Reason for optimism at Network for Public Education conference

The movement to support public schools is big, diverse and deeply committed. That’s the obvious take-away from the fifth annual conference of the Network for Public Education, which took place last weekend in downtown Indianapolis.

The network has grown like crazy since its start a mere five years ago, boosted by the reputation of co-founder Diane Ravitch but also by a hunger among teachers, parents and activists for a way to voice their concerns about the threats facing public education. The conference drew nearly 400 people.

And they came from all over – from California, New York, Washington and Puerto Rico, and from across Indiana, where public schools have been under fierce attack from the Republican-dominated state government and bunch of generously funded advocacy groups.

The mood in Indy was optimistic and determined. Teacher walkouts last spring in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma, and the public support they garnered, were still on everyone’s minds. The expansion of charter schools has slowed, studies have found that vouchers don’t work and news media have caught on to how unregulated school choice promotes segregation and inequality.

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