the Democrats’ state and federal legislative triumphs during
the recent midterms, one thing became abundantly clear, teachers were
who “we thought they were.” Collectively, they were the
keys to Democratic victories in Arizona, California, Connecticut,
Florida, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Kentucky, North Carolina, Nevada,
Wisconsin, Michigan, and other red, blue, and purple states where
teachers flipped seats in Congress, governorships, and state races to
boost support for public education, even when Republicans were able
to hold on to power.
of the most interesting upsets was the loss by Gov. Scott Walker
(R-WI), who spent $50 million compared to his opponent Tony Evers
(D-WI) who only raised and spent $14 million. Walker who was running
in his fourth straight race since 2010 (one a recall in 2012) had
been heavily backed by the education reform Cartel that is primarily
funded by the Koch Bros., Eli Broad, the Walton and Bradley
Foundations, and the Wall Street financial lobby. He was the
political darling of the public school privatization alliance when he
initiated and passed right-to-work legislation at the behest of his
Wisconsin billionaire contributor, Diane Hendricks, and eliminated
collective bargaining for teachers with Act 10.
the latter legislation was passed in 2011, teachers launched a recall
against Walker in 2012, but he prevailed over the same candidate,
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom he had narrowly defeated in 2010,
by an even larger margin. After that victory, he went on an
educational rampage - quadrupling the number of voucher students,
opening significantly more corporate charter schools, and further
reducing funding for K-12 public education. In 2018, Tony Evers, a
former public school teacher, principal, and sitting Wisconsin State
Superintendent rose to challenge Walker for governor.
being trampled over by Walker and the Republican-controlled
legislature for nearly a decade, teachers organized and fought him
district by district with sweat equity, rather than money, and turned
out their members and supporters in huge numbers. It was instructive
that voters in Milwaukee and Madison - Wisconsin’s largest
cities and largest school districts - voted against Walker by more
than 2:1 along with substantial turnout. In addition, Evers ran with
an African American Lt. Governor, Mandela Barnes, a former Milwaukee
legislator, who energized black and minority citizens throughout the
state. The Republican Michigan governorship also changed party hands
with a similarly diverse ticket - a white female for Governor,
Gretchen Whitmer, and a black for Lt. Governor, Garlin Gilchrist -
who led the Democratic ticket.
states become more racially diverse, as noted in the November 15th
column, state - and federal-level candidates, who are
reflective of the ethnic makeup and/or values of their constituents,
are increasingly likely to be elected to office. Teachers, as a
major block of voters, are representative of the aforementioned
factors and are motivated by the continuous attacks on themselves as
individuals and as a profession.
they were at the barricades to defend themselves during the midterms.
Teachers were the key to the Democrats in Arizona and Nevada winning
U.S. Senate seats and breaking Republican super-majorities in state
legislatures in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Michigan which
will loom large in 2020 as districts are redrawn for state and
federal legislative districts. In addition to Wisconsin and
Michigan, Democrats gained governorships in Illinois, Kansas, Maine,
Nevada, and New Mexico where teachers were the political engines
behind these wins. In Florida where Republicans prevailed in hotly
contested gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, voters still raised
taxes to fund education in Hillsborough and seven other counties.
some Republicans are rethinking their rabid opposition to supporting
public education, it is imperative that teachers keep their “pedal
to the metal.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is still
funneling money to corporate charter school and voucher initiatives
and trying to implode the Me Too movement by promulgating rules that
make it more difficult for rape victims on college campuses to have a
fair hearing and to receive justice. With all the controversy
surrounding the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S.
Supreme Court and the ongoing racist, misogynistic, and
anti-immigrant vitriol of President Trump, we have taken our
attention away from the anti-public education activities of DeVos.
teachers and their unions have turned an already blue state a deeper
shade of blue, wiping out most of the state’s Republican
officeholders in the U.S. House of Representatives. In a
cliffhanger, they also powered Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D) to
victory in the race for state superintendent of public instruction
over Marshal Tuck (R), formerly head of a California corporate
charter school network. Tuck was poised to be the inside man for Eli
Broad, who has raised more than $400 million to convert 50 percent of
the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUS) to charter schools by
2023. With Tuck in the superintendent’s seat, California would
have become a cash cow for corporate charter schools.
held the advance of public school privatization at bay in the 2018
midterms, but the battle will become fiercer as we approach 2020 when
everything will be on the ballot - public schools, democracy, and our
way of life.