Why [conservative] white men hate unions: The South, the new workforce and the GOP war on your self-interest
In mid-August, the Chicago Tribune published a poll showing that Karen Lewis, the outspoken president of the Chicago Teachers Union, was leading Rahm Emanuel, 43 percent to 39 percent, in a hypothetical 2015 mayoral race.
Lewis led a 2012 strike after Emanuel tried to impose longer school days with no pay increases (she got her teachers a raise), and vociferously opposed the closing of 50 schools, which were mostly in black neighborhoods. During a pre-strike rally, she called the mayor “a liar and a bully.” Emanuel returned her contempt, shouting “Fuck you, Lewis!” during a tense private meeting. Lewis recently filed papers to raise money for a possible run against the man she labeled “the murder mayor,” because of Chicago’s high crime rate, and she has a pledge of $1 million from the American Federation of Teachers.
If Lewis wins, or even mounts a credible campaign, she will become the most prominent labor leader in America. In that role, she’ll be an appropriate successor to John L. Lewis, Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther, those crusty avatars of mining, trucking and manufacturing. As an African-American, a woman and a professional (she has a sociology degree from Dartmouth), Lewis is the face of the 21st century unionism, which has been transformed from a movement devoted to protecting the safety and livelihoods of blue-collar workers to a stronghold of white-collar liberalism.
Over the past 30 years, labor has been feminized, professionalized, politicized and regionalized. In the 1970s, Archie Bunker, a loading dock foreman, was a staunch unionist. Today, his son-in-law, grad student Mike Stivic, would be the union member.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most unionized job category is “education, training and library occupations” at 35.4 percent. That’s a field dominated by women, many with master’s degrees. (In fact, the Center for Economic and Policy Research predicts that by 2020, a majority of union members will be women.) Meanwhile, in manufacturing, the macho vocation that gave birth to the modern labor movement, the unionization rate has plummeted from 30 percent in 1983, around the time the term “Rust Belt” entered the popular consciousness, to 9.4 percent today. Workers in manufacturing are now less likely to be unionized than the workforce as a whole. During those three decades of deindustrialization, the United Auto Workers’ membership dropped from 1.2 million to 390,000. That’s mainly due to robots replacing line workers, and the loss of market share to foreign manufacturers. Because when those foreign manufacturers build plants in the United States, they build in the South, a region hostile to unionism.
Earlier this year, the UAW tried to organize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Despite the tacit support of the company, which needed an independent union to form a European-style works council, the UAW lost the election, 712-626. Before the vote, the anti-union faction, which called itself Southern Momentum, invoked cultural, regional, racial and political resentments to persuade the conservative white men working in the plant that a union was a threat not only to their livelihoods, but to their way of life. Billboards labeled the Democratic-leaning union the United Obama Workers and presented ruin porn images of the derelict Packard Motors plant alongside the slogan, “Detroit: Brought to you by the UAW.” A pamphlet distributed to workers compared the Northern union’s campaign to a campaign by the Union Army in the Civil War: “One hundred and fifty years ago … the people of Tennessee routed such a force in the Battle of Chickamauga.”
(When I heard a Sheet Metal Workers business agent from Syracuse theorize that Southerners dislike unions because “the name reminds them of the Union Army,” I thought he was nuts. Since Chattanooga, I think he may have been on to something. The man’s own local lost most of its members when the Carrier Corp. moved its air-conditioner manufacturing plants to Georgia and Tennessee — and told union employees they weren’t welcome to follow their jobs. Bottom line: If you buy a BMW built in Alabama, or a Toyota built in Mississippi, you’re not helping the American labor movement.)
Contrast that with the UAW’s campaign to organize graduate employees at New York University — exactly the kind of job Mike Stivic would have held. The union won that vote 620-10. It was a gimme. The UAW was dealing with teachers in the most heavily unionized state in the nation. In New York, 23.2 percent of workers belong to a union. In Tennessee, 4.8 percent do. (Only Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina are less unionized.)
In post-industrial, politically polarized America, it’s easier to organize Northern academics than Southern factory workers. Union membership used to be a matter of economic self-interest, divorced from political or cultural concerns. In the 1960s, union members — who were disproportionately Roman Catholic — could support the New Deal welfare state, while also backing the Vietnam War, racially restrictive housing covenants and bans on abortion and birth control. Richard Nixon — who used to call his ideal voter “a 47-year-old machinist’s wife outside Dayton” — won his 1972 landslide with a “blue-collar strategy” that attracted the support of white male unionists. Many were voting Republican for the first time, out of disgust for the counterculture represented by Nixon’s opponent, George McGovern. They were personified by Archie Bunker, with his strident admiration for “Richard E. Nixon.”
That election was the beginning of a realignment that found the labor movement on the opposite side of a political divide from the white men who once formed the backbone of its membership. Now, support for labor is just another blue state trait, like support for gun control or Obamacare. In states won by Barack Obama in 2012, 13.1 percent of workers belong to a union. In states won by Mitt Romney: 7.2. Collective bargaining is inimical to the conservative ideal of individualism. Unions are “socialist.” In 1983, over half of union members were white men. Now, a little over a third are. In New York City, site of the famous Hard Hat Riot, in which union construction workers attacked students protesting the Kent State shootings, less than a quarter of union members are white men.
It used to be that belonging to a labor union made you a Democrat. Now, being a Democrat is more likely to make you a union member. Blacks are more likely to be unionized than whites. College-educated whites are more likely to be unionized than non-college whites. Public sector employees are more likely to belong to unions than private sector employees. Teachers and librarians vote overwhelmingly Democratic, not because they’re union members, but because the combination of low pay and intellectual inquiry in those professions attracts liberals. And since most union members now work in the public sector, the war on unions has become a front in the larger conservative war on government. (The one exception: cops and firefighters, who have a 34 percent unionization rate. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker left them out of his ban on collective bargaining by public employees, because they tend to be white and conservative. Cops and firefighters can’t strike, though, and are more likely to belong to benevolent associations than full-fledged unions.)
Rahm Emanuel has never been a friend of the labor movement. Bill Clinton’s point man on shepherding the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress, he was a key figure in the Democrats’ realignment from a party of working people to a party of Wall Street, encouraging the party to responded to labor’s weakness by shifting its donor base from unions to socially liberal financiers. Told as White House chief of staff, that tens of thousands of autoworkers could lose their jobs if General Motors and Chrysler didn’t receive a federal bailout, he responded: “Fuck the UAW.”
