Well, we knew it was coming. We just didn't know it would be quite so bald-faced.
As reported by Politico, the coming push to trash teacher job protections will bring together players from both the Obama and Bush administration (just in case you still doubted that Obama-on-education was at all different from Bush-on-education).
Campbell Brown, former journalist and current-- well, I hesitate to call her a teacher-hater, but it's hard to find any evidence to the contrary, will be launching a lawsuit in New York state to strip teachers of tenure and FILO protections (and then move on to other states from there). This is not a surprise-- given the Vergara decision, it was foregone conclusion that many folks would smell an opening for smashing unions and stripping teacher job protections across the country. But there are several aspects of this soon-to-be-case that are more special than we might have expected.
* Brown is not even pretending to mount any kind of political theater. Vergara at least made a small show of hiding the millionaire plaintiffs behind a curtain while using nine live teens as props. Brown is announcing her intent before even having a casting call for plaintiffs. And her Partnership for Educational Justice makes spectacularly little effort to pretend to be anything other than what it is-- an astroturf group founded to pilot legal attacks on tenure and seniority.
* Robert Gibbs (former communications aid to Senator Obama and press secretary for President Obama), Ben LaBolt (campaign spokesman for candidate Obama), and Jon Jones (2008 digital strategist for candidate Obama) have been hired to do the PR campaign for the lawsuit. And we're not really pretending that anything different is happening. Because that's where we now live-- in a country where you want to make sure your lawsuit is backed up by a public relations blitz.
* Jay Lefkowitz, an attorney who was a deputy assistant for domestic policy under President George W. Bush, will be doing the legal work pro bono. So there it is-- beyond terrorist threats, the one thing that can unite GOP and Dems in this country is a desire to slap up those damn teachers.
* Brown is quoted by Politico explaining why the PR matters-- because the conversation is more important than the lawsuit. In other words, it would not be enough to have the courts strip teachers of job protections; teachers must get their asses kicked in the court of public opinion as well. The PR portion of Vergara was heavy on how teachers are lazy slackers who don't want to do their jobs, while the union cared only for itself and not for students. Is that the conversation we need to have more of.
* Brown compares the battle against tenure to the battle for gay marriage. Because, Proposition 8. Because.... I got nothing. It's an amazing parallel.
Beyond this, we have the same old same old. Brown is connected to many of the reformster crowd, including her husband, and she has often spoken out against the difficulty in removing sexual predators from teaching positions, but her proposed solutions have always been considerably broader. Not "here's how we could solve this specific problem" but "here's how we could get rid of the union and tenure." So, we have cockroaches in the kitchen, so let's burn down the house.
The future plaintiffs continue to parrot the line "we must insure that every child has a strong teacher in the classroom." What nobody has even pretended to explain is how making it easier to fire teachers guarantees a great teacher in every classroom (particularly at a time when teachers arealready getting out of Dodge at an unprecedented rate).
It's all kind of sad and ridiculous and angry-making and appalling all at once.
There is a conversation to be had about teacher job protection. I talked about it here. But we already know from Vergara that Brown's lawsuit is not going to further that conversation. As Rick Hess noted, one of the problems standing in the way of that conversation is a lack of trust, and a flood of PR like we saw in California is not about to make teachers feel any more trusting.
Seeing folks from both political parties united behind a media figure and financed by shadowy figures who won't be revealed, all trying to remove job protections by arguing in the court of public opinion that teachers shouldn't have those protections because teachers are lazy and awful and simply don't deserve them-- that is not going to make teachers feel that it's safe to show any vulnerability at all. And no-- it's no help to soften the pitch with a "Well, the great teachers don't suck, but we reserve the right to tell you whether you are great or not. Because you probably suck."
This is more full on attack, with nothing new for teachers to learn except that the folks who want to slap us down and put us in our place come from all over the political spectrum. And perhaps a few more teachers will figure out that it's foolish to assume that Democrats are our friends.