Extremist governors, legislators to continue targeting educators, public education in 2014

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.

Take Action ›

Want one website where you can stay on top of news from across the nation that affects students, educators and public schools? Receive our weekly Education Votes email. Click here ›

“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

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

15 responses to “Extremist governors, legislators to continue targeting educators, public education in 2014

  1. No doubt, Kerry. I’ve been arguing those same points for years and will continue to do so. I really do think we need an amendment that guarantees rights only to people, and NOT other entities(I.e., corporations) is the way to get started back in the right direction. It might be noted that some American citizens in the 1930’s were fearful of social unrest if the economic hardship were to persist and worsen. Furthermore, there were many corporate leaders who also recognized that their prosperity was ultimately dependent on widespread and popular economic well-being.

  2. After thirty years of working in the public school system I’ve come to at least three undeniable conclusions. First is that there are very few GOP politicians that respect what I do or feel that I deserve a fair wage. They have proven that time and again, and regardless of what they say about working with the other side of the aisle, their biggest concern is how to make money off our students and how to keep me from interrupting their political agenda. Second is that I know that my being part of an association is one of the only shields that keeps the GOP from destroying a public school system that has worked to educate everyone regardless of who they are, where they’re from, or what their economic status is. And third is that, regardless of all the hoops they make me jump through (“above and beyond” hours, additional professional development beyond the already assigned 30 hours per year, etc.), I offer an opportunity to my students, an opportunity to learn, to grow, to be successful. Whether they decide to take advance of that opportunity is totally up to the students and their parents, and no matter how many times I stand on my head or do back flips or go to another professional development, it isn’t going to make a difference unless they get some support from outside of the school. What I can do in seven hours the family and the neighborhood can “muck-up” in the next 17.

  3. As a teacher (2nd career) for the past 10 years, I also see an
    overall lazy an complacent set of students in the classrooms
    (both high and junior high) here in Las Vegas (probably most
    other cities); This is possibly mirroring the ambitions and
    attitudes of mos of their parents); The so-called right wing
    solutions for education (vouchers and hammering down on the
    educators) won’t solve these problems; Neither will the endless
    testing that we are being required to do);
    Solutions? More student counseling to offset the lack of direction
    in the homes; Also student ability/aptitude related curriculum.
    Not all kids are going to Harvard or Stanford! Prepare young
    adults for skilled factory and trades!

    1. Excellent point, Gerald! We have kids at both ends of the spectrum combined (mainstreamed) into the same classes; some sit there rolling their eyes, drumming their fingers on their desk in anything but concealed boredom, with others staring into space and lost because of ADD, home/environment stressors, etc. that preclude them from engagement in even the most rudimentary lesson. God Bless America

    2. It would be nice if our ignorant right-wingers would also create all the jobs promised when they have repeatedly taken the tax cuts (in pursuit of MORE failed trickle-down policies). This would provide the much needed jobs for kids who train in the trades. We need to bring the JOBS back to America and get the politicians OUT of our education system and out of women’s bodies, as well. They don’t seem to have any expertise in any of these subjects, yet they like to legislate and dictate policies regarding these issues.

      1. Do you mean that politicians are stuck in women’s bodies! That must have been quite a feat. Most of the teachers I have known are very nice people and they are usually non-political. Try that.

    3. I agree, I see how un-interested the students are with an “I don’t care attitude”. (and some really don’t)—

  4. You just don’t get it retiredcoach! You don’t want straight and honest basic U.S. history taught. You want your view of history taught. You want your religious views to be forced on everyone and forget freedom of religion. You want your freedom of speech as long as you can say anything you like but what about my freedom of speech? You will spend a fortune to drowned out my speech. If your union dues are used to fund abortions and gay marriage stop paying them but you don’t have the right to interfere with a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions and gay folks’ right to marry. If you don’t want to support liberal thinking politicians fine! I’ll take care of that for you.