Emanuel helped vanquish Old Labor as a force in American politics. Now he’s facing the political fight of his life, against a representative of the New Labor that’s taking its place.
WASHINGTON — Though the network of conservative groups funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch are better known for spending millions on top-tier Senate and gubernatorial races, they may be having a more durable impact at the local level.
A report released Thursday by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund compiles example after example of how Americans for Prosperity is mobilizing supporters to campaign against local tax increases and mass transit systems and for like-minded candidates running for school and county boards. Americans for Prosperity is a key player in the Koch-affiliated universe, with chapters in 35 states.
Among the local targets cited was a proposed tax increase to provide a permanent source of funding for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. After Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio chapter mailed fliers, made calls, ran radio ads and knocked on thousands of doors, the proposal was defeated.
"There is no issue we won’t get involved in if you’re going to raise taxes," Eli Miller, director of the Ohio chapter, told a local NPR affiliate in April.
The CAP Action Fund report suggests that the Ohio effort was aimed less at protecting local pocketbooks and more at protecting Koch-affiliated business interests in Columbus. Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, a Koch Industries subsidiary, would have seen its property taxes go up at one facility if the levy had passed.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who leads the action fund, said that the Kochs are interfering with the ability of local communities to “determine what’s right” for them.
"The local business community was largely supportive of the zoo levy," Strickland told The Huffington Post. "It’s kind of ironic, because some of the people who in the past have perhaps been cheerleaders for the Kochs, as they have attempted to use their wealth in order to get conservative candidates elected to office, are now perhaps a little unhappy that the Kochs are behaving in ways that are not consistent with their goals — and that was certainly true with what happened in Columbus with regards to the zoo levy. They’re willing to spend whatever they need to cripple and limit government."
The report also highlights a fight over a proposed mass transit system in Nashville. The Amp, a 7.1-mile rapid transit bus project, never received the go-ahead after Americans for Prosperity’s Tennessee affiliate encouraged state senators to introduce a measure aimed at preventing cities from establishing rapid transit systems that would use separate road lanes. Though a coalition of business and community groups were in favor of the proposal, it fizzled.
The report argues that in the Nashville example, the Koch network was motivated by a belief that public transit would threaten the brothers’ oil and gas interests.
Almost no issue appears to be too small for the Kochs’ activists. Americans for Prosperity jumped into an Iron County board of supervisors election in northern Wisconsin to attack candidates opposed to an iron ore mine. The group also flexed its organizing muscle over a 1.75 percent food and beverage tax in Fremont, Nebraska, to fund emergency capital improvement projects and a 1 percent tax increase in Gahanna, Ohio, to prevent cuts to the local police force.
"What does David Koch know about the city of Gahanna?" Strickland asked.
The Kochs, he argued, “are willing to spend vast sums of unreported money to interfere with the decisions that should rightfully be made by local communities. If you look across the country, they are using their wealth to try to control what happens at the local level, to the detriment of schools, teachers, firefighters and infrastructure development. If they are successful, if they achieve their goals, it will be detrimental to the country because the decision-making is coming from the top down.”
Local education issues are another area arousing Koch interest. The network has worked to roll back efforts aimed at integrating schools in North Carolina and promoted school board candidates in Douglas County, Colorado, who supported abolishing teacher tenure, benching teachers’ unions, implementing voucher programs and paying teachers based on the subject and grade they instruct.
The CAP Action Fund report also flags a Huffington Post story about the Youth Entrepreneurs nonprofit, funded primarily by Charles Koch, which pays public school students to take courses espousing lower taxes and fewer regulations and deploring higher minimum wages and social welfare programs.
Strickland framed his group’s report as an effort at raising public awareness about the “selfish” motivations of the Kochs’ political involvement.
"I think there are many people, even in the communities affected by these efforts, who are largely unaware that these wealthy outside interests are having an impact on what happens there," he said. "The Koch brothers are looking out for themselves and their own economic interests, but they cloak that in a kind of political and economic philosophy that allows them to pretend to be high-minded in their motivations. Their motivations are selfish and people need to know that. Once people understand the threat to the democratic process and understand the source of that threat, we will be better able to help local communities protect themselves from these efforts."
Americans for Prosperity has a different take. It sees its local campaigns as a way to reach voters who wouldn’t otherwise show up for a federal election and bring them into the network.
"It’s a little frustrating when someone says, ‘Oh, this is a political effort about the U.S. Senate,’" Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips told National Journal in June. “They don’t look at the totality of what Americans for Prosperity is doing.”
"We’re genuinely a long-term effort," he added. "We’re not about some election cycle."
Teachers are increasingly ready to fight back against the sustained assault they face. On Friday, delegates at the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly passed a resolution calling on Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign:The business item passed said it was necessary to call for Duncan’s resignation because of the “department’s failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores, and for continuing to promote policies and decisions that undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.”Really, resignation is too good for Duncan, but it would be a start.
Similar measures failed in past years, but clearly anger is growing, with Duncan earning the ire of teachers and other supporters of public education by his recent support for attacks on due process, in addition to his longstanding crusade for high-stakes testing. This may be an area where the NEA’s members are out in front of its leadership; the union’s outgoing president, Dennis Van Roekel, downplayed the business item to reporters, and the stream of press releases from the Representative Assembly does not appear to include one on this rather newsworthy item.
The NEA is, however, trumpeting another measure combating the drive for corporate education reform, taking aim at “toxic testing”:The measure approves the use of NEA resources to launch a national campaign to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective forms of assessment and accountability. The impact of excessive testing is particularly harmful to many poor, minority, and special needs students.The NEA also elected a new president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who told the delegates “We know what is at stake and it is why we are who we are. It is why we are fearless and why we will not be silent when people who for their own profit and political posture subvert words like ‘reform’ or ‘accountability.’”
“The sad truth is that test-based accountability has not closed the opportunity gaps between affluent and poor schools and students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It has not driven funding and support to the students from historically underfunded communities who need it most. Poverty and social inequities have far too long stood in the way of progress for all students.”… at a White House press briefing Monday, during which Duncan outlined a plan to ensure all students have access to highly effective teachers, Duncan said he was “trying to stay out of local union politics.”
“We’ve had a very good working relationship with NEA in the past,” he said and congratulated President-elect Lily Eskelsen García on her win.
Arne Duncan should resign.
Glenn Beck released a new book last week on everything that is supposedly wrong with education in America. The title, Conform: Exposing the Truth about Common Core and Public Education, gives most of it away.
