Public education victories in the 2016 elections: Time to re-double efforts to defeat school privatization

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The election of 2016 is over, and we must intensify the fight to save our community public schools. Based on campaign rhetoric, there is no doubt that the Trump/Pence administration will accelerate the movement to privatize our public school system under the guise of “choice.” We will continue to update you and ask you join in that fight.

Even in this dark election, however, there were points of lights found in victories for those of us who believe that public schools are, as Diane often says, the pillar of our democracy. NPE Action endorsed 12 candidates—five of whom were elected or re-elected.

Steve Bullock was re-elected as Governor of Montana. Governor Bullock’s strong, support for public education and democratically governed schools are well known throughout Montana. In 2016, The Network for Public Education’s State Report Card ranked Montana 4th in the nation. Under Governor Bullock’s leadership, the state received a rating of “A” for its resistance to privatization and for its resistance to high-stakes testing. Bullock’s re-election is a major blow to corporate reformers who ran a candidate who wanted to bring charters into the state.

Barbara Madsen was re-elected as Supreme Court Judge in the State of Washington. Madsen authored the court’s 6-3 decision that found that charter schools were not entitled to public monies because they were directed by private boards instead of representatives elected by the community. Stand for Children, Bill Gates, Reed Hastings and other proponents of charters contributed to the campaign to defeat Barbara and her Supreme Court colleagues who voted with her on the charter decision. All were re-elected.

There is more good news in Washington State because it looks like Chris Reykdal will be the new Superintendent of Instruction. Chris is adamant about supporting the Washington State Supreme Court decision that denies public funding to charters. He believes in less testing, smaller class sizes, due process rights for teachers, sufficient and equitable school funding and student data privacy. Although all of the votes are not counted, Chris holds a strong lead and is expected to be the winner.

We also are pleased that two other NPE Action endorsed candidates were victorious. Renitta Shannon won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, and Robert Garcia was elected to a California School Board in the Etiwanda District.

We also thank our endorsed candidates who were not successful for their hard fought campaigns: Hillary Clinton, Glenda Ritz, Zephyr Teachout, Larry Proffitt, Kwame Smith, Ardy Kassakhian, and Mandy Wright. We will bring the fight forward in 2018, and we ask for their continued support in the battle to save our public schools.

 Ballot Initiatives

NPE Action strongly endorsed the defeat of two ballot initiatives that would have furthered the undermining of our community public schools. We are delighted to report that despite a huge influx of corporate reform dollars, both were defeated.

Voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly defeated Question 2, 62%-38%. Question 2 would have lifted the cap off charter schools (a cap that still has not even been reached) and permitted the addition of 12 charter schools each year. A coalition of parents, teachers and students banded together and defeated its proponents who spent at least $22 million. Big out-of-state givers were billionaires and hedge fund managers.

The question was handily defeated in areas where charters have the greatest presence, busting the “charters are a civil rights” myth. “Ultimately, communities of color spoke loudly about our needs to protect public school funding while also expressing an urgency to deliver a quality education for all our students,” said Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP.

Voters in Georgia said, “keep your hands off our public schools.”

Democrats and Republicans joined to defeat Amendment 1, the governor’s plan to change the state constitution to allow him to take over schools with low-test scores and turn them into charters. Civil Rights icon and former mayor, Andrew Young, baseball legend, Hank Aaron, and Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haywood encouraged voters to defeat this ALEC inspired initiative to undermine the democratic control of local schools. The voters of Georgia agreed.

Californians passed Proposition 55 that extended the 2012 personal income tax on incomes over $250,000 for 12 years in order to fund education and healthcare in the state. It overwhelmingly passed.


During the election season, we were often asked why we did not endorse more candidates and ballot initiatives. The answer is a simple one—endorsements cost money. We need to do legal research to make sure we abide by state laws, and it costs modest funds to send emails and create memes.

NPE Action needs your financial support. Without that support, we cannot do the work that must be done when election time comes around. Unlike the charter industry, we do not have billionaire donors giving money to support political endorsements and candidates. We depend on you. Please donate to NPE Action today.

Make your donation here:

Another way to support NPE Action is to attend our December 11 New York City dinner to honor Diane Ravitch. There are a few tickets left, which you can purchase here:

Thank you for all that you do. The 2016 election taught us a valuable lesson… we all need to do more.

Carol Burris

Executive Director

NPE Action

NPE Action is a 501 (c)(4). Therefore donations are not tax deductible.