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Est. April 5, 2002
December 06, 2018 - Issue 767

Getting Public Education
Democrats’ Legislative Agenda

"Teachers need to press their national, state,
and local union affiliates to push the leadership
of the upcoming Democratically-controlled
U.S. House of Representatives to make
public education a preeminent issue."

The Democrats’ 2018 midterm celebrations at the local, state, and federal levels are winding down and now it is time for the ‘rubber to meet the road. Those Democratic, Independent, and Republican voters who flipped 40 Republican seats to Democrats whose campaigns embraced the compelling messages that K-12 public education and affordable health care are among the major issues impacting America’s quality of life. Public school teachers were indisputably the driving force behind these victories in both reliably Blue and Red states.

In the aftermath of these historic Democratic victories, including 35 women, several of whom were teachers, there is an opportunity for a renewed and aggressive focus on improving public education. However, the emerging Democratic proposals do not have this issue as a high priority. Therefore, teachers need to press their national, state, and local union affiliates to push the leadership of the upcoming Democratically-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to make public education a preeminent issue. With their newly elected 2016 Teacher of the Year, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT, 5th District), to champion K-12 education along with her fellow male and female African American, Muslim, LGBT, White, and Hispanic counterparts, this is an opportune moment for education to take center stage in the legislative process.

Just last Tuesday, 46 of the 60 Democrats elected, two-thirds of whom were elected from Republican districts during the recent midterms, signed a letter to Democratic Leader Pelosi. Their total membership constitutes one-quarter of the Democratic caucus. In addition to requesting seats on the major House committees, they targeted "legislation on … immigration, guns, environment and a criminal justice overhaul.” Not one of their main policy concerns included public education. This needs to change.

Teachers were critical to the defeats of incumbent two-term Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), who devastated collective bargaining and introduced right-to-work legislation and Kansas Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, Kris Kobach, both of whom were Trump political fronts, primarily funded by the Koch Bros. and the Cartel of public school privatization billionaires. These two politicians also spearheaded Voter ID and other forms of voter suppression in their respective states and jumpstarted efforts to dismantle public education.

After reeling from his unanticipated reelection defeat, Walker, as a lame duck, is now engaged in a conspiracy with his Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate to clip the powers of incoming Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General (AG) Josh Kaul.

He has promised to sign any of the bills sent to his desk before he leaves office such as moving the 2020 presidential primary from April, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high, to March so it won't be on the same date as an April election where Walker-appointed Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is on the ballot, improving his chances of victory; shortening the time for early voting when African Americans turned out a significant anti-Walker vote in Milwaukee County during the midterms; weakening the attorney general's office by allowing Republican legislative leaders to intervene in cases and hire their own attorneys at state expense; establishing a legislative committee, rather than the attorney general, that would have to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits; and other impediments to Gov. Evers’s and AG Kaul’s traditional power over their respective offices.

These forms of political obstruction are being replicated in Michigan in the wake of Democrats taking over the governorship and were implemented after Republicans lost the governors office in North Carolina in 2016. It is no accident that these actions also parallel the “Electoral Apartheid” outlined in an earlier column. As noted then, as a result of the changing demographics, the U.S is rapidly moving towards a pluralistic, rather than a majority-white society, where Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans will make up a collective majority by 2040.

As part of this initiative, the Cartel of billionaire public-sector privatization advocates is committed to continuing their four-decade plus attack on public-sector unions, teachers, public education, public school funding, and the overall public sector. The public sector has been instrumental in providing access to equality and equity for America’s minority groups. The Cartel’s activities are being heavily facilitated by Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Therefore, Democrats have to understand that not placing public education and other public programs at the forefront of their political strategy is essentially a capitulation to conservative Republican plans.

Allowing Trump and his rich cronies to remain on track to escalate their undermining of public education--one of the cornerstones of our democracy--will spell even more disaster and divisiveness in our nation. Along with legislation to address immigration, guns, the environment, and criminal justice, it is imperative that Democrats put forth a public education program to uplift those under sustained attack from corrupt voucher and charter schools, educational savings accounts, charter school districts for upscale majority-white cities, and corporate entities that are given massive contracts to be the so-called saviors of low-performing public schools.

Disproportionately populated by low-income minority students, these schools have already been raped and pillaged by the aforementioned privatization scams and these same corporate contractors. Teachers beware! The privatization Cartel is still coming for you, and it is time for you to demand support for an assertive educational schedule of bills from the Democrats, whom you recently returned to power in the U.S. House of Representatives for the survival and prosperity of K-12 public education and the profession of teaching.

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:
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Peter Gamble

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