Most people know Glenn Beck from his previous stint on Fox News or from the various media outlets associated with his network, The Blaze. His co-author Kyle Olson, on the other hand, appears to be up-and-coming in the right-wing media sphere. Currently, he is the publisher, founder, and CEO of EAGnews.org, a “news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary.” He is also a contributor to Townhall, and just last week launched a new conservative website called Progressives Today with “Dumbest Man on the Internet” Jim Hoft.
In Conform, Beck and Olson take on everything from teachers unions’ to the Common Core State Standards to school lunches to abortion in a book characterized by anecdotal evidence, sweeping generalizations, and quotes from anonymous bloggers. The focus of their ire is what they call the “controllists,” defined as “the teachers’ unions and their progressive friends in the media and the state legislatures.” In 222 pages, Beck and Olson lob a number of outlandish attacks against the various evils they perceive in public education, relying on such conservative actors as Michelle Malkin, the Heritage Foundation, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and the Heartland Institute to do so.
Here are the eight most ridiculous attacks from Conform:
1. Longer School Days Help Teachers Encourage “Teen Sexual Activity.”
Beck and Olson seem convinced that teachers are not only “promot[ing] sexual activity among children,” but would use longer school days to “encourage teen sexual activity,” among other radical ideas (emphasis added):
Educators back then knew that some parents were too shy or awkward to broach the subject, so schools made sure kids would have basic knowledge to build on as they grew and developed their own points of view.
Today the trend seems to be to promote sexual activity among children, rather than gradually preparing kids for the facts of adult life.
There’s also the issue of what our kids would learn with even more hours at school. Many of these educators would relish the opportunity to spend more time feeding students a steady stream of radical, anti-American political ideas, encouraging teen sexual activity, and deemphasizing the importance of traditional values and religion. [Conform, pgs. 126 & 138]
2. “Most Teachers Get A Raise For Not Dying Over The Summer.”
In Chapter 3, which purports to counter the myth that “Public Schools Are Underfunded,” Beck and Olson take issue with teacher compensation:
In most school districts across the nation, all teachers are given automatic, annual raises every year based on years of service and number of graduate classes completed. To put it bluntly, most teachers get a raise for not dying over the summer— their classroom performance, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with it. [Conform, pg. 15]
3. Teachers Don’t Need Tenure Because “Parents Will Hold [Principals] Accountable.”
Chapter 6 asserts that teachers don’t need tenure because if a good teacher is fired, parents will take care of that:
What should protect teachers is what protects anyone who must continually justify their job: success. Good teachers continue working, bad ones go away. And if a good teacher is fired without cause or because of some political grudge or ideological difference with a principal, you can be sure that parents will hold that principal accountable. [Conform, pg. 34]
4. Teachers’ Colleges Are "Not Very Hard" To Get Into And Are "Marxist Brainwashing Factories."
Beck and Olson have numerous thoughts on teaching colleges in Chapter 8, among them that teaching colleges are “not very hard at all to get accepted into,” and that they are “Marxist brainwashing factories” (emphasis added):
On the flip side, it’s not very hard at all to get accepted into our nation’s teaching colleges. Once you’re in, you don’t have to do extremely well to graduate and gain certification to teach in a K- 12 school. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “entrance requirements to most colleges of education are too lax, and the requirements for graduation are too low.”
Newly minted teachers emerge from college with few English skills, little respect for the discipline, and heads filled with ideas about the fundamental unfairness of America and how capitalism and individualism are terrible things.
Meanwhile, reformers keep pushing for the expansion of alternate teaching certification so that at least some prospective educators can find jobs and help kids learn without having to first be processed through Marxist brainwashing factories. [Conform, pgs. 49, 50, 52, & 56]
5. “Radical Educators” Use Civil Rights To “Further Their Marxist Agenda.”
Continuing on the “Marxism” train, Chapter 9 opens with the allegation that “America’s historic civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical educators” who use “racial inequities” “to further their Marxist agenda” (emphasis added):
America’s historic civil rights movement is being hijacked by radical educators.
It’s all part of their effort to take control over what our children learn and think with the hope that future generations will be more accommodating to efforts to dismantle our nation’s capitalistic economic system and impose state control and socialism.
Radical educators are very clever to use civil rights, and the racial inequities that have plagued our society for centuries, as a tool to further their Marxist agenda.That’s because few Americans disagree with the fundamental arguments of the original civil rights movement— that barriers needed to be removed so that people of all races can have an equal chance to achieve the American dream. [Conform, pgs. 59 & 60]
6. Common Core Helps Progressives Remove Parents From Their Children’s Lives.
Beck doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to Common Core. Indeed, he has been one of the most vocal right-wing media figures leading the charge against the state-led, voluntary education standards.Conform, however, makes the new, bizarre assertion that the Common Core State Standards somehow lead to a removal of parents from their children’s lives (emphasis added):
Since most parents don’t understand the Common Core techniques, students are becoming more dependent on their schools and teachers for their education, and less on help from their parents. This is like a dream come true for progressives who hope to continue to minimize the role of parents in the lives of their children.
Do these really sound like “rigorous” changes to you? Or does it sound more like a systematic approach to dumb down our kids and further remove parents from the process so that students will be easier to indoctrinate and control? [Conform, pgs. 93 & 95]
7. “Controllists” Want To Serve School Meals So That Kids Will Be In School More And To Teach Kids That Everything Is Free.
In one of their odder arguments, Beck and Olson claim that “controllists” use the school meals program to “make the case that kids must be in school more” and that school meals will teach kids “the concept of ‘free’ public handouts”:
By serving one or two meals a day to students, schools and controllists can begin to make the case that kids must be in school more so that they can eat properly.
All this fits perfectly with the controllists’ strategy of teaching children that all good things originate with the state. Once kids learn that their parents are not responsible for providing any meals because the government covers that cost for everyone, it’s not hard to take the next step and teach them the concept of “free” public handouts for everything, including education, health care, and housing. [Conform, pg. 136]
8. Former President George W. Bush and Governor Chris Christie Are “Progressives.”
Amidst their criticism of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the idea of kids staying at school later in the day, Beck and Olson assert that former President George W. Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) are “progressives”:
NCLB was the brainchild of George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy, both big-government progressives.
