Monday, June 17, 2019

WV: Did Trump Just Kick Betsy DeVos (plus, Hidden Donor Shenanigans)

Is it hyperbole to suggest, as Huffington Post does, that West Virginia's Senate has gone to war with teachers (again). I'm always reluctant to use combat metaphors, but at a bare minimum, the West Virginia Senate is showing teachers a big fat middle finger.

It's not just the Senate is making its third attempt to implement the same policies that prompted two previous teacher strikes. On top of trying to jump start charters and vouchers, the bill also aims to beat teachers into submission by closing the loophole used previously and threatening their jobs. The loophole was simple-- strikes are already illegal in the state, but in anticipation (and in some cases in sympathy with) the previous walkouts, superintendents canceled school. If school isn't in session, it's not a strike. The bill forbids superintendents to pull any such shenanigans in the future. And if teachers still walk out, they can be fired. This is not policy; it's punitive.

Where does the Senate get the giant brass cojones for this?

You stand up to Betsy. Or for her. Whose side am I on, again?
Well, Betsy DeVos piped up to throw her weight behind the reform bill, saying that the legislature should get it done. And today, Trump decided he would enter the fray by tweeting his support for the governor, typing in part, "Keep up the great work, @WVGovernor Big Jim Justice - I am with you!"

That's a curious choice for cheerleading, because Big Jim Justice has been a little testy with both DeVos and his fellow GOP legislators. He in effect told DeVos to back off and characterized her call to "get it done" as her getting "way, way, way over her skis." At a town hall last week he expressed a great deal of frustration with the Senate. Recall that the last time this bill triggered a teacher strike and ultimately failed, at which point the Senate agreed to a special session just to deal with education, which is where we are now-- except that nothing has changed:

The governor said he would have never agreed to a special session on education had Senate President Mitch Carmichael not told him everyone would be on board, and everything would be quickly resolved. 

"We went through three months, and came back to almost exactly what we came out with in the beginning," Justice said. 

He was critical of Republican leadership's failure to uphold the agreed upon no-strings-attached 5 percent pay raise for state employees. He was also critical of the 138-page omnibus bill that ultimately failed during the regular legislative session. 

What did Justice want to see?

Specifically, he called for more counselors, psychologists and nurses in schools; an increase in funding for counties with fewer than 1,500 students; providing incentives for math instructors; increasing the number of Mountaineer Challenge Academies; putting more emphasis on innovation zones; and providing tax credits for teacher supplies.

"Then let’s stop," Justice said. "Just stop right there."

So is Trump actually supporting Justice and saying, "Yeah, buddy-- you tell Betsy where to get off, and you get that legislature to dump all that reform baloney." Or-- and I'm just spitballing here-- is it possible that Trump hasn't entirely done his homework here and is assuming some things about Justice that aren't actually so?

Meanwhile, the rest of the support for the charter and choice push is coming from the usual places. Specifically the place of "We can't tell you who our backers are because if their names got out people might be mean to them and make them sad." There are slick tv ads and no doubt some attempts to fortify the appropriate lawmakers. The players are the usual. There's Americans for Prosperity, which is a well-funded Koch brothers front. There's also the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy; some homework by the Charleston Gazette Mail shows that EdChoice (formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice), which is located in Indianapolis, kicked in big bucks, a member of the Goldwater Institute, DonorsTrust, Vanguard Charitable, and the State Policy Network, a network of right-wing thinky tanks and advocacy groups pretending to be thinky tanks.

In short, this is one more example of the reformsters stepping in to seed a state with money in an attempt to grow their favorite programs for dismantling and privatizing public education. There are a whole bunch of very wealthy (but apparently shy) people doing their best to use the attempt to make things right with teachers as cover for slapping teachers in the face once again. Here's hoping that public education in West Virginia can ride out this storm.

No comments:

Post a Comment