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The Lesson of Florida

Dear Deborah,

As I write this, I am concluding a week of book-touring, and what a week it has been!

I started in Chicago, where I spoke at DePaul University, the University of Illinois, Catalyst, and the National School Boards Association. At NSBA, I was in a concurrent session, but well over 1,000 people showed up, and security guards closed the doors when there were no more chairs.

I flew to California and spoke at UCLA, Stanford, and Berkeley.

At UCLA, the audience included a large contingent of young teachers from Fremont High School, which is bring "transformed" or "turned around." They asked me to help save their school, TO GIVE THEIR plea to Los Angeles Superintendent Ramon Cortines, which I did.

At Stanford, the first question came from a teacher in Salinas who teaches the children of migrant workers; she burst into tears as she said that "they" are about to close HER school where the teachers are working hard to instruct a transient and high-needs enrollment.

At Berkeley, a few hours before I spoke, I learned the great news that Governor Charlie Crist of Florida had vetoed the horrible law that would have made test scores the single largest determinant of teacher compensation. My cell phone (which is my traveling computer) immediately began to overflow with emails from Florida, expressing joy and relief.

Teachers, parents, and friends of public education understand that the Crist veto is not the end of the battle. The struggle is now engaged, as misinformed legislators seek to impose punitive measures on educators, thinking that such actions will help them win Race to the Top funding.

I tell my audiences that Race to the Top will turn out to be a poison pill for American education. It is based on the same "measure and punish" philosophy as No Child Left Behind.

The one bright aspect to the events in Florida is that teachers and parents there HAVE shown what can happen when people organize and take concerted political action. Despite the powerful, well-funded forces ready to destroy the teaching profession, the teachers and parents of Florida prevailed.

The friends of public education in Florida provided people a powerful lesson: united we stand, divided we fall. The education deformers have behind them the resources of hedge-fund managers and financial titans, but the friends of public education have something even more potent: they have people power.

Everywhere I go, the same questions come up: Who will step up and lead the vast and widespread opposition to current policies? Who will give voice to the disempowered teachers, parents, administrators, and school board members who know we are headed in the wrong direction?

Where is the political leader who will take this struggle to the next level?

Diane

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