NYSUT's fight against the state's obsession with standardized tests is about much more than testing. As political journalist John Nichols sees it, it's an uprising against "dollarocracy" in education that needs to go national.
"The testing industry and privatization movement are working together to create a lie that public education can't do the job," said Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, author and Washington correspondent for The Nation. Nichols is also a frequent guest on MSNBC's "The Ed Show."
"You are defending public education against those who want to destroy it. You're battling against school privatization, overtesting our students and the theory that teachers are the problem," he said.
Nichols delivered a rousing keynote speech during the pre-RA Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference closing luncheon, urging local leaders to fight against the "zombie ideas" resurrected out of Washington and pushed under the "lie of austerity."
"The truth is this is a country with immense resources, with trillions overseas in offshore tax havens," Nichols said. It all comes down to a drive to transfer wealth from the public sphere to private enterprises, he said.
Local leaders, he said, need to look no further than the postal worker unionists' successful fight to save six-day delivery.
If the U.S. Postal Service stopped doing six-day delivery, people would start relying on private companies, Nichols said. But the postal unionists fought back, holding a day of action and building community support. The result? The U.S. Postal board announced this week that Saturday deliveries would continue. "If the postal workers can beat back the private agenda, educators like you - who have so much respect - can go out to the streets and demand a pro-education agenda," Nichols said.
"You will not stand alone. People are looking for you to stand up. Don't wait like the people of Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey who waited (for a crisis). Fight from a position of strength and you can win."