Skip to main content

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.



Boston University

Brandon Greene

Bowie State University

Telisha Byrd

Brown University

Samuel Bell

City University of New York 

Alexi Shalom

Alyssia Paula

Isabelle N. Jagninski

DePaul University

Tessa Simonds

Drexel University

William Lukas

Florida Atlantic University

Andrew Ginden

Fordham University

Samanta Brihaspat

Harvard University

Rachel Sandalow-Ash

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne

Amy Schwarz

New York University

Stephanie Plachy

Northwestern High School (Maryland)

Shane James

Ricardo Fuentes

Northwestern University

Mauricio Maluff Masi

Niabi Kendra Schmaltz

Occidental College

Baillee Brown

Guido Girgenti

Liyah Washington

Ohio Virtual Academy

Jabreel Chisley

Ohio State University

Lainie Rini

Ohio University

Jacob Chaffin

Jared Henderson

Richard J. Daley College

Raymond Duran

Rutgers University

Bryan Miranda

Joie DeRitis

MoNeke Ragsdale

Victoria Saraiva

School of the Future High School (New York)

Giulia Girgenti

Seton Hall University

Lee Nave, Jr.

Social Justice High School (Chicago)

Rocio Meza

Southern PolyTechnic State Univeristy

Guled Abdilahi

Swarthmore College

William Lawrence

Temple University 

Walter Smolarek

University of Illinois at Chicago

Byron Sigcho

University of Las Vegas

Kristin Barr

Veronica Robledo

University of Michigan

Megan Gilson

Michael McHenry

University of Missouri-Columbia

Ankur Singh

University of New Mexico

Jeremiah Henderson

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dan Suerez

Maxwell John Love

Michael Billeaux

Joe Evica

Katie Zaman

René Espinoza Kissell

University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh

Scot McCullough

William Patterson University

Brian Andrew


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


Kuhio Kane


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

Jen Johnson

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

New Jersey

Bob Cecchini

Brian Ford, Teacher of Social Studies, Montclair Public Schools

Brian Hohmann

Darcie Cimarusti

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)

New York

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

North Carolina

Dov Rosenberg

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


Kathleen Jeskey


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

Rhode Island

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

Washington, DC

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

Kris Alman

Mindy Gould,  Miami, Florida

Terry Kennedy, Pittsburgh, PA


Community Organizers

Marilyn Ondrasik, Stratford, CT



Cynthia Townsend, Oregon

Dan McGuire, Minnesota

Julia Rubin

Kenneth J. Bernstein, DC

Marge Borchert, New York

Maureen Cullnan, Chicago

Peter Goodman, NYC Blogger: Ed in the Apple

Rick Hamrick

Wendy Lecker, Connecticut



(Please see original link for signup form)

This blog post has been shared by permission from the author.
Readers wishing to comment on the content are encouraged to do so via the link to the original post.
Find the original post here:

The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

Stephanie Rivera

Stephanie Rivera is a student at Rutgers University. She is a future teacher and educational equity activist. ...