Some progressives are seeing the opportunity this gives them and are pushing this concept beyond school hours. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christies [sic] has started a pilot program to provide free “after school dinner” for kids in six Camden schools. [Conform, pgs. 75 & 136]
Researcher Connor Land contributed to this review.
h/t: Hilary Tone at MMFA
Iowa radio host Steve Deace was on Larry Pratt’s Gun Owner’s News Hour last week to promote his new electoral strategy book, “Rules for Patriots.” The two spent quite a bit of time lavishing praise on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his crusade to bust his state’s public-sector unions.
Deace shared his theory that that public-sector unions are one of the “four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement,” along with “the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby” and “government education” (which is “how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them”).
He praised Walker for removing “one of the four pillars,” namely “the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions.” Deace apparently thinks that five anonymous teenagers yelling “hail Satan” at a pro-choice protest in Texas means that all public employees are Satanists.
Deace counseled Republicans against supporting any GOP politician who supports any one of the “four pillars.”
Pratt agreed, adding that the public-sector employees, including teachers’ unions, that protested at the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 were “such ugly, dirty people” that nobody would want teaching their children.
Deace: There are four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement in America: the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby, government education – that’s sort of their youth ministry, that’s how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them. The homosexual lobby and the abortion industry is where they get their mega, mega hundreds of millions to fund their schemes. But the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions. And if you cut them off, that’s like cutting off the recruiting ability of a college football team. That’s the lifeblood of their program is those government-sector employee unions.
And if you do some of the math, I think the average annual union due in Wisconsin is like $1,500 a year for an AFSCME member. And if they truly lost 40,000 members, Larry, 40,000 times 1,500, you can pretty much buy the Wisconsin state government every year for that kind of money. And to have him cut off the head of the snake like that, he removed one of the four pillars. He’s maybe the only elected Republican in my lifetime I can think of who’s actually removed one of their pillars. And now you know why they have done everything they can possibly do to get rid of him.
And I would just say to your audience, if you’re supporting a Republican who doesn’t threaten at least one of those pillars, you’re wasting your time. If you’re supporting a Republican who aids and abets or collaborates with one of those four pillars, I don’t care how good he is on every other issue, he’s actually working for your opponent. Because that’s the infrastructure of the American left, those four facets.
Pratt: When Scott Walker had those union thugs lying all over the lobby of the capitol dome, the capitol building itself, they were such ugly, dirty people. ‘Those were teaching my kids?,’ I think people might have been thinking. They lost so much stature, it was just amazing what was happening.
From the 04.12.2014 edition of Republic Broadcasting Network’s Gun Owner’s News Hour:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Responding to the extremist group Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, the Kansas state legislature enacted legislation that strips teachers of due process and expands “school choice” (aka privatization of public schools and their funding). In the future, teachers may be fired without a hearing.
The legislature used the pretext of a court ruling to equalize funding to enact proposals that align with the far-right ALEC organization.
Destroying due process is called “reform.” Teachers may be unjustly accused and fired without a hearing. They may be fired because they taught both sides of a controversial issue or expressed a controversial view. They may be fired because the principal doesn’t like the way they look or doesn’t like their race or religion. No reason is needed because there will be no hearing.
Without any right to a fair hearing, you can be sure that the word “evolution” will never be heard in many districts, nor any reference to global warming. Nor will many classics of American literature be taught. Books like “Huckleberry Finn,” “Invisible Man,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” are risky and controversial. Now is exactly when the children of Kansas and the U.S. should be reading “1984″ and “Brave New World.”
“The bill is potentially a big victory for conservative Republicans because it gives them some educational reforms they have sought while putting more money into schools.
The reforms would:
• Foster school choice by allowing corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to scholarship funds so children with special needs or who come from low-income households could attend private school.
• Make it easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights.
• Relax teacher licensing when hiring instructors with professional experience in areas including math, science, finance and technical education.
“As the final bill was negotiated, lawmakers jettisoned an idea to block funding for Common Core academic standards.
“They also shed a plan that would have provided property tax relief for parents who home-school their children or send them to private schools. Lawmakers questioned whether the property tax break was constitutional and whether they knew its real cost.
“Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers.
“They say the proposal is intended to ensure that school administrators are free from regulations that would keep them from firing substandard teachers.
“If you talk to administrators, they want this,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican. “They want really good teachers to thrive. They don’t want to be in a position to protect those teachers who are under-performing.”
“State law had required administrators to document conduct and provide a hearing for teachers they want to fire after three years on the job.
“The bill means terminated teachers would no longer be able to request a hearing.”
The teacher-hating GOP extremists backed by ALEC/Koch Brothers are destroying education in this country.
As if we needed more evidence of billionaire hunger to capture the “education markets,” Missourians can now look forward to a full-court press to amend the Missouri constitution to kill teacher tenure so teachers can become another commodity to churn, with Sinquefield’s blessing wrapped in a $750,000 contribution to the cause.
Sinquefield understands churn, because he’s a very wealthy fund manager. Markets are his god of choice.
The campaign, in a style now associated with those who hope to dismantle the teaching profession, has the duplicitous name “teachgreat.org” to signify the opposite of its intent. The assumption is that the removal of any job security and any kind of due process for teachers will somehow mysteriously produce “great” teachers. This absurd idea is then called “reform.” This is the kind of thinking that typically comes from hedge fund managers, not human service professionals.
“The “Teachgreat.org” initiative would limit teacher contracts to no more than three years. It also requires “teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted, and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system,” according to the summary on the group’s website.
He also attacked Common Core in his rant.
Rebecca Klein at Huffington Post Politics:In the post, titled “Public education in America is socialism, what is the solution?,” Brenner laid out his argument. He noted that the Tea Party, which “will attack Obama-care relentlessly as a socialist system,” rarely brings up “the fact that our public education system is already a socialist system[…] and has been a socialist system since the founding of our country.” He addressed teachers unions — “an outgrowth of our socialistic education system” — which he granted originally improved things “temporarily” before they ultimately “became bureaucratic and they started to take the place of school boards and school management.”
"I’m not blaming the teachers unions or the local school boards who are bound to the contracts, because if they don’t they will end up with strikes and an arbitrator will rule against them," Brenner wrote. "These issues all stemmed from the fact that we have a socialist education system in the first place."
Brenner’s solution: more privatization.
"In a free market system parents and students are free to go where the product and results are better," he wrote. "Common core and standardized tests under such a system will not be necessary, because the schools that fail will go out of business. Government will not be there to prop them up with more tax dollars and increased regulations. Successful schools will thrive. The free-market system works for cars, furniture, housing, restaurants, and to a lesser degree higher education, so why can’t it work for our primary education system?"
