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Est. April 5, 2002
April 05, 2018 - Issue 736

Teachers and Allies on Cusp
Victory for Public Education

"Teachers in Red Republican states - West Virginia, Kentucky,
Oklahoma, and Arizona - have stepped up their protests and
strikes in their struggle to salvage public education and
save themselves.  Among the lowest paid in the nation, these
teachers and their allies are taking a hard line against the
Republican legislators that many of them helped to elect as
they have been pushed against a financial wall."

Trump Updates to the Midterms:

  • Trump is again leading Democrats down a rabbit hole as they try to politically weaponize his history of sexual transgressions to defeat Republicans during the 2018 midterms, a strategy that failed Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential bid.

  • He has launched a full-scale attack on DACA and immigration blaming Democrats for lack of a deal as a way to turn attention away from the growing ethical scandals among his cabinet secretaries and the ongoing investigation of his campaign’s collusion with Russia’s in the 2016 campaign.

  • On March 29th, Trump took his infrastructure scam to Ohio in an effort to firm up support among his base.

  • Atty. Michael Avenatti and his client, Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford), have Trump under pressure by using the same bullying tactics against him that he used to eliminate his opponents during his presidential run.

Teachers in Red Republican states - West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona - have stepped up their protests and strikes in their struggle to salvage public education and save themselves. Among the lowest paid in the nation, these teachers and their allies are taking a hard line against the Republican legislators that many of them helped to elect as they have been pushed against a financial wall. They have been hit by the quadruple whammy of snowballing benefits and pension payments, declining wages, and the massive under-funding of public education. Teachers are bulking up their support for Democratic gubernatorial candidates and legislators in Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Nevada where they have been buttressed by the $20 million campaign fund of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).

This ensuing economic pressure on school districts, teachers, and educational support personnel (ESPs) is escalating, resulting in four-day school weeks in the previously mentioned states which allows school districts to lower their costs for transportation (negatively impacting salaries of ESPs), utilities, and substitute teachers as they struggle to balance their budgets. In the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), where the student population continues to drop as a result of the growth of privatization (the establishment of a significant number of voucher and charter schools since the 1990s), hundreds of teachers and ESPs have been quietly excessed in an attempt to close the gap in a more than $50 million projected budget shortfall for the 2018-19 school year. In an effort to escape blame for this upcoming fiscal crisis which will necessitate an even greater number of layoffs, MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver issued her letter of resignation last Tuesday, effective July 6th. She has accepted the position of President and CEO of the Southeastern Michigan United Way in her home state.

Having been selected by the Cartel of education reformers, who promote the privatization of public schools across the country, Driver, the sixth Cartel-appointed MPS superintendent since 1991, will likely emerge as a public school superintendent again after a brief hiatus. Many of the Cartel’s current and past superintendents have been shuffled around the country to replace a predecessor in urban districts. It is almost assured that Dr. Driver will be replaced by another Cartel surrogate who will be ultimately selected by Milwaukee’s business community that is closely aligned with the Cartel and that has derived significant financial profits form MPS in the last three decades. MPS teachers have been restricted in their advocacy through Act 10 that the legislature passed in 2010, at the behest of Gov. Scott Walker (R), that limits collective bargaining and other union initiatives. Walker pursued this legislation at the urging of Wisconsin billionaire, Diane Hendricks, a leading Cartel participant and a member of the Koch Bros. million dollar roundtable whose representatives individually contribute a million dollars a year to fund candidates and policies to promote the privatization of the public sector.

Meanwhile, teachers, ESPs, and the broader public are taking a stand as they are coming under assault at state and federal levels. The Trump Administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a $9.8 billion cut for the Department of Education and more than a billion dollars for school choice (voucher and charter schools) while gutting a labor agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees Council 252. Congress wisely eliminated the cuts and refused to fund the school choice programs, and the union is currently appealing DeVos’s union-busting actions to the National labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Arizona teachers are on the brink of striking as have their West Virginia and Kentucky counterparts unless they are granted a 20 percent pay raise. Oklahoma is on strike demanding a $10,000 pay raise for teachers and a $5,000 pay raise for ESPs. Teachers overall and their unions have been more than cooperative and have gone the extra mile in trying to maintain quality public schools while the per capita amount spent per public school student has deteriorated by more than thirty percent since 2008. Union attempts to cooperate with and organize charter school teachers has turned into a zero sum game: the monetary resources invested have yielded almost no financial upside for teacher unions as the newly recruited members frequently disappear after threats by corporate charter school owners and/or the owners simply go out of business and reorganize under a new name, thus eliminating the union, and the organizing has to start all over again. It is akin to running on a treadmill.

Yet the awakening of the larger public and the depressed monetary fortunes of teachers, which have forced many to take second jobs, forego health insurance for their family members, and to provide instruction with limited material resources, have resulted in their aggressive push back, especially in Red Republican states, where teachers and ESPs have taken the severest fiscal hits while Republicans have cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Those who are Republicans and Democrats are drawing the line and saying no more. On this 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assassination, unions, like that of the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee for whom he gave his life on April 4, 1968, are still under attack.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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