Posted In: Election 2012

GOP convention speakers, platform blister education, teacher unions

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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. 

Reader Comments

  1. Sheryl Cunningha

    Mr. Heath,

    You obviously know nothing of the teachers’ unions in this country. If you did you would know that they have been instrumental in creating programs that have helped students. The Priority Schools program that was started several years ago and helps the schools that are struggling the most, was started by the National Education Association. Read Across America, that fosters a love for reading and calls upon schools to invite community members and celebrities into the classroom to read with children is another program started by NEA. The message of the National Education Association, ” a strong public school for every student”, doesn’t sound like a campaign to promote teachers above everyone and everything else.

    Unions were started at a time in our history when the rights of the worker were almost non-existent. People died trying to bring safe working conditions, fair wages, reasonable hours, to the workers. That is why the teacher unions were started, to protect the rights of teachers and to be a voice for those who might not otherwise have a voice. Today we fight for far more than just the wages and benefits of our members. We work for strong professional development, for equity for all students, for community programs that advance the education of students as well as adults.

    For all our critics who think we are only in it for ourselves, I encourage you to educate yourselves about who we are and what we really do. Public education is this nation’s best hope for the future, and public educators are what makes education happen.

    Reply
  2. James Heath

    Who’s Pam? The writer of the article is Félix Pérez. Mr. Perez leaves me wondering if he actually watched the speeches he has critiqued, or is just taking his direction from NEA talking points. Just to state what I’m sure Mr. Perez and his handlers already know, it is not teachers Romney, Ryan, Christie, Walker, Kasich, et al have problems with, it is the unions who put their interests first, and the interests of anyone else not at all.

    Reply
    • GCD

      Teachers unions keep us from falling through the cracks. If we fall, believe me, the students come with us. Without them, we have no voice, no choice in what happens to us. Maybe it’s OK with you that people like myself have had a pay freeze, have watched benefits diminish and class sizes increase to ridiculous proportions. If Republicans keep waging war on teachers, no one will want to enter that profession.

      Reply
      • Public teacher

        I am a teacher and there will be people to enter the profession as there are those of us who HAVE to stay in it to FIGHT the preversness of what is happening. Do you think it is right to be mandated no prayer, no pledge, no freedom of speech in our Public schools but yet a muslim child can pray 5 times a day? No, it is NOT and I hope that there is always a choice for charter, magnet and private schools. I do not like the direction public school is headed. my child is going to private school and that is MY choice.

        Have you read the history books and seen the Blatant mistruths of how this country was founded or on what principals. obviously NOT. The history books are being rewritten to be politically correct. I choose to give the history books version and the challenge my students to seek the TRUTH!! I will stay in it to thwart untruths.

        also do you not see that because of the teacher’s union Namely NEA (not all unions) are keeping teachers who need to be rooted out all because of tenure? Yes, you have seen a freeze etc… but it is because mainly the unions keep people who have NO business teaching if these people were rooted out there woul be more money for thise of us who TRULY want to be a teacher. think about it….

        Reply
        • Disgusted

          I doubt you are actually a teacher….your comments are based on fear-mongering half-truths. How does getting rid of so-called bad teachers put more money in another teacher’s pocket? And you are saying that at your school the Muslims are allowed to publicly pray while the Christians sit and watch, unable to exercise their rights? The history books are all being rewritten to change history? Or you’re just angry that information about indigenous peoples, minorities, and women are being included?

          Reply
    • Just Thinking

      I wonder just how long some of these jerks have ever spent in a classroom after getting out of high school and/or college. How many have ever actually sat in on a teacher association meeting and listened to what we (yes, I am a building rep) talk about. It ain’t just money and benefits. Fact is when all is said and done it definitely includes trying to deal with what goes on day to day in our classrooms to make our job work for the kids. Yes, financial security is part as is some job security, but a lot is about dealing with the teaching aspect.

      We, oddly enough, take into consideration cost cutting. We are part of the community, immediately exposed to those for whom we work. How many of you have ever had to sit in on a forum of the buyers of your product and how many of you have ever had to shut up and take it, when unjustly berated by the final consumer of your service or good. We know what the budget is and work with the school boards to deal with issues.

      One last thing, remember why all of you don’t drive Yugos… you get what you pay for. If you don’t get good educators you don’t get good educations for the average students. I had a curriculum day Thursday. One parent told me they lived in Texas and Georgia, their children got to be of school age. They left to come back to the Columbus area to put their students in Olentangy PUBLIC schools – just because they wanted the best. Seems Ohio has some good schools and Olentangy happens to be one of them. Cut the pay and benefits like the governors Kasich and Walker want to do and that won’t last long. I’d go back to private industry. I almost left teaching once due to that.

      Reply
    • EILEEN C HOLTZ

      James, Apparently you didn’t read the whole page or the other articles. “Pam Mikkelson, middle school head secretary, recently attended a rally outside of a Mitt Romney fundraiser for high priced donors and took a few moments afterwards to answer our questions.” As for Félix Pérez’s comments, I got the same feeling from the pompous speeches from the GOP candidates (it was obvious this was Christie’s opening salvo for a run in 2016), and clearly so did many others. “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 . . .” …or maybe you didn’t read that either.

      Reply
    • John Zatroch

      I am sorry Mr. James Heath, I could not agree with you less.Teacher’s unions are the only ones who can speak for me. Without them, the administration and school boards would never listen to me as an individual. They could care less about ideas coming from the ‘bottom’. The conservative right has the idea that the best schools are run by top down management, starting at the state level and filtering their plans all the way down to the classroom level with the school principal exercising ‘royal’ authority. The successful schools that are presented to us for emulation by our administration are usually foreign or private schools that are just the opposite. They are always managed bottom up, with the classroom teachers and lead teachers setting the goals and direction for students and classes. The republican party is using educational ideas from the 1800′s. Sorry, they don’t work. Jeb Bush’s white paper on education only gave us endless days of testing and not enough time or resources to present content.

      Reply
      • Public teacher

        No the teachers unions are not the only ones who can speak for you. Maybe you need a new school boad or Superintendant where you are.

        Reply
  3. e.l. Ross

    I taught for 30 years in a rich miserable town in NJ, full of selfish, self centered people. I don’t even shop there now, no matter what. I could go into the way they treated me, but I won’t (I was very ill when I retired). It was the NJEA who helped me get the retirement I was entitled to which the local board of ed and local ed association fought me. Thank heavens for NJEA. Local associations can SUCK.

    Reply
  4. Mary Krueger

    Can Education Votes send out copies to all the elected state and federal officials in our government to read the very sincere and well-thought-out article by Senator Aaron Osmond, Senate Education Standing Committee of Utah entitled “Lessons Learned”.

    I am hoping this same article can be sent to Secretary of education, Arne Duncan, as well. Mr. Duncan is not a supporter of Public Education and really does not have a sincere belief in Public Education.

    I am hoping that this same article can be sent to President Obama as he has been “roped in” by thinking of his Secretary of Education that Public Schools should be replaced with voucher schools/schools of choice –whatever term is used these days. Senator Osmond’s really great letter might at least start a good round of discussions about what we in public education have to face.

    Thank you for listening.

    MaryK60@aol.com

    Reply
  5. Al Llorens

    Great work Pam! Your advocacy does us all proud!

    Reply
  6. Cathy Koehler

    Way to go Pam! You are an outstanding leader for all!

    Reply

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