2022 Eddies Awards: Best Defense

The Eddies—annual, advocate-nominated and voted awards—feature outstanding policy and advocacy wins from the past year.

This Eddies category highlights campaigns that strategically defended important policy and overcame significant odds; sometimes, the most significant wins are actually holding the line. Nominees in this category provide models for how to deploy sharp strategies to defend policies or efforts that benefit students.

See a complete list of 2022 nominees in all Eddies categories. Staff at PIE Network members and partner organizations, check your inbox for a link to vote in each category. Don’t see it? Email [email protected].

Best Defense Winner

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and many others: #BackOff Charters

Best Defense Finalists


Advance Illinois

Keeping Illinois’ Historic Funding Reform, EBF Formula on Course

Advance Illinois leads the Funding Illinois’ Future coalition, which has been advocating for adequate and equitable funding for Illinois students for the better half of the last decade. Thanks to the tenacious efforts of Advance Illinois and the Funding Illinois’ Future coalition, landmark school funding reform was signed into law in 2017, introducing a new Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula. Each year the FIF coalition has advocated for additional resources to be invested into the formula and be equitably distributed to the highest need districts in the state. With a coalition of strong and diverse stakeholders, we have been able to navigate difficult budget years, COVID-19 related disruptions, and changes in administrations and legislative leadership, resulting in ~ $1.57 Billion new dollars into EBF in the last five years.

Advance Illinois and its coalition partners remain committed to implementing EBF with fidelity and pushing to ensure that all Illinois districts get the dollars that they need to serve their unique students’ needs. Their work includes:

  • Equipping Funding Illinois’ Future coalition partners to advocate for at least $350 million in additional state funding to be appropriated through the EBF formula each year 
  • Analyzing implementation of EBF funding, presenting findings to the public and partners, and advocating for improvements   

With new players continuously entering the field, Advance Illinois must continually reinforce the original principles of the EBF formula for state leaders and keep coalition partners engaged and state leaders accountable in the long path to ensure funding adequacy and equity.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and many others

#BackOff Charters

PIE Network Members involved: Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, National Parents Union, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Colorado League of Charter Schools, Memphis Lift, Bluum, Texas Public Charter Schools Association, Georgia Charter Schools Association, Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Innovate Public Schools, Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, Tennessee Charter School Center, New York City Charter School Center, The Center for Learner Equity

A national coalition of charter school parents and advocates pushed the U.S. Department of Education (Department) to soften proposed new rules for the Charter School Program (CSP). In March 2022, just days after the final FY2022 funding bill was passed into law, the Department released a notice of proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for upcoming CSP grant competitions. The charter school community strongly opposed these substantial and harmful proposed rules which would disproportionately impact small single-site charter schools, rural school leaders, and leaders of color, and make it harder for families to access public schools that meet their children’s learning needs. The National Alliance and 43 state and national organizations supported a parent-led day of advocacy and protest at the White House and the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2022 during National Charter Schools Week. More than 1,000 parents and activists attended the rally with more than 25 parents and activists speaking at a press conference during the rally, which was featured on the front page of the New York Times. The rally provided parents with a platform to raise their voices and stand up for their children and their charter schools. Because of the power, dedication, and determination of these parents, the rules are less harmful. This event is an exemplary model of collaboration and strong defense for four reasons: 1) all 44 partners were united in the mission and cause; 2) all partners were welcome to participate in whatever capacity they could;  3) all partners brought their ideas to the table; and 4) the Department of Education did back down.

NAPCS and partners also created persistent media buzz. From an early Wall Street Journal Editorial Board article shining a light on the proposed changes, a steady stream of more than 150  op-eds and articles from across the country poured in. To tie the whole campaign together, partners participated in two social media days using the hashtag #BackOff that galvanized the sector and generated more and 25 million impressions. An aggressive paid advertising campaign also raised awareness and used the #Backoff theme in 12 major media markets, plus a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times at the start of National Charter Schools Week.

Additional non-Network partners: Charter School Growth Fund, Progressive Policy Institute, Aspira, Bronx Charter School for Children, California Charter Schools Association, Center for School Change, Connecticut Parents Union, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Democracy Prep, DREAM Charter School, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Charter School, Freedom Public Charter School, Families in Action for Quality Education, Friendship Public Charter School, GROW Public Schools, KIPP DC, KIPP Miami, KIPP Foundation, L.A. Coalition for Excellent Public Schools, LEARN Charter School Network, Michigan Association of Public School Academies, National Coalition for Public School Options, Noble Schools, NY Charter Schools Association, Philadelphia Charters for Excellence, ReGeneration Schools, Rocketship, Success Academy, Unapologetic Parents, Uncommon Schools, Uplift Education, Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, and West Oak Lane Charter School.

Our Turn

Truth(ed)—A fight for equity-centered education that prepares students for a future they will be leading

Without knowing the truth and history, how can we as people and nation move forward and do better?” – Madison, Our Turn student leader

In the past year, over 36 states introduced or advanced policies that restrict teaching about race and racism. The attack on racial justice and honesty in schools is unrelenting and merits a response that is aspirational, compassionate, and inspiring. So, we launched Truth(Ed), a student-led campaign to push back against anti-Critical Race Theory (CRT) divisiveness. It gained significant momentum in creating and protecting identity-affirming, culturally relevant education ecosystems. We grew student power and leveraged coalitions to strategically approach the upcoming school year and elections. We produced 321 campaign actions, reaching hundreds of youth across 35 states and engaging over 150 members of partner organizations. Today, young people are clearly validated by partners, polling, and communities as unparalleled breakthrough messengers in this arena.

