Within the past month, unions
and teachers have experienced political ups and downs that may be
precursors to the battles in the upcoming 2017 and 2018 elections.
Democrats prevailed in a district Trump carried by a landslide in the
2016 presidential election. In New York State, Christine Pellegrino,
a Baldwin school teacher running as a Democrat, who was a Bernie
Sanders delegate last year, won an Assembly seat in a special
election in the Republican-controlled Ninth Assembly District. She
beat her opponent by a margin of 58-42 percent of the vote. Shortly
after, two charter school advocates upended the pro-public education,
long-term Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) majority: Nick
Melvoin whipping school board president, Steve Zimmer, 57-42 percent
and Kelly Gonez narrowly edging out Imelda Padilla, 51-49 percent,
resulting in 4-3 control of the board.
It should be noted that both
Melvoin and Gonez were endorsed by Obama’s former Education
Secretary, Arne Duncan, and that Gonez was an education policy
advisor in the Obama administration. Thus, Trump-DeVos school choice
policies are a continuation of the Obama education policies on
steroids, with the addition of school vouchers. As we head into late
2017 and 2018, unions and public school teachers must put their
shoulders to the wheel and make every effort to maintain and increase
their representation on school boards, in state legislatures, in
governorships, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the U.S.
Senate. The first opportunity will occur on November 7, 2017 when the
governorships of Virginia and New Jersey will be on the ballot.
The Democrats currently hold
the governor’s office in Virginia and are looking to hold on.
Current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a mainstream Democrat, handily
defeated Bernie Sanders-backed, former Rep. Tom Perriello, a
progressive, in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary. In New
Jersey, the Democrats are primed to regain the governorship after the
eight-year reign of Chris Christie who won twice with the strong
support of state Democratic leaders. Phil Murphy, the Democratic
candidate, a former Goldman Sachs partner and Ambassador to Germany
in the Obama administration, leads his Republican challenger, Lt.
Gov. Kim Guadagno, by more than 25 points in early polls, due in
large part to the scandal-ridden Christie administration. But the
election is far from over as Guadagno is making inroads among the
African American clergy that put former Republican Gov. Christie
Whitman over the top in her 1993 upset of Democratic incumbent, Jim
Florio, 50 to 49 percent.
In addition, Murphy has
given mixed messages in his support for charter schools, although he
has been endorsed by the state’s largest teachers’ union,
the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), an affiliate of the
National Education Association (NEA), and New Jersey’s key
Democratic political boss, George Norcross, who has also established
a corporate charter school empire in South Jersey. He was the
political puppet master behind Gov. Christie’s expansion of
corporate charter schools and other public school privatization
initiatives from 2009 to 2017. But Murphy’s Achilles’
heel could be his support for legalizing marijuana which is intensely
opposed by the majority of the African American religious community.
These educational and social issues could prove pivotal in the
outcome of the general election, and outside Republican groups are
already gearing up to exploit Murphy’s stance on marijuana.
addition to political matters, teachers and unions need to upgrade
their get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts for their natural
constituencies - minorities, young people, women, and the working
class heading into the 2017 and 2018 elections. Hillary Clinton did
not aggressively target minorities in 2016, instead relying on the
Obamas, minority elected officials, and entertainers (Jay-Z and
Beyonce in Cleveland, Katie Perry in Philadelphia, and Jennifer Lopez
in Florida) to do the political work to reach young people and people
of color that she should have done. She never made a direct appeal to
their concerns as did Donald Trump throughout his campaign. Hillary
also refused to distribute GOTV street money in the critical urban
centers - Milwaukee, Madison, and Racine-Kenosha, Wisconsin;
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Detroit, Lansing, and
Flint, Michigan - where she could have garnered enough minority votes
to overtake Trump on election day.
effective Democratic ground game will be essential on November 7,
2017 in Virginia and New Jersey and on November 6, 2018 in the
midterm elections. A lesson can be learned from the charter takeover
of the Los Angeles school board in May 2017 funded by the Cartel of
conservative education reformers, led by corporate leaders Eli Broad,
the Walton family, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, Gap founder Doris
Fisher, and other pro-charter billionaires. They basically won the
race with mail-in ballots when 60 percent of that vote went to the
charter candidates, and their GOTV on-the-ground turnout on Election
Day was unprecedented.
Cartel is also upgrading its operations for a rematch between
Marshall Tuck, former president of a charter school network, and Tom
Torlakson, the 2014 Democratic union-backed winner, in the California
State Superintendent’s race in 2018. It plans to double down on
its phone banks, TV ads, and field workers after analyzing its
failures in the 2014 race. The Cartel has the money, marketing
strategies, and the long-range commitment to its school choice agenda
and has been able to recruit independents such as former New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg to its cause.
the Trump administration continues to recruit in minority
communities. Last week, it held the National
Sponsored Programs Administrators Alliance
Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Conference
in New Orleans where Atty. Emily M. Dickens, Senior Vice President,
General Counsel, and Chief Relationship Officer for the Thurgood
Marshall College Fund (TMCF) which represents public HBCUs, lauded
charter schools and encouraged HBCUs to establish them on their
campuses. This may be a result of the TMCF having received a $25
million grant in 2016 from the Koch Bros., ardent charter school
summary, it could prove beneficial for unions and teachers to pursue
the following tactics as they attempt to increase their influence
during the 2017 and 2018 elections:
It is time for unions and
teachers to take specific actions for their survival!