Most of my school days as a student and as a public school teacher were spent in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). These days Indianapolis seems determined to sell out its public schools. So, when I heard Stand for Children (SfC), a repressive education reform group based in Oregon (where I now live), was pouring large sums into the campaigns of three particular school board candidates, I paid attention. Why would SfC care about a school board election 2,000 miles away? Why should Oregonians think the goals of SfC in Indiana are any different for our state?
Perhaps, foreshadowing the IPS results, glossy brochures and pamphlets barraged voters at the mailbox in the final days leading up to the election. All three elected candidates, Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley, and LaNier Echols, were endorsed by Stand for Children as well as other funders with deep pockets. SfC, in turn, receives much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over $100,000 was donated to the candidates who support for-profit charter schools, high stakes testing, and non-licensed school staff like Teach for America and Teach Plus. Incumbent opponents raised only about $6,000 among the three of them, and while that may sound dismal in comparison to the outside corporate support, it had previously been the norm.
The ousted incumbents are current IPS board president Annie Roof, Samantha Adair-White and Michael Brown, who all had been endorsed by the local teachers’ union.
Brown was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Eugene White, voted against his buyout and has been skeptical of some of the changes the board has embraced since 2012, such as partnerships with charter schools. He said during the campaign that smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents are the keys to improving IPS.
Maybe Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) members, who often consults with SfC on education issues, think Oregonians aren’t aware of its bad behavior in other states. Maybe Governor Kitzhaber and Education CEO Nancy Golden think that parents, students, and community members aren’t aware of SfC’s agenda of privatizing our public schools. They would be wrong. State politicians and the OEIB cannot expect Oregonians to act like ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand on the very important issue of public education. We endorse smaller class sizes, quality teachers and more involved parents just like the ousted IPS board members.
Is SfC planning a coup to disrupt school board election here in Oregon? We’ll know soon enough in April, 2015, when Portland Public School board elections are scheduled. Attempts on the part of SfC and other reform funders to influence the outcome of the election will result in active protest. Oregon school boards are not for sale.