Students United for Public Education

Originally posted November 26, 2012

It’s finally here. It’s time we share this initiative widely. Students United for Public Education

Ever since the fantastic work students at University of Wisconsin-Madison did a few months back, I was fortunately connected to so many like-minded students. Since then, an initiative has been under construction.

There has been a significant amount of criticizing, discussing, and debating, but we all recognized such action can only get us so far. Of course it is pivotal that we continue bringing in differing perspectives, but we must go beyond the regular avenues of discourse and exposure to ensure further progress.

With this purpose in mind, we are working together to build a new national student organization with a clear agenda of what we believe in and what we support.

Whether you are a student in college or high school, a parent, teacher, professor, community member, researcher–any interest in promoting educational equity whatsoever–we are in search of your support and input.

We hope you will take a couple minutes to read through our goals and our beliefs. If you find yourself aligning with our positions, we hope you will join our network as we work together to promote quality education for all. There is much work to be done and actions to be planned, but we believe creating a national network is the necessary first step.

We thank all of you who have inspired and supported us to take action, and hope you continue to support us as we launch a new aspect of the student movement.

Your core founders of Students United for Public Education

Stephanie Rivera, Rutgers University, 
Michael Billeaux, University of Wisconsin-Madison
, René Espinoza, Kissell, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 
Dan Suárez, University of Wisconsin-Madison



• Create a national network of students who are committed to fighting for educational equity in America and to work collectively to organize action that works towards this vision.

• Work together with students, teachers, parents, community members, education professionals and their organizations to promote, defend, and fight for quality public education for all.

• Amplify all student voices, especially those who are too often silenced e.g. students with disabilities, immigrant youth (documented and undocumented), students of color, English Language Learners, LGBTQ students, and students from low-income backgrounds. All students should have a say in their education.

• Create productive dialogue that will provide alternative perspectives and collaborative thinking on the critical issues in education. Thus, establishing a way forward for education based on the principle of equality for all rather than profit.


• Saving and fighting for our public schools. We recognize that public schools are a public good from which we all benefit. Therefore, efforts should be aimed towards improving the quality of education for all students. We recognize that problems exist within our public schools, but we do not believe attacking them with privatization and “turn-arounds” are effective approaches. We believe in working with the schools in order to have the maximum impact on all students and ultimately guarantee quality education for all.

• Working with those being impacted the most by education reform and education policy. We seek to listen to students, teachers, parents, and communities as a whole. We believe the members of each of these communities know better than outsiders what is best for their students.

• Helping communities have an elected school board with student representation on board. The first step in assuring that a community’s voice is heard is to have elected school boards. We also believe that anybody that makes policies for schools should have a student representative to act as a liaison and share the concerns of fellow students.

• Looking at all other factors that are affecting our students. Many education reformers and policy-makers seek to have us ignore factors that have long been recognized to negatively impact students. In contrast, we affirm the primacy of racial and economic inequality. We believe factors such as lack of access to opportunity, large class-sizes, lack of access to proper health care, limited food availability, the school-to-prison pipeline, community safety, and other concerns prevalent in impoverished communities must be addressed, not ignored or considered secondary.

• Eliminating high-stakes testing. We believe students across the nation are not receiving the education they deserve largely due to the push for more high-stakes testing. We believe each student is an individual, not a test score. High-stakes testing fuels many harmful policies such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT), which inevitably leads to “teaching to the test” and the increase of cheating scandals. Although we believe accountability is necessary, there are other approaches that could be implemented that do not rob students of their access to genuine learning. With the elimination of high-stakes testing, teachers are granted more flexibility in creating more innovative and critical curricula for their students.

• Working with and supporting teachers’ unions. Unions protect the rights of teachers and fight for the students that they serve. Without the protection of the union, it becomes much more difficult for teachers to fight for what they know is right for their students. We believe in supporting the emerging social justice and class struggle unionism that allows for their active participation in the many critical issues of justice impacting education. We have seen positive results from taking action and serving as allies with unions e.g. the Chicago Teachers Union strike this past September.

• Protecting teachers and the teaching profession. We see the value of the teaching profession. The escalating attack on educators and public education has resulted in low morale leading to high teacher-turnover rates which is damaging to student learning. We believe we must support teachers in their efforts to defend against unjust attacks on their profession; e.g. advocating for fair evaluations, bringing to light the negative effects of merit-pay, aiming for an across-the-board increase of teacher pay, and granting educators professional autonomy. In addition, we hope to support university/college level students in their transition to becoming educators and education policy leaders in their communities. We aim to provide effective alternatives that stray away from problematic programs that hinder progress towards educational equity.

• Recognizing the importance of connecting our local communities to the global picture.. We believe the revitalization of our public schools involves support by and for urban and suburban communities. Such support facilitates and enlivens solution-oriented action regarding social issues such as housing rights, environmental justice, and access to medical care, to name a few. While working collectively in local communities is important, we must also think about where our vision fits in the larger, global picture.

• Recognizing the complexity of addressing the educational inequity crisis, while observing that current policies being implemented are hindering progress. We recognize there are no simple or easy solutions to reaching educational equity. Yet, by working with professionals in the field, reviewing the research, and hearing from students being directly affected by inequity, we can bring to light policies which are preventing educational equity from becoming a reality. By recognizing problematic policies, we are able to credibly point out ineffective methods in hopes to prevent them from continually being implemented.

Form to get involved and sign onto list of supporters can be found below.