  5. Very clever! Use the word “EXTREMIST” and “ONSLAUGHT” and “TRAMPLE THE RIGHTS”- When all we right-wing Conservatives want is straight and honest basic U.S. History taught,religious beliefs respected along with rights of free speech, and unions to represent ALL teachers and administrators, with our dues NOT funding abortion,gay marriage, and every LIBERAL LEFT-WING POLITICIAN!

    1. YOUR Religious beliefs respected???? How about my religious beliefs?? HOW about ANYONE ELSE’S Religious Beliefs? Why do you think YOURS is more important than mine or anyone else? Why do you have to cram Your religious beliefs down everyone’s throats? Why do you have to cram YOUR religion down NON believers throats? WHY DO YOU WANT to make our country a Theocracy?? THIS is a SECULAR Nation… Gay marriage is A right YOU DENY THE LGBT COMMUNITY along with Adoption, and so is abortion the right for a woman to choose NOT YOUR right to take away. BUT you think You and your religion TRUMPS all OUR Rights to live..THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOU Extremist! That’s why we call you the TALIBAN of America. ALL you RIGHT WING CONSERVATIVES want to is TELL everyone HOW to live and YOU Think that YOUR way is the ONLY Way to Live. AND there is NOTHING Basic about US History. It’s complex. BUT you would want the BASICS removed and YOUR “ideas” put in it’s place!!!! HELL YOU want to redo the text books to reflect ONLY YOUR ideas.. You want to remove SCIENCE and put in Creationism…. GO TO CHURCH for religious study… Instead of trying to cram religion down the throats of all the kids who go to Public Schools!!!! You better rethink YOUR little paragraph again COACH!!! It’s YOU who want to deny the rights of all others. YES YOU ARE the Extremist. YOU are the American Taliban!!! Look in a mirror!!!

    2. I hear, you coach, however, being obsessed with my own wrestling coaching career and raising my two kids, and having voted straight GOP for 30 years, based on their stated positions on morality and their teaming up with groups like Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family,, I can testify that I was flummoxed when life slowed down and I began to look into the voting records of my “righteous” GOP.

      Here’s my perspective of what we are seeing unfold in the USA as the perpetrators duck for cover behind some really pathetic rhetoric:

      From history: The Great Depression was arguably caused by wealth consolidation at the top (roaring 20s), an inordinate number of people slipping into poverty, which resulted in reduced demand for production and the ensuing snowball effect of unemployment, further demand reduction, and the domino effect of curtailed investments, the withdrawal of capital as stock prices fell, and finally the bank runs.

      With the lessons of the Great Depression fresh on the minds of our nation and its elected officials, policies were enacted to bolster the middle class. Policies like The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, The Wagner Act, otherwise known as The National Labor Relations Act, and the Employment Act of 1946, The Glass-Steagall Act, and marginal tax rates set at 90%. These measures, it was agreed, were necessary to fortify the middle class (create and sustain a dynamic consumer market), stabilize the financial sector, and practically assure the investment of capital back into the USA.

      These measures were met with bitter opposition and cries of protest from the business sector and their friends and profit protectors in Congress who claimed they were “unconstitutional,” an “infringement on freedoms,” and they were “socialism,” etc. … Sound familiar?

      But look at the results! For the remainder of the 20th century, the USA cultivated the world’s premier, most prosperous consumer economy. The cumulative effect of having millions of high wage workers, not only resulted in the clearing of retail shelves, and the uptick in production, but in the filling of local, state, and federal treasuries. To get a tax break, our wealthy INVESTED their vast wealth in the USA. Together, we were able to achieve the largest
      expansion in US history, create a “social safety net” (Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, unemployment compensation, etc.), create the world’s most powerful military, win the Race to the Moon, AND win the Cold War with the competing Communist system.

