by Félix Pérez
Educators, parents and their allies chalked up a number of legislative and political victories in 2013 on behalf of students and public education. These include forcing the Seattle superintendent to declare optional a misapplied standardized test in response to a community boycott, taking back the Bridgeport, Conn., school board from corporate ed reformers, turning back a parent trigger bill in Florida pushed by for-profit charter school chains, defeating a Virginia gubernatorial candidate who supported taxpayer-funded vouchers and parent trigger laws, and passing bond measures in Laredo, Texas, to reduce class size and upgrade classroom technology.
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“Educators and parents in communities across the country increasingly understand that there is no greater advocate for students and schools than when they work together. It’s not ed reformers who push vouchers, charter school chains whose CEOs make hundreds of thousands of dollars, or education consultants who have not set foot in a classroom since they were students. It’s committed moms, dads and educators,” said Karen White, a former Michigan high school English teacher and director of Campaigns and Elections for the National Education Association.
“By banding together, parents and educators have proven they can overcome long odds and well-funded opponents,” said White.
White was quick to add that as impressive as this year’s wins were, extremist state legislators and governors are expected to continue their onslaught in 2014 against educators, public education and working families. And their corporate backers and bill mills, led by the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, will help lead the way, said White.
These governors, state lawmakers, the Koch brothers and ALEC have shown they are willing to use every means to privatize public education and strip workers of their rights, said White.
The governors who have been most active in promoting an anti-education, anti-worker agenda, said White, include John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Paul LePage of Maine, Mike Pence of Indiana, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
Among the issues anticipated for the 2014 state legislative sessions are:
Vouchers/Educational Tax Credits/Education Savings Accounts
Recognizing that the term vouchers carries with it negative associations, legislators and right wing think tanks are increasingly promoting so-called educational tax credits or education saving accounts. What they have in common is that they drain resources from already underfunded public schools. And they often fund schools that do not report student performance data, accept students with disabilities or reveal how they use taxpayer dollars.
Legislative activity expected: Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina
Parent trigger has yet to gain traction, but that does not mean proponents are giving up. Parent trigger advocates, primarily Parent Revolution, have been accused of misleading parents and dividing communities to pave the way for unaccountable, for-profit charter schools with deep pockets. In Florida, the Koch brothers are going after Republicans legislators who voted against the parent trigger bill this year.
Legislative activity expected: Florida, Iowa
Right to Work
Educators in right-to-work states are familiar with the negative consequences right-to-work laws have on public education. In some cases, it means not having the collective power to push back against overcrowded classrooms. In other instances, educators are forced to accept year-to-year contracts, part-time status and fewer or no benefits. States with right-to-work laws spend $3,392 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education.
Ballot measure possible: Missouri, Ohio, Oregon
Union Membership Dues Deduction
Some state lawmakers have sought to silence educators’ political voice on behalf of their students and public education by prohibiting the voluntary deduction of union membership dues from union members’ paychecks. Opponents of payroll deduction say it interferes in local control and does nothing to create jobs for the middle class. The intent, they say, is to undermine the organizations educators and other workers rely on to stand up for students and communities and to do away with collective bargaining altogether.
Legislative activity expected: Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina