey Teacher of English Passaic High School
Mike Harris, Wallkill Valley Regional High School
Okaikor Aryee-Price, Teacher at Jersey City Public Schools
Susan Murphy, Teacher at Jersey City Public Schools
Sylvia Monreal, Professional (Teach for America)
Brian Jones, Teacher in NYC
Cheryl Smith, Teacher in New York
Dan McConnell, Teacher at N.Y. Marathon School District
David Greene, Teacher in NYC, Greenburgh 7, Scarsdale
Diane Ravitch, Author and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education
Deborah Meier, Retired Teacher from District 4 M, NYC and Coalition of Essential Schools
Dorothy A. Petrie, Retired Music Teacher from Greece Central School District
Gary Rubinstein, Teacher in NYC
Gloria Brandman, Teacher in Brooklyn District 13
Jane Maisel, Teacher at City College of New York
John A. Cain III, Teacher in Copenagen CSD
Leonie Haimson, Parent advocate and Executive Director of Class Size Matters
Dr. Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University
Elizabeth Rose, Edu-tainer in NYC
Maria Rosa, Teacher in Buffalo City School District
Mark Friedman, Teacher at Rochester City School District
Maryann Mercer, Teacher at Kenmore Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District
Michele Hamilton, Teacher in NYC
Michelle Pfeffer-Enser, Teacher at West Valley Central School
Neil Friedman, Retired Teacher from NYC Norm Scott, Retired Teacher from NYC
Robin Alsina, Teacher in NYC
Thomas McMahon, Teacher in Mahopac CSD
Tommy Carroll, Teacher in Troy
John I. Wilson, Retired Educator
Robin Johnston, Teacher and Administrator in Chapel Hill
Susan Evans, Elected School Board Member at Wake County Public Schools
Glenda Puett, Retired Teacher. mother of teachers, grandparent
Kipp Dawson, Teacher at Pittsburgh Public Schools
Lisa Haver, Teacher in PA School District of Philadelphia
Lora Bethea Tim McCord, Retired Educator from Titusville Area School District
Timothy D. Slekar, Professor in Pennsylvania
Tom Snyder, Teacher in West Allegheny SD
Jennifer Cook, Teacher Educator at Rhode Island College
Gene Bryant, Retired Educator
Joan C. Grim, Lecturer University of TN, Dept of Theory & Practice in Education, Special Education Team
Joel Jones, Teacher at Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Scott Ellison, Teacher at University of Tennessee
Joshua Seff, Teacher at Carrollton-Farmers Branch
Raymond Gerson, Author and adjunct professor of college success courses, Austin Community College
Richard Bentley, Retired Superintendent
Stephen Badrich, Teacher at San Antonio College
Kenneth Sheck, Teacher at Shenandoah County Public Schools
Ellen Simonis, Teacher in Trout Lake
Guy Brandenburg, Retired DCPS Teacher
Lee Granados, Urban Neighborhood Alliance, Teacher, Parent, Activist
Meri Christensen, Teacher
Sandy Brehl, Retired Teacher
Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor
Judith Bartell, Teacher at Oak Creek-Franklin
Carol Burris, Principal
Michael Charney, Retired Educator
Neil Moffatt, Education Activist
Campaign for America’s Future
Change The Stakes
New Jersey Teacher Activist Group (NJTAG)
Wear Red for Public Education
Bob Valiant, Grandparent, Washington
Dienne Anum, Illinois
Irene Cramer, New Jersey
Jim MacFawn, SUNY Empire State College
Kathleen Jacobson, Georgia
Mindy Gould, Miami, Florida
Terry Kennedy, Pittsburgh, PA
Marilyn Ondrasik, Stratford, CT
Cynthia Townsend, Oregon
Dan McGuire, Minnesota
Kenneth J. Bernstein, DC
Marge Borchert, New York
Maureen Cullnan, Chicago
Peter Goodman, NYC Blogger: Ed in the Apple
Wendy Lecker, Connecticut
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