This morning I started my day standing out in the driveway with my neighbors and their kids, waiting for the school bus to come on the first day of school.
Everyone was happy and excited -- buzzing with that first-day energy we all remember from being kids.
New sneakers, new school supplies, first-day-of-school outfits, pictures at the bus stop ... what could be more cozy, familiar, Norman-Rockwellish?
Who would have imagined that a network of rightwing and corporate interests would rollout a coordinated attack on our neighborhood schools?
It's hard to believe, but it's true.
Here is a picture of my daughter with her teacher at the historic Madison protests.
Like cartoon bad guys, the school privatizers are attacking teachers, spreading propaganda about "failing" schools, and, most of all, pursuing a coordinated campaign to drain money from the public schools and put it in private hands.
Today, when I got to work, it was a first day for me as well -- my first day in the office as editor-in-chief of the Progressive Magazine.
And the first new project we are rolling out is our Public School Shakedown web site.
As students and teachers head back to the classroom we are revving up the movement to save our public schools. On our brand new site we are pulling together education experts, activists, bloggers, and concerned citizens around the country.
Public School Shakedown is dedicated to EXPOSING the behind-the-scenes effort to privatize our public schools, and CONNECTING pro-public school activists nationwide.
"Public School Shakedown will be a fantastic addition to the debate," says education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch. "The Progressive is performing a great public service by helping spread the word about the galloping privatization of our public schools."
"Free public education, doors open to all, no lotteries, is a cornerstone of our democracy," Ravitch adds. "If we allow large chunks of it to be handed over to private operators, religious schools, for-profit enterprises, and hucksters, we put our democracy at risk."
That's where Public School Shakedown comes in. While there are already groups such as the National Education Policy Center doing terrific research on education privatization and its real effects, and bloggers writing pointed, hilarious reports from their home states, there is still not a great deal of understanding in the general population of how the education privatization movement works.
Teachers understand that the attack on public education is an attack on the very heart of our democracy. Yet the "school choice" movement has succeeded in setting the terms of the conversation. To the layperson, "school choice" and "education reform" sound like benign policy goals that aim to improve children's access to high-quality education.
The time is right for a journalistic platform like the Progressive to put the pieces together.
From our base in Madison, Wisconsin, the Progressive has made the attack on public schools a particular focus of our reporting.
Wisconsin is ground-zero for the school voucher movement. The first school voucher program started in Milwaukee back in 1990. But the last few years of the Walker Administration really brought the importance of this issue home.
As we marched in the streets with our kids' teachers, we saw how much we had to lose -- a great public school system, open to all, and a democratic community -- not just a pay-as-you-go system of winners and losers that leaves the poor and middle class behind.
This month, we are pleased to have an excerpt from Diane Ravitch's forthcoming book, Rein of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools on our cover.
In October, we will have a live chat with Diane Ravitch on the Public School Shakedown site. Join us!
Visit the site and meet the rest of our Featured Writers -- a network of brilliant, funny, and well-informed education experts who have been tracking the attack on public schools around the nation.
They include cult favorites like EduShyster, who has built an avid fan base with the funniest, most irreverent writing on the education reform industry in America today.
Our nationwide network of bloggers is coordinated by Jonathan Pelto, a leading public school advocate, former state legislator in Connecticut, and the author of the most-read commentary site in his home state.
"If President Eisenhower were alive today he would be warning us about the dangers associated with the Education Reform Industrial Complex," says Pelto. "Public School Shakedown will be an extraordinarily important source of information and a leading force in the developing battle to take back control of our public schools and stop the education reform industry as they seek to privatize and undermine public education in America."
Our partners include:
The National Education Policy Center which brings together the best education experts in the country to provide academically rigorous, peer-reviewed research and analysis of education policy.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign which tracks money in politics in Wisconsin -- and has dug deep into the rise of the school-choice lobby as a leader of campaign spending.
Michigan Campaign Finance Network which tracks money in politics in that state -- a hotbed of national anti-public-school activism.
One Wisconsin Now, a nonprofit progressive advocacy group that has done groundbreaking research on the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, a major behind-the-scenes player in the anti-public-school movement nationwide.
Rethinking Schools the teacher-founded nonprofit journal of education.
At The Chalk Face, the progressive news site and radio show founded to put educators' voices back into the conversation about education.
And, most importantly, YOU!!
It's up to active, engaged citizens to stand up to the moneyed interests that are trying to tear down this cornerstone of our democracy.
Across the country, the fight is on. Join us, for the sake of our kids, our teachers, and the kind of society we want to live in.
Follow us on Twitter @SchoolShakedown. Welcome aboard!
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.