Justin Oakley, 35, is a self-described lifelong Hoosier, who has been a teacher for 10 years and is sick and tired of school reformers telling him and his fellow teachers how to do their jobs.
Oakley, who has been president of the Martinsville Classroom Teachers Association, had waged a months-long campaign to be nominated as Indiana’s Democratic Party candidate for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but he dropped out of the race and is backing veteran educator Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction against state schools superintendent Tony Bennett.
This is one of the most important education elections in the country. Because Bennett has pushed the privatization of public education further than just about any other state superintendent, the outcome of this race matters. If he is pushed out by a candidate who has far fewer resources than he does to wage a campaign, it would send a strong signal about how the public perceives his reform policies.
Oakley wants teachers around the country to band together in a movement against standardized-test based reform, and in Indiana, to toss out of office Bennett, who is a national leader in the effort to privatize public education. In fact, an editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette starts:
Indiana public schools are struggling under the leadership of Tony Bennett, superintendent of public instruction. His unproven experiment in school choice and privatization has strained local districts at the very time they’ve needed the support and resources of a strong Indiana Department of Education.
Oakley created armbands that say “Just Let Me Teach” and started a Facebook page of the same name last month that has suddenly taken off. Teachers in more than 15 states have ordered more than 4,000 bands and contacted him about events around the idea of helping educate teachers about what they are up against and what they can do to have a voice in the reform debate. Requests are coming in every day, he said.
The Web page’s slogan is this: Just Let Me Teach! – The bands that say it all, so you don’t have to!