Today’s ridiculous attack on teacher unions is one that accuses them of supporting sexual predators in schools. Let’s see if we can figure out what’s behind it.
In a Wall Street Journal hit-piece, Campbell Brown – you may remember her as a former television news personality – accuses teacher unions of trying to block a bill to keep sexual predators out of schools. In the op-ed “Keeping Sex Predators Out of Schoolrooms,” subtitled “Congress is considering better background checks for teachers. Why won’t unions support the bill?” Brown describes the bill and asks, “These are sensible measures that are overdue. Yet the two most powerful teachers unions in the country have voiced objections to the bill.”
Of course, the objections that teacher unions have voiced are not objections to protecting kids against sexual predators. The teacher unions want to strengthen the bill, not stop it. (See the full letter to Congress from American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten here.) But no matter; the bill is a set-up. While it is about stopping “sexual predators,” it is used here as a honey-trap to elicit objections that can be used against unions. Then ANY objection to a bill that supposedly is about stopping sexual predators is described as an effort to help sexual predators. This is one of the oldest propaganda techniques in the book.
Brown of course ignores that even the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) wants to fix this bill. NAPCS President Neena Rees writes about this in US News and World Report, “Keeping Sexual Predators Out of the Classroom“:
While the idea underpinning the legislation is sound, implementation would be difficult and could take years. One of the fundamental obstacles is the poor quality of crime statistic reporting and data in many states. This information is not always centralized or automated, making it difficult to conduct comprehensive background checks in rapid fashion.
This happens to be the same position as the teacher unions’ position.
In one tweet Brown goes directly after AFT’s Randi Weingarten, tweeting, “Overwhelming bipartisan support for legislation to protect kids from sex predators & @rweingarten wants to weaken it.”
In another, “@rweingarten why are u more worried about protecting teacher than child. talk about ruining lives? imagine effect of sex abuse on a child”
So what prompted Brown to write this for the