Deb Mayer

Portland Public School Board Director, Zone 3

I was born the second of seven children in Battle Creek, Michigan. My father, who was born in the midst of the Great Depression, was an inventor, farmer, and welder. My mother stayed at home and took care of us. They were both shy, moral, hardworking people who wanted a good life for their children. They instilled in us the importance of studying hard and getting the most out of the education offered to us.

Our family alternated between living on a small family farm and living in the city. We lived near Danville, Kentucky, when farming was good. When farming wasn’t so good, my parents packed us up and moved to the city where Dad could work in an auto factory to make enough money to keep the farm. In some ways, I had the best of both worlds – the country life and the city life. My family moved a lot, and by the time I was in high school, we had moved 16 times. I attended public schools all my life. There was never any question that there would be a good public school for me, my brothers, and sister to attend at each destination.

After I married and had three sons, each of whom received a great public education, the thought that quality public schools could be run by big business never entered my mind. But over the past decade, public schools have come under attack by the millionaires and billionaires who want to privatize them. I came to the realization that public schools may become a thing of the past.

I stumbled into education advocacy when in 2003 I was fired from my teaching job in Bloomington, Indiana, for making an innocuous statement in support of peace before the war in Iraq began. Blacklisted by the school, I sued for violation of my First Amendment right of free speech and wrongful termination. In Mayer v. Monroe County Community Schools, aka the “Honk for Peace” case, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that teachers have no right of free speech saying, “ . . . a teacher’s speech is a commodity she sells to the school in exchange for a salary.” I appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of the United States which declined to hear it making the 7th Circuit’s ruling law in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It wasn’t until a few years later that I would realize the impact of the strategy behind that ruling.

In 2009, when I realized the real game changer was corporate reform led by the triumvirate of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family, I 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 in Oregon and around the country.

My teaching career has run the gamut from teaching at the poorest school in Indianapolis Public Schools to putting educational theory into practice at the once world-renowned Key School (public school) to teaching a summer session at President Barak Obama’s alma mater – Punahou (private school) to running The Island School in Boca Grande, Florida (charter school). I also served as an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) for many years.

I came to Oregon ten years ago to be near two of my three sons who live in Portland. For the past 40 plus years, I have been deeply involved in education. I began as a library assistant setting up school libraries in public schools. As a parent of three little ones, I volunteered in my kids’ school. Then, I became a teacher, an administrator, a university instructor, and more recently, an education blogger advocating for quality public schools.

Before I became involved in grassroots education advocacy, I was a volunteer tutor coordinator for OASIS, placing reading tutors in several schools in North Portland. When OASIS closed its doors, I turned to grassroots advocacy. I cofounded Oregon Save Our Schools. I’m on the board of Parent Across America, Portland Parent Union, and Great Schools for America. I’m a member of Network for Public Education, Oregon Public Education Network, Oregon BATS, Teacher Brigade, Oregon Retired Educators Association, Wireless Education Action, and Children’s Screen Time Action Network.– all volunteer organizations. In my spare time, I blog about education issues and seek out politicians to champion the cause of public education. I do volunteer grant writing for organizations that directly address issues of equity and poverty. I also moderate Don’t Teach for America, Vote No on 98, and Key Math Lab PDX Facebook pages, among others.

I testify regularly at the Capitol and worked on five bills that were introduced this 2019 session. I usually work behind the scenes. My views on the issues are an open book. I blog at the Parents Across America Oregon web site. I’m running for the position of Portland Public School Board Director, Zone 3 because I already do this work. I would like to guide PPS in a positive direction. I’m passionate about giving ALL kids the excellent education they deserve and would like to have the opportunity to serve on the PPS board.