MCAS’s Michelle Fine, Ira Shor and Regina Tuma Travelling Nationally to Promote Their Crusade in Montclair.

We’ve been quiet for awhile – enjoying summer, doing some errands, cleaning up our to-do list, getting down to the shore – and we imagine we won’t be posting all that much until school gets started again (taking a bit of a summer break, as it were). But we wanted to come back for a moment to flag something important we saw a few weeks ago but hadn’t had a chance to share.

In mid-July, some of our local anti-district agitators including Michelle Fine, Ira Shor, and Regina Tuma, led an anti-school reform event hundreds of miles away in a suburb of Chicago, IL. We’ve said before that one of the things that frustrates us most about the Montclair debate is the way that our schools are being used as a proxy for the national fights these activists are taking on. Their struggle isn’t about our schools here in Montclair at all – it’s about their broader national agenda and national anti-school reform activism. AFT VP / Montclair Vice Mayor / our occasional editor Bob Russo admitted as much, saying they were fighting a “national battle”. Michelle Fine did too. Unfortunately, it’s our schools and our kids that are paying the price for that.

Here’s the details of the event from the post: 

As part of its National Summer Session in Rosemont, IL, Fielding Graduate University invites the extended Chicago community to join the panel discussion titled Teach-In on Public Education—K-12 and Beyond, on July 16, 7-10 pm at The Westin O’Hare, 6100 N River Rd, Rosemont, IL 60018. This evening program will provide a critical exploration and discussion about the future of public schools in the age of standardized tests, corporate reforms, and neo-liberal economics. This conversation will be led by distinguished scholar-activists Michelle Fine,PhD, and Ira Shor, along with organizers Regina Tuma, PhD (Media Psychology Faculty) and Kathy Tiner-Sewell, PhD (Program Director, Educational Leadership for Change). In the true spirit of a teach-in this event is open and inclusive. Educators, students, activists and anyone interested in participating, sharing and discussing this topic is encouraged to attend.

In an interview posted there, Tuma notes that the fight for them is really with their neighbors here who are involved in national politics, and it seems like she sees the fight they are waging in Montclair as a chance to take them on – a proxy battleground for the national fights they are interested in around education: 

“Many of our neighbors in Montclair have been influential in determining the course of national policy in education. That fact alone adds a different tone and dimension to the rhetoric in Montclair. Let’s just say that it makes for awkward glances at the supermarket.”

Again, it’s not an effort focused on our kids or our schools.

This same mentality is reflected in an article we noticed from Ira Shor, posted on the website of United Opt Out, a national anti-testing group. In it, he says: 

We parents can stop the destruction of our public schools. We can stop the looting of school budgets by private charters and testing vendors. We can stop the abuse of our children by the relentless hours of testing. We can stop the closings, the co-locations, the mass firings, the replacement of veteran teachers with short-term Teach for America newbies, the shameful indignity of public schools told they have 24 hours to clear out so a charter can seize their classrooms. 

Again, clearly not an effort focused on our schools here, where the things he’s crusading against really aren’t issues, and it’s certainly not the conspiracy theory he paints it as. If they were issues, we may well side with him on some. But they really aren’t, and so instead of trying to improve our schools and work with our superintendent, they’ve spent the last two years attacking her relentlessly and making it as hard for the district to function as they possibly can. We know this doesn’t help kids or anyone local, so we can only assume that these attacks have been driven by their national political agendas (and likely also by their effort to carve out a more prominent place for themselves as national political activists on these issues, as they seem to be trying to elevate their national profiles with this tour and articles, etc).

One thing we don’t know is who paid for the forum and the trip. Was it Tuma’s Fielding University, or was it funded by other groups who support their political agenda? We’ve sent an email to Dr. Fine to ask her about that, and we will update the post if we hear back from her about the source of the funding for the forum.

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