Grassroots democracy in New York State: Opting out and resisting the corporate reform agenda in schooling

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Set against acknowledgement that neoliberalism has negatively affected the functioning of democracy through the reconstruction of homo politicus as homo economicus, this chapter documents and analyses the ways of working and successes of two parent activist groups in the state of New York opposed to the corporate reform agenda in schooling with a targeted focus on opting their children out of the standardised tests in Grades 3–8. These parents have clearly rejected a neoliberal policy framing of them as merely consumers and choosers in school markets. Rather, they have asserted their rights as active citizens to be included in framing school policies, to be involved in school governance through election to School Boards and the Board of Regents, and to be active participants in all aspects of their children’s schooling. The two groups, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) and Long Island Opt-out (LIOO), have had some real successes achieved through their activism, including the failure of the InBloom data infrastructure project. These groups have cleverly utilised the local governance of schooling in the US to adopt strategies to resist the depredations of high stakes testing and other aspects of the neoliberal corporate reform agenda in schooling. The chapter will show that there are effective grassroots social movement utilising all the resources available to them, particularly social media and the expertise of their teacher members. The impact of the Trump Presidency on their work and policy targets is also briefly traversed.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Book Chapter

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