Deb Mayer attended public schools all her life. Her family moved around a lot, and by the time she was in high school, she had moved 16 times. There was never any question that there would be a public school for her to attend at each destination. She has three sons, each of whom received a great public education. But over the past decade, public schools have come under attack by the millionaires and billionaires who want to privatize them. Deb came to the realization that public schools may become a thing of the past with a jolt.
Deb stumbled into education advocacy when in 2003 she was fired from her teaching job in Bloomington Indiana for making an innocuous statement in support of peace before the war in Iraq began. Blacklisted by the school, she sued for violation of her First Amendment right of free speech and wrongful termination. In Mayer v. Monroe, aka the “Honk for Peace” case, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that teachers have no right of free speech, “ . . . a teacher’s speech is a commodity she sells to the school in exchange for a salary.” It wasn’t until a few years later that Deb would recognize the impact of the strategy behind that ruling.
In 2009, when she realized the real game changer was corporate reform led by the triumvirate of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family, Deb organized a nonprofit, Great Schools for America, focusing on Edwatch, a database identifying anti-public education organizations. A couple of years later, Oregon Save Our Schools (OSOS) galvanized when a group of concerned parents and educators recognized the destructive nature of Stand for Children. Deb is a founding member of OSOS, which became an affiliate of Parents Across America.
Over the past 40 years, Deb’s teaching career has run the gamut from teaching at the poorest school in Indianapolis Public Schools, to putting educational theory into practice at the world renown Key School, to teaching a summer session at Punahou (President Barak Obama’s alma mater), to running a small elite charter — The Island School in Boca Grande, Florida. She also served as an adjunct faculty member of Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) for many years.
In her spare time Deb blogs about education issues and seeks out politicians to champion the cause of public education. She does volunteer grant writing for organizations that directly address issues of equity and poverty. She also moderates Free Speech Nation, Don’t Teach for America, and Key Math Lab PDX.