Education historian Diane Ravitch, a fierce critic of current education reform trends, is launching a new advocacy organization that will support political candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, and what her group calls the "privatizing" of public schools.
The new Network for Public Education is meant to counter state-level forces such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand for Children, and Students First—all of which are promoting their own vision of education reform and supporting candidates for office, including with donations. That agenda backs things such as charter schools and teacher evaluations tied to student growth. Other powerful outside groups are also pushing such an agenda, though without the political donations, including former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education and Chiefs for Change.
In a news release, the Network for Public Education notes that "wealthy individuals are pouring unprecedented amounts of money into state and local school board races, often into places where they do not reside, to elect candidates intent on undermining and privatizing our public schools."
Indeed, my colleague Lesli Maxwell just wrote about the big donations that poured into the Los Angeles school board race, and another one in West Sacramento, Calif.
In the release, Ravitch said her new network "will give voice to the millions of parents, educators, and other citizens who are fed up with corporate-style reform."
The one thing the group won't have is money to donate. Ravitch told me in an interview that her group will focus on branding people with the education-equivalent of the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" and directing other groups to donate money to those candidates.
Ravitch said they want to harness the power of social media—something that doesn't cost anything.
"There are all of these disparate groups, and they're not connected," she said. "What we want to do is be the kind of glue and use the social media to create a powerful national movement."
And while there are powerful teachers' unions that have a similar agenda and a lot of money and influence, she said the Network for Public Education will also be a home for those who don't belong to unions—including parents and teachers in nonunion states.