By Amanda Litvinov/photos courtesy of OEA
When local educators discovered that presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would put the brakes on his small-town America bus tour for a fundraising stop in New Albany, Ohio, last Thursday, they set out to make an appearance of their own.
Dozens of Ohio Education Association members were among the protesters who gathered for a press conference outside of the New Albany public library, not far from the estate of host Les Wexner, businessman and current CEO of The Limited brands.
“We turned out as a reminder that we need a pro-middle class economy,” said Scott DiMauro, a high school social studies teacher at Worthington Kilbourne High School in nearby Columbus. DiMauro spoke at the rally, vowing that as representatives of the middle class, educators “won’t forget how Romney has treated us.”
Romney said he supported it “110 percent” when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law SB 5, a bill that essentially said it doesn’t matter whether teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, or any public employees have a voice in the workplace. Ohio residents said differently when they overturned the law with a citizens veto last fall.
“That attack on our collective bargaining rights—and Romney’s support of it—is something we won’t soon forget,” said DiMauro. “When Romney was asked recently about his education reform ideas, he said that he doesn’t believe that class size matters, and that’s something that we won’t forget.”
That’s why participating in actions like last week’s rally is so important to educators like DiMauro, who see the 2012 elections as a key step in the growing movement to stand up to the politicians and corporate interests that would take apart our public education system. Romney has fared well among Ohio’s wealthiest, raising $1.5 million at the Wexner event, which included a $10,000 per person VIP reception, and another $3 million at an earlier fundraiser in Cincinnati.
Stacy Recker, a high school history teacher who participated in a counter-rally outside the Cincinnati event, says she kept an open mind about whom she would support in November until the end of the primary season, when she had no question that she could not back Romney’s run.
“He’s taken his cues from the Tea-publicans…and I don’t think they have the best interests of the American youth and their education at heart by cutting public school budgets and workers’ rights,” Recker told EducationVotes.
“If we care about the future of this democracy we need to have a President who promotes the value of the middle class and making public education a priority is a huge part of that,” said DiMauro. “President Obama has made investing in public education the basis of his economic agenda and that is something as public educators we won’t forget.”
DiMauro, Recker and their politically active colleagues say it’s important to help others see what’s at stake for education in the next election.“On one hand you’ve got President Obama who believes in public education and understands the importance of providing resources to help us meet the needs of every student, and on the other hand you’ve got a candidate who wants to privatize our education system and who wants to break unions and dismantle the progress we’ve made over the last century.
“It boils down to whose values are most in line with our values,” said DiMauro. “I think the choice is pretty clear.”
Follow educator activists fighting for public education by signing up to receive EdVotes’ weekly email alert.