Andrew Brenner and his wife are both surely disgusting cretins who should be voted out of office!“Bust up the education monopolies and do not settle for the lowest common denominator. Privatize everything and the results will speak for themselves,”wrote Brenner.
The conservative Republican also challenged the reasons behind tea partiers’ opposition to the Common Core State Standards, a set of new education benchmarks adopted in more than 40 states, including Ohio, in an effort to make sure students around the country are being held to the same criteria. Some tea party activists fear the Standards are a federal intrusion -– even though the benchmarks were voluntarily adopted by states.
Three weeks before Tennessee’s August 2012 primary election, state Rep. John DeBerry Jr.’s Memphis-area district was flooded with $52,000 worth of get-out-the-vote efforts supporting the then-nine-term incumbent. Six days later, another $52,000 in materials appeared.
By Election Day, the Tennessee affiliate of StudentsFirst, the education-focused organization behind the influx of support, had spent more than $109,000 backing DeBerry, a rare Democrat who supports voucher programs and charter schools. The state branch of the American Federation for Children, another education group, chipped in another $33,000. DeBerry faced another Democrat, state Rep. Jeanne Richardson, whose district was eliminated through redistricting.
“I couldn’t counter it,” Richardson said of the funds StudentsFirst introduced late in the race. “I had to raise money by calling people. There wasn’t enough time left.”
StudentsFirst—created by former Washington, D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee—is leading a new wave of “education reform” organizations, funded largely by wealthy donors, that are challenging teachers’ unions and supporting mostly conservative candidates up and down the ticket in dozens of states. These groups promote charter schools, voucher programs, and weakening of employment safeguards like teacher tenure, all ideas bitterly opposed by unions.
StudentsFirst flooded at least $3 million in outside spending into state elections in 2012, putting the group roughly on par with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, across 38 states examined by the Center for Public Integrity and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The Sacramento, Calif.-based group is far from the only education reform organization that has gained prominence in the aftermath of the 2010 Supreme Court decision that made it easier for corporations to fund political campaigns. Among the biggest spenders: the American Federation for Children, 50CAN, Stand for Children, and Democrats for Education Reform. The organizations flooded states across the country with independent advertising and canvassing efforts in the run-up to the 2012 primary and general election.
They have been funded by a slew of billionaire donors, like philanthropist Eli Broad, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. However, the full list of funders opening their checkbooks for the education reformers remains a mystery since StudentsFirst and many of the other groups are so-called social welfare nonprofit organizations, which fall under section 501(c)4 of the U.S. tax code. Such groups are not required to reveal their donors.
Since 2012, the funding onslaught by these groups and their backers has shown no signs of slowing. Spending has reached unheard of heights, even at the school board level. The race for Los Angeles school board in May 2013 attracted nearly $4 million in spending on reform-minded candidates. Major supporters of the pro-reform committee include Bloomberg, StudentsFirst, and Broad, a Los Angeles resident. The organization was countered by roughly $2 million from labor groups.
The American Federation for Children spent $110,000 in outside spending supporting three candidates for the Wisconsin State Assembly in the run-up to an election on Nov. 19, 2013. Great Seattle Schools, an education reform-focused political action committee, spent just shy of $62,000 in outside spending in the months leading up to the city’s November 2013 school board election. Democrats for Education Reform was among the committee’s backers, as were local wealthy figures like Chris Larson, a former Microsoft executive who owns a minor stake in the Seattle Mariners, and venture capitalist Nicholas Hanauer.
At the helm of this movement, StudentsFirst has dominated campaigns for state legislators and ballot initiatives that often seem outside the group’s education-focused mission statement. As StudentsFirst faces off with labor groups and labor-backed candidates, the group’s considerable financial heft may be shaping more than education policy.
Battling the unions
Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of Washington’s public school system, established StudentsFirst not long after resigning her post in 2010. The new organization’s goal, she said, would be to provide some much-needed opposition to the teachers unions’ political power.
“The problem to date has been that you’ve had these incredibly powerful teachers unions that have lots of resources, and they use those resources to have influence on the political process,” Rhee said last year during an interview at the Commonwealth Club of California. Rhee said StudentsFirst is the first education-oriented national interest group to seriously challenge the unions.
Since leaving Washington, Rhee has backed legislation curbing collective bargaining rights in several states. In the 18 states where the group is active, StudentsFirst has fought to eliminate “last in, first out” provisions in teachers’ contracts and to increase the role that quantitative evaluations play in teachers’ job security.
Accordingly, StudentsFirst tends to oppose candidates who align with unions. Among these union-supported candidates in 2012 was Michigan State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, an incumbent who ran against fellow incumbent Rep. Maureen Stapleton in the Democratic primary as a result of statewide redistricting. Though Stapleton was a former teacher in the Detroit Public Schools, Tlaib received the endorsements of the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Federation of Teachers. Stapleton, on the other hand, backed charter schools and linking teacher salaries to performance, both key components of StudentsFirst’s mission. Between July 20 and the Aug. 7 primary, StudentsFirst poured $195,000 in outside spending supporting Stapleton. Meanwhile, the Michigan Federation of Teachers, the Michigan Education Association, and several other labor groups contributed directly to Tlaib’s campaign.
“You almost never see a state house race in the city of Detroit go over $30,000, so when StudentsFirst put $190,000 into that, that was an extraordinary amount of money for a Democratic primary,” said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Why the groups and their donors have chosen to support charter schools and voucher programs is sometimes less clear. The American Federation for Children chooses which races to back based on where the group feels it can help increase educational options available to parents, according to Frendewey.
StudentsFirst’s Castillo echoed these sentiments. “Our organization supports candidates that will be important partners in our ongoing push to ensure that every student attends a great school and is taught by a great teacher, and that’s the reason we’re pleased to support local and state reform-minded candidates,” he said in a written statement.
Rhee’s group and many other education reform organizations believe that privatizing education will prove beneficial for the country’s students, explained Michael Apple, who specializes in education policy at the University of Wisconsin. The same is true of the groups’ donors.
“If you look at Broad, Bloomberg, they’re in favor of strong mayoral control of education,” he said. “Some of it is also this belief that the corporate sector is the last remaining set of institutions that form the engine of our society.”
But changing the way public education functions also opens windows for private corporations and individuals to make a profit, which is likely a factor in at least some donors’ decisions to open their wallets, he said. He compared education to health care, “meaning the sources of profit are immense.”