      During those years of Historic USA expansion and investment, we even had a few years when there were budget surpluses (1951, 56, and 57). We also had steady trade surpluses up until around 1975; by then the offshoring of manufacturing jobs (shoe, garment, textile, toys, and electronics) to 3rd world countries to by-pass the high wage US worker began to take its toll. Then GATT, and NAFTA, but in 2001, when China joined the WTO (with MFN status), even our jobs in Mexico left for China, and it’s been a steep downhill plunge ever since.

      In my view, our middle class got fat and happy and left the fight for their slice of the American Pie to “someone else,” but in the business sector, their eye never wanders from the bottom line. They continued to probe the fences for weaknesses so they could reclaim their “losses” to US labor. FTAs Incentivized the jobs exodus to offshore sweatshops and introduced the “global economy” where “multinationals” and “transnationals” continue to monopolize world commerce. Gramm, Leach, Bliley, that initiated the deregulation fever that created the lucrative bonus systems on Wall Street and
      witnessed the “smartest men in the room” behaving badly, then Citizens United… All of these bills advanced the interests of BIG $$$, and the by-pass of the spoiled, fat and complacent US middle class. Now, after 30 years of favor for our “job creators” (how disingenuous) and the decimation of the middle class, the USA has her tit in a ringer!

      Ironically, no sooner had the USA won the Cold War, proving to the world that capitalism, combined with a prosperous middle class was a system that really worked, than capitalists went about proving Karl Marx right about how the system, unchecked, operates. And now, in just 30 years of legislative favor, they have managed to garner all of the gains to themselves that they once were required to share. Our Utopian (sophisticated and expensive) society
      is going broke, and guess who is making record gains again?

      We’ve forgotten the lessons of the past.

    3. This is about breaking up those who support public education and giving public funds to private corporations. If you ever bothered to just google on the internet, you would see scandal after scandal on charter schools. It’s about making a buck; not helping kids. Corporations are in business to make the most profit they can at the least costs. CEOs don’t give a hoot about kids. Besides, if you also research, you’ll find that charter schools generally don’t fair any better than public schools. They also don’t play ny the se rules unlic schools do.

    4. Retired coach, I am saddened that you are so angry, that you think solutions are simple and that are mostly wrong. If history is to be taught, then it should be complete, not “BASIC.” Texas was ripped from the Native Americans by ruthless Europeans, The Spanish. Similarly Texas was swindled and ripped away from the Mexicans by invaders from the U.S. whose main goal was to increase American slavery. “BASIC” history says “Texas won independence from it’s Mexican ruler at the Alamo and San Jacinto.” How would you respect he religious beliefs of a student or teacher whose religion forbids pledging allegiance to any but God. They are forbidden to pledge to the U.S. although have no problem with the “under God” which was added as an anti-communist, cold war, afterthought. If the Supreme Court has struggled with the issues of free speech, free press, free exercise and establishment of religion, for over two hundred years, how can you be so sure of its meaning? My union dues, have never been dedicated to politicians or political issues. My union has always collected non-dues contributions for political issues and candidate support. When you say the pledge, I would hope that you think about “liberty and justice for all.” including homosexuals who want get married, the pregnant girl who wants get an abortion because her own father raped her, and the liberal who would like to have ideas different than yours. From a retired teacher/coach.

  6. And who do you think elected these governors, legislators, etc.? TEACHERS!!! In TN, they either elected them by their own VOTES or by their political APATHY! Only when teachers wake up and become politically active again ( as we did in the 70s!) will they be able to win back what they have lost since 2010!!!!! I hope I can live to see it happen!!

  7. Please tell me how in the world Gov. Sam Brownback from Kansas was not mentioned as a legislator
    who follows the Koch Brothers’ Vision for destroying public education. He has refused federal money for funding of the arts, fails to legislate the minimum to support our schools, ETC. and it truly baffles me why his name is omitted. You sight the Koch brothers’ actions in other states but Kansas is a ring leader in this process with Governor Throwback at the helm. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *