by Félix Pérez
Today is the third and final day of the Republican National Convention (nominee Mitt Romney delivers his acceptance speech tonight), and keynote speakers at the gathering and the party’s newly adopted platform spared little opportunity to heap blistering criticism on public education, educators and the unions that represent them.
Leading the way in bashing public education and teacher unions was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has a national reputation for shouting down teachers and voters in public forums. Christie reused the approach that backfired on Bob Dole in 1996 when he ran unsuccessfully for president, namely, seeking to drive a wedge between teachers and the unions they are members of and that they rely on to have a voice in the classroom.
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“They said it was impossible to speak the truth to the teachers union. They were just too powerful. Real teacher tenure reform that demands accountability and ends the guarantee of a job for life regardless of performance would never happen.” He went on, “They [Democrats] believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, and lobbyists against children.”
Again, playing to the argument that teachers are separate and apart from the unions that they themselves created and lead, Christie narrowed his eyes, looked sternly into the camera and said, “They believe in teachers unions. We believe in teachers.”
Education Week blogger and retired North Carolina special education teacher John Wilson said Christie is no friend of teachers.
Governor Christie, diminishing pension benefits does not demonstrate a belief in teachers. Raising class sizes so that the rich can have lower taxes than the middle class — which includes educators — does not benefit teachers. Freezing or, even worse, cutting salaries is not a gift that teachers welcome. Refusing to fund education for our kids and claiming that money does not matter is not a believable argument for teachers. No, Governor Christie, you and your fellow Republicans have not shown the respect for teachers that they deserve.
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan spent the bulk of his remarks last night shredding President Barack Obama, steering clear of offering specific proposals on what he and Romney would do about education and failing to mention his budget proposal, which would impose severe cuts on education, health care and other programs and services that serve students and children.
Romney has hailed Ryan’s budget as a “bold and exciting effort” that is “very much consistent with what I put out earlier.”
Fox News and the National Journal were among the news outlets that questioned the truthfulness of Ryan’s remarks. Fox news writer Sally Kohn wrote, “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.” National Journal wrote: “Facts matter. Ryan ignored them, and thus loses moral authority . . .”
Other speakers featured at the convention were governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. Both men have spearheaded efforts to slash funding to schools and take away the right of educators to speak out on behalf of their students through collective bargaining.
The platform approved at the convention by the party and the Romney-Ryan ticket remained true to longtime education proposals that are contrary to what educators know firsthand works best for students.
- Diverting money from public schools for private school vouchers retained its central status. “School choice — whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits — is important for all children . . .”
- Also trotted out anew was the GOP’s preference for allowing states to decide how to spend federal funds targeted at poor students and students with disabilities, an approach that ignores the historic and current trend among states to cut funding for education services for children with special needs.