The education reform agenda creates opportunities for companies that operate online learning programs and computerized testing, said White, of the NEA. The agenda also places a heavier emphasis on standardized testing, offering potential financial benefits to companies that offer those services.
In the past, K–12 education has been a “sluggish,” highly regulated market that investors were wary of jumping into, said Patricia Burch, an education professor at the University of Southern California. Not so anymore.
The technology schools use to administer tests and supplement coursework has emerged as a multibillion-dollar industry, according to Burch’s research. In 2002, the education sector spent an estimated $146 million on technology. By 2011, that number was estimated at $429 million, according to Burch.
Burch points to recent transactions and mergers as signs of the potential windfalls this market can offer. In 2011, textbook giant Pearson purchased SchoolNet, a tool that helps districts track students’ achievement on standardized tests, for $230 million. Providence Equity Partners bought online educational platform Blackboard Inc. for $1.6 billion. For the low price of $13 million, K12 Inc. acquired Kaplan Virtual Education, which offers computer-based learning for public and private schools in nine states. (Disclosure: Kaplan Virtual Education was owned by Graham Holdings, which owns Slate.) In 2012, Apple also partnered with Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to offer digital textbooks for the iPad.
“It’s in the early stages. We know that there’s potentially tons of revenue to be generated,” Burch said.
hough few elections occurred in 2013 around the country, the education reform movement continued to inject an historic volume of funds into local and state races. The most expensive was the race for school board in Los Angeles that attracted more than $6 million in outside spending.
In the month leading up to the May mayoral and city council election in Jersey City, N.J., the Better Education for New Jersey Kids, Inc., PAC dumped more than $342,000 into advertising and mailers. The PAC is associated with the nonprofit Better Education for Kids, which is not required to disclose its donors but lists Tepper among its trustees.
A special legislative election in Wisconsin and a school board race in Seattle proved ripe battlegrounds for political spending arms races between education reformers and their opponents.
In Denver County, Colo., a committee whose largest donors were Bloomberg and the political arm of education reform nonprofit Education Reform Now spent $103,000 on a school board race.
In nearby Douglas County, Colo., the labor-backed Committee for Better Schools Now spent $935,000 on a school board race. That spending was countered by the Colorado chapter of Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which claims to have spent $350,000 on campaign efforts. No public records exist of the group’s spending.
Each of these races suggests that education reform spending is going to continue on an upward trajectory, at least for the near future. “Historically we haven’t seen that kind of spending on school board races here [in Los Angeles], but it’s likely to become a lot more commonplace in the future,” said Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who is running for California secretary of state. “My guess is in five years, we’ll be looking back at the relatively restrained fundraising levels of 2013 with some nostalgia.”
From the 01.16.2014 edition of FNC’s The Five:
Bad idea, Dana “Bushie” Perino.
Charter schools are sold as an answer. With awful discipline and shocking scandals, many really cause new problems.
Imagine your five-year old boy went to a school where he was occasionally thrown in a padded cell and detained alone for stretches as long as 20 minutes.Or you sent your kid to an elementary school where the children are made to sit on a bare floor in the classroom for days before they can “earn” their desks.
Or your kid went to a school where she spent hours parked in a cubicle in front of a computer with a poorly trained teacher who has to monitor more than 100 other students.
Maybe you don’t have children or send them to private school? So how do you feel when you find out the local school that you pay for with your taxes is operating a scam that diverted millions of dollars through fake Medicaid billing?
Or the school used your tax dollars as “grants” to start up other profit-making enterprises … or pay lavish salaries — $300,000, $400,000 or more — to its administrators… or support a movement linked to a reclusive Turkish cleric being investigated for bribery and corruption.
Welcome to the world of charter schools.
Are there wonderful charter schools doing great things for kids? Probably. Are all these cumulative anecdotes an unfair representation of the value that charter schools can bring to some communities? Maybe.
But neither of those questions matters because of what the charter school movement has come to represent in the landscape of American education.
Charter schools have been relentlessly marketed to the American populace as a silver bullet for “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students.
Politicians in both parties speak glowingly of these schools — which, by the way, their children seem never to attend.
Huge nationwide chains — called education management organizations (EMOs) — now run many of these charters. A recent study by the National Education Policy Center found, “Students across 35 states and the District of Columbia now attend schools managed by these non-government entities.” These for-profit and nonprofit EMOs — such as K12 Inc., National Heritage Academies, Charter Schools USA and KIPP — now account for nearly half of the students educated by charter schools.
Substantial, well-funded nationwide organizations have rapidly developed to lobby for these schools. One such organization, the Alliance for School Choice, recently received a $6 million gift from the Walton Foundation, of Wal-Mart fame.
Slick marketing campaigns have been rolled out in communities across the country to tout the coming of new charters.
The actual academic results of these schools seems to hardly anyone, despite report after report showing that these schools tend to do poorly on state and national tests and fail at providing equitable education to underserved students.
Yet lobbying for more of these schools continues unabated with more money funneled into the campaigns of politicians who support charters and more efforts to press state lawmakers to lift any provisions currently in place to regulate how these schools operate and are held accountable to the public.
As a result, charter schools now serve one in 20 students nationwide, despite “mixed results” at best.
Yet how much is really known about how most charter schools operate on a day-to-day basis? Most of the people who witness what these schools actually do are students, who have little voice outside the classroom; teachers, who need to hold onto their jobs; and charter administrators, who can’t always be depended on to blow the whistle on shenanigans.
But as these institutions proliferate, so are troubling reports of what the charter movement has unleashed.
Turning Our Backs on Abuse
Keeping a running tally of charter school scandals could amount to so much cherry-picking if it weren’t for the fact the tree is so loaded there’s practically nothing but fruit.
Two of the anecdotes cited above surfaced recently in schools operated by a nationwide chain called KIPP, which has been acclaimed for doing “wonderful things” to poor kids that most middle-class parents would not want to see done to their kids.
The incident where a 5-year-old student was confined in school to a padded cell prompted Chicago (where the incident occurred) blogger Mike Klonsky to write, “Brutal forms of discipline have become routine for KIPP.
“No divergence is permitted and deviants are quickly labeled, punished or expelled. KIPP has the highest student attrition rate in the nation. I recall one KIPP school where African-American children were made to sit on a bench with a sign around their neck that said, ‘CRETIN.’”
