Last week I wrote a column in Madison's alternative weekly, Isthmus about a new kid in town. The piece has generated a ton of traffic and a lot of chatter locally, as I figured it would.
Tim Slekar recently moved to Madison from Pennsylvania to take a job as dean of the education school at Edgewood College.
Tim is a very, very interesting hire. Not only is he a big pro-public-school advocate, he is a co-founder of United Opt-Out, a group that encourages parents and teachers to refuse to participate in high-stakes standardized tests.
Tim has been speaking out loudly about the threat to public education posed by these tests, and by the corporate drive to privatize education and label public schools as "failing."
He blogs about the dangers of corporate-backed education reform at atthechalkface.com and cohosts the online chalkface weekly radio show on Sundays at 5 p.m.
In Madison, Wisconsin, where historic protests and a plan to voucherize the public school system by our divisive governor, Scott Walker, got tempers boiling, a parent opt-out movement is easy to envision. This liberal enclave in a divided state is ripe for organizing.
Wisconsin is ground zero for school vouchers (Milwaukee had the first private school voucher program back in 1990). It's also a state with a historically terrific public school system that is now threatened by a school-choice lobby that rivals the coalition of all business interests in the state.
And make no mistake, this is a national movement.
I drove down to Chicago with Tim last week to meet with some public-school teachers there who are on the front lines of the battle against the forces of education "reform" that is literally tearing down public schools.
Two of the teachers we met with had just come from an action in which neighborhood residents joined hands to try to stop bulldozers from destroying a field house that contained a school library.
One of the teachers went to jail, and the bulldozers plowed down the building, leaving kids in the area without a local place to get free books, hang out, and participate in after-school programs. Now, the teachers and neighborhood families predict, the space will be used for a soccer field for a nearby Catholic school.
Where are we, Ramallah?
Check out this classic blog by Tim on the threat behind benign-sounding ed reform:
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