NSBA's new campaign, Stand Up 4 Public Schools, became part of Oscar night; online toolkit for advocates now available

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It wasn’t designed by Fred Leighton and couldn’t be measured by carats, but it carried an important message.

Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, wore the National School Boards Association’s red wristband for its “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign as he accepted the Oscar for the Best Picture at the 2014 Academy Awards.

NSBA’s “Stand Up 4 Public Schools“ campaign centers on creating strong public schools, governed by school boards, to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn 21st-century skills and are prepared for higher education and the workplace.

NSBA also is partnering with New Regency, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to distribute 12 Years a Slave to public high schools. The initiative is coordinated by Montel Williams, who is a celebrity spokesperson for the “Stand Up 4 Public Schools” campaign. NSBA will start to distribute copies of the film, book, and study guide to 12 Years a Slave nationwide in September 2014 in concert with the new school year.

In announcing the partnership to distribute the film, McQueen said, “Since first reading 12 Years a Slave, it has been my dream that this book be taught in schools. I am immensely grateful to Montel Williams and the National School Boards Association for making this dream a reality and for sharing Solomon Northup’s story with today’s generation.”

NSBA President David A. Pickler attended the Academy Awards and met McQueen on the red carpet before the event. During the ceremony, Pickler tweeted, “Just met Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave. Shared a hug in celebration of the @NSBAComm partnership.”

“Great public schools reflect the will of local communities and the strong governance of local school boards dedicated to advancing student achievement,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “This is an excellent vehicle for NSBA and our state associations to connect to share the great things happening in America’s public schools.”

Sal Khan, founder of the not-for-profit Khan Academy, is the campaign’s first celebrity advocate to appear in the advertising campaign. In addition to Williams, basketball legend and business mogul Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be featured in upcoming phases of the campaign. State school boards associations will be highlighting local celebrities in their campaigns as well, and more celebrities will be joining the national campaign over the next year.

“NSBA’s campaign intends to counter the aggressive, well-funded attacks on public education with national and local outreach that supports local school board governance and honors the achievements of America’s public schools,” Gentzel said.

The campaign operates against a simple premise: “Who I am today began with public education,” paired with the rejoinder, “Today’s public schools are better than ever.”

In one of the advertisements featuring Khan, he notes that “People talk about college and career readiness, but both are just a means to an end. What we really need to talk about is life readiness.”

The campaign website, www.standup4publicschools.org includes more details on the campaign and how individuals can get involved and take action to support public schools.

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