Klonsky noted the nationwide chain’s practice of using a behavioral technique, called “Slant,” that “instructs students to sit up, listen, ask questions, nod and track the speaker with their eyes.” It’s “military style behavior,” renowned educator Debra Meier remarked on her blog at Education Week.
Meier explained how these schools rely on “public shaming” as a form of behavior control, which often includes “children being ‘exiled’ to a special table at lunch, required to wear their KIPP shirts backwards, and other forms of public embarrassment.”
James Horn, who came across the incident where students had to “earn” their desks by siting on the floor, wrote, “KIPP requires the poorest urban children, those who have received the least in life, to earn everything at KIPP.”
Horn interviewed a former teacher from that KIPP school who recounted, “[The children] would sit there and do homework on the floor. They would fill in forms and pass them. And they had to all do it correctly, otherwise, they’d do it again and again and again … It was 100 [students]. It was all the fifth-graders in a classroom.”
Horn noted, “This is not the first time such educational atrocities at KIPP have been documented,” and he linked to a “series of incidents” in Fresno, Calif., where the school principal was accused of ”slamming students against the wall, placing trash cans over their heads, forcing kids to crawl on their hands and knees while barking, and enforcing unreasonably strict bathroom rules, resulting in students having accidents and vomiting on themselves inside the classroom.”
“How long will we turn our backs on this kind of abuse?” Horn asked.
Rocketship to Nowhere
The questionable practices of many charter schools go beyond classroom management.
The charter cited above where students spent hours stuck in cubicles, in front of computers, is part of a nationwide charter chain called Rocketship.
According to ed-tech media outlet EdSurge, “Rocketship Education is a charter school network in hot demand, courted by urban school districts across the nation. Both Kaya Henderson, Superintendent of D.C. Public Schools and New York City’s outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg have publicly said they’d welcome Rocketship schools in their districts.” (emphasis added)
Tech market enthusiasts at EdSurge claim, “Rocketship has broken down the traditional factory school model, rethinking things like the bell-schedule, the role of teachers, the way kids are grouped, and even the physical space itself.”
What does all this “innovation” look like in practice?
As Samantha Winslow explained in the article cited above, Rocketship’s allure comes mostly from cost savings because so much of the “instruction” is delivered via computers. “The company says it saves half a million dollars a year by using fewer teachers, replacing them with non-certified instructors at $15 per hour … Half its teachers have less than two years’ experience; 75 percent come from Teach for America.”
The chain “targets low-income students” with the claim it can raise their test scores by drilling them with computer-based instruction. “Instructors monitor up to 130 kids at a time in cubicles in the schools’ computer labs. Rocketeers, as students are called, sit looking at computer screens up to two hours per day.
“Skeptics say the Rocketship test scores just demonstrate the schools are focusing on test preparation at the expense of arts, languages, and real learning,” Winslow noted.
A “Perfect Storm” of Corruption
In addition to questionable classroom practices, charter schools are dogged by corruption.
The scandal cited above in which a charter chain defrauded taxpayers of millions of dollars in a Medicaid scheme presents a “perfect storm,” according to one analysis, “of everything that might go wrong with private, for-profit ‘educators’ trying to make more than a buck from public education under the guise of charter school management.”
The D.C.-based firm Options Public Charter School managed to orchestrate a train wreck of corruption, including not only the Medicaid fraud scheme, but also payoffs of public officials and a local television news personality, diversion of funds meant for schools to personal accounts, business arrangements that siphoned funds to contractor partners, and bloated executive salaries.
The charter scandal involving the Turkish cleric is especially bizarre. As the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss explained at her Answer Sheet blog, “The reclusive cleric is Fethullah Gülen, who has been linked to charter schools in some 25 states and to other schools in dozens of countries around the world.”
But Gülen is no mere charter operator. In fact, as Al Jazeera reported, he is the head of a powerful movement in Turkey involved in “the most extensive and sensational corruption investigations” of that country’s recent history.
“The public charter schools in what is unofficially known as the Gülen network,” Strauss explained, “are believed to be operated by people — usually Turks — in or associated with the Gülen movement.”
Many of the schools have strong academic records, but have been the subject of frequent investigations of “whether some employees at some of these schools are ‘kicking back part of their salaries’ to the Gülen Movement.”
Strauss noted, “The New York Times and CBS News as well as PBS have reported on the Gülen charter network, citing problems such as whether these schools give special preference to Turkish companies when handing out contracts.”
No Scrutiny Please
One doesn’t have to dig deeply to find examples of charter school malfeasance. Indeed, all the above examples appeared in news stories and blog sites since the current school year began.
In the meantime, charter promoters do all they can to avoid any external audits or legal consequences related to what they do.
As education historian Diane Ravitch recently reported from her blog, when charter school operators in California were convicted of misappropriating over $200,000 in public monies, the California Charter Schools Association entered an amicus brief stating the defendants were “not guilty of any criminal offense because charter schools are not subject to the laws governing public schools. CCSA says that charter schools are exempt from criminal laws governing public schools because they are operated by a private corporation.”
In the same blog post, Ravitch told of a case in Arizona where another charter successfully argued that it was a private corporation, not a public school. And in Chicago, when the teachers at a charter school wanted to form a union, “the charter founder argued before the National Labor Relations Board that the charter was operated by a private corporation and not subject to state labor laws.”
Wait … and you thought charter schools were public schools?
Our goal, if we are to learn from nations like Finland, for example, should be to build a stronger teaching profession, one that is respected and admired. This is very different from the present policy advocated by Rhee of using test scores to find and fire “bad” teachers.
Rhee’s defenders point to a recent study to claim that the teacher evaluation system she created, called IMPACT, is “working.” But that study was never subject to peer review. And scholars like Audrey Amrein-Beardsley have said the study was so fundamentally flawed that its conclusions cannot be taken seriously. For example, only 17 percent of the teachers in the study were actually teaching the subjects that are tested. The other 83 percent were not teaching reading or math in grades 3-8.
Thus, the study is no vindication of using test scores to evaluate teachers. Most scholars who write about test-based accountability, along the lines of the D.C. IMPACT study, agree that it is inaccurate and unstable. A teacher who gets a high rating one year may get a low rating the next year, and vice versa. These methods—often referred to as test-based accountability or value-added measurement (VAM)—tend to reflect who is being taught, not teacher quality. It is a well established fact among social scientists that test scores are highly correlated with family income and education. Teachers change lives and make a huge difference, but teachers alone cannot change the underlying economic inequality of our society.