Central to Truth(Ed) is political education, pairing organizing with skill and knowledge building. We collaborate with PIE Network members through work with RALLY, Learn From History, and Campaign for Our Shared Future to train students on messaging and augment our storytelling capacity. Additionally, Truth(Ed) bridges the gap between partners and students by creating spaces where young people equip organizations with insights, recommendations, and pathways for collaboration. Our 19 partners include School Board Partners, EdTrust, Aspen Institute, RedefinED, and DoSomething. By positioning students as campaign drivers, rather than a performative afterthought, we amplify their demands. Through Truth(Ed), we play the long game; we defend the right to accurate, inclusive curriculum and build sustainable ecosystems for student- and equity-centered education reform.

If we want to inspire change and instill a desire to do good in youth, we need to ensure they are learning the truth: the good, the bad, and the ugly.” -Lynn, Our Turn student leader

Prichard Committee

Defeating anti-CRT Legislation

Relative to other anti-CRT bills, Kentucky’s response was not about prohibition and punishment. Rather it set forth a list of required documents for teaching and learning. This set Kentucky Senate Bill 1 apart from the more threatening bills in the House. Most education groups in the state were neutral or supportive. There was no hint of punitive language.

The damaging language was discovered after the bill passed and the legislature was in veto recess. We believed the language was not intended by the sponsor and was the result of bringing new legislative language together with existing law. The issue would not have been discovered before the end of session without our team’s thorough review. The language was set to become law.  

We quickly alerted the sponsor and offered corrective language. Work seemed underway to fix the problem in the remaining two days of the session. However, without undeniable assurance, the evening before the General Assembly gaveled back in, we went public to ensure the issue was top priority among the many gubernatorial veto overrides on the agenda.

The punitive language did not become Kentucky law.

Stand for Children Tennessee & The Education Trust in Tennessee

Censorship is Not the Answer – TN HB1944: School Library Bill

The Education Trust in Tennessee and Stand for Children Tennessee worked closely together on efforts to impact many of the bills brought before the Tennessee legislature that were inline with nationwide efforts to censor concepts taught in schools and history (widely referred to as “anti-CRT”). EdTrust led the TN Coalition for Truth in Our Classrooms with a wide array of allies by coordinating meetings toward collective action and developing resources for advocates on the coalition website. Stand for Children partnered with EdTrust and RALLY to implement a statewide digital campaign to advocate against several harmful bills in this area.

A particularly successful achievement was working with the TN Youth Coalition to defeat TN-HB/SB1944 that would have censored certain books in public school libraries. EdTrust worked with the students at the legislature in Nashville to coordinate their efforts, while Stand worked on the ground in Memphis, where the main youth organizers were from, to support their organizing and advocacy strategy. The students were supported in developing a digital action, holding a press conference, and visiting the legislature multiple times. This culminated in testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, which helped give the final blow to defeating the bill.

Teach Plus Indiana, Stand for Children Indiana, & TNTP

Learning From History and Defending Truth in Indiana

With U.S. education more than ever in the public eye and a perceived disparity between the priorities and politics of parents and educators, nuanced messaging becomes essential in defending good policymaking. Navigating a supermajority Republican legislature, Indiana education advocates recognized lawmakers would push to limit conversations in schools around race, gender, sex, and politics. In fall 2021, education organizations began meeting to brainstorm strategies and create a blueprint to defend the teaching of accurate history. During the January 2022 session, two largely identical bills were filed in the House and the Senate. While SB167 died after seven hours of testimony, HB1134, which restricted how educators teach about race among other so-called ‘divisive concepts,’ passed the House and went to the Senate. 

Advocates mobilized quickly, zeroing in on consistent messaging that emphasized the burdensome oversight HB1134 would create for an already-strained workforce, impacting teacher retention. We leveraged our networks and equipped and mobilized teachers, administrators, parents, and students to testify and fight against the legislation. Teachers wrote op-eds and were quoted in local and national news stories, including the AP, opposing the legislation. Advocates worked with the media outlining the dangerous inequities of the bill.  Teachers and community members met with legislators highlighting challenges of HB1134, and the coalition activated constituents who sent over 19,000 emails to lawmakers. By the time the bill was heard in the Senate education committee, more than 200 people had signed up to oppose the bill – outnumbering supporters nearly 10 to 1 according to the senate committee chair. Finally, in March, the Indiana Senate killed HB1134. Indiana became the only Red state in the country to defeat legislation of this nature.

Non-PIE Network partners included: Empowered Families, Purdue Polytechnic High School, RISE Indy, Teach for America Indianapolis, The Mind Trust

See a complete list of 2022 nominees in all Eddies categories.

Ashley Schmidt

Ashley Schmidt

Managing Director, Communications & Member Engagement