Many states and the federal government have invested hundreds of millions of dollars—perhaps even billions—on various incentive programs, hoping that teachers will work harder or better if they are promised a bonus or threatened with a loss of their job. But these incentive programs have failed again and again. And, not surprisingly, given their consistent failure, they have no research to support them. Two years ago, a distinguished panel of social scientists convened by the National Research Council concluded that test-based accountability makes very little difference in changing student achievement.
Raising test scores is not the right goal for education. Creating an education system that provides equality of educational opportunity for all students is a far better goal. Instead of asking, “how can we raise test scores,” we should be asking, “how can we ensure a good school in every neighborhood for all children?” Instead of seeking a method that will punish some teachers and reward others, we should figure out how to make sure that all of our children get an education that prepares them to be good citizens, with the character, knowledge, and skills to maintain our democratic society into the future. That means, in my view, not only building a strong and respected education profession, but making sure that all children have schools that teach the arts, history, civics, geography, literature, mathematics, foreign languages, the sciences, physical education, and have the resources needed for their students to thrive.
HELL NO, Rhee’s policies have destroyed several school districts, including DC.
In an exclusive, I am privileged to present an account of what happened today from Melissa Tomlinson, the brave South Jersey teacher who showed up at Christie’s partisan political rally in Somers Point this afternoon and dared to ask her governor a question - as is her right as a citizen and a taxpayer of New Jersey. Here, in Tomlinson’s own words, is what happened:
Well, I was in a crowd of all Christie supporters with my sign. They were all eyeing me apprehensively. A few tried to stare me down. Some of them even blocked me from the crowd.
When his bus arrived one of his henchmen went on the bus to speak to him. I was right at the door. It was like he was told to deliberately turn away from me when he got off of the bus.
I went to listen to him speak. I stood in the front of the crowd that was standing towards the back. I know he caught sight of me. He stared at me a few times during his speech. I left right as his speech was over to position myself right at the door of the bus. He came out, shaking everyone’s hands as he was getting on the bus. I asked him my question, expecting him to ignore me but he suddenly turned and went off.
I asked him: “Why do you portray our schools as failure factories?”His reply: “Because they are!” He said: “I am tired of you people. What do you want?”
I told him I want money for my students. He fought back with the amount that he has spent on education. My response was along the lines of the fact his amount was not actually an increase from the previous years, given the rate of inflation and other factors.
[…] The crowd started arguing with me. He screamed at me to just do my job. The crowd cheered for him. I just looked at them and told them: “Hey, this is my life. I had to do this.” I tried to follow him to Atlantic City to continue the conversation but the roads were blocked by police when I got there.
New Jersey voters should vote for Barbara Buono for Governor Tuesday!
Daily Kos: Mission: America's Linda Harvey: "Oppose unions in order to stop the 'pro-abortion/pro-LGBTQ' agenda"
The deranged homophobic (and also apparently anti-unionization) zealot founder of Mission: America, Linda Harvey, is encouraging her Religious Right supporters to make Ohio a “Right To Work For Less” state in order to stop the “pro-abortion/pro-homosexual agenda in the schools.”
Right Wing Watch’s Brian Tashman:
Typical right-wing anti-teachers union rubbish uttered by Harvey.Mission America head Linda Harvey encouraged Ohio Republicans to push anti-union right-to-work legislation on her radio bulletin today, and like always linked it back to her zealous anti-gay activism. Harvey maintained that Religious Right supporters should rally behind so-called right-to-work efforts because “unions support all aspects of pro-abortion and pro-homosexual activism and have no problem truly with students opting for these life-altering practices” and promote “politically correct agendas.” She went on to falsely assert that without such laws workers are forced to join labor unions and also made the discredited claim that unions can compel non-members to pay for political activities.
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, who became nationally known for severely limiting the union rights of teachers and other public employees, has indicated support for arming those same school officials who apparently cannot be trusted to collectively bargain.
As Americans search for answers and policy solutions in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Gov. Walker has apparently decided that the problem is not too many guns — it is that there are not enough.
Giving guns to teachers should be “part of the discussion,” he said on December 19. Walker refused to endorse an assault weapons ban or other limits on the types of guns or ammunition that can be sold.
Teachers Need Guns, Not Unions?
Walker’s infamous Act 10 legislation drastically curtailed the collective bargaining rights of most public employees in the state, prompting months of historic protests and a recall effort. The governor justified the harsh legislation — which he never mentioned during the campaign that installed him in office — largely by demonizing unionized teachers as overpaid and underperforming.
The six teachers killed in the Newtown massacre, all members of an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union chapter, have been widely praised for their heroism, with many shot while trying to shield their students.
“This has kind of pulled the curtain away to show who teachers really are,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told In These Times’ Mike Elk. “Teachers’ instinct is to serve, to protect and to love. And you saw that in full view in Newtown this week.”
For Weingarten, the way to prevent additional mass shootings is not through arming teachers. Unions have historically not taken a position on gun issues, but in the wake of the Newtown massacre, AFT is now taking up support for gun control.
Wisconsin Site of Two Mass Shootings in 2012, Walker Given NRA Award
Two of the last six mass shootings in the United States have occurred in Wisconsin.
On August 5, a white supremacist killed six people and wounded four others at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, then killed himself during a shootout with police.
On October 21, a man entered a day spa in Brookfield and murdered three women, one of whom was his wife, and wounded four others before taking his own life. The killer had a domestic violence restraining order against him, and despite Wisconsin law prohibiting domestic abusers from purchasing guns, he avoided a background check by purchasing the gun from a private dealer.
But the state’s Republican Attorney General does not think Wisconsin has a gun problem, and Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature have marched lockstep with the gun manufacturer’s lobby.
In 2011, Walker signed into law a version of the Florida-style “Stand Your Ground” bill implicated in the Trayvon Martin tragedy as well as a new concealed-carry law that allows the public to carry guns inside the State Capitol, even while restrictive access rules prohibit cameras or signs. Legislators are now allowed to bring guns onto the Assembly and Senate floors.
In April, the National Rifle Association (NRA) gave Walker the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award, honoring him for passing the “Stand Your Ground” and concealed carry laws. As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, both laws echo American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “model” legislation, and ALEC has been one of the key avenues by which the NRA has exerted its influence over state law and policy.
ALEC is also an organization through which corporate interests have pushed anti-union legislation, most recently in Michigan, where legislators copied the ALEC Right to Work Act almost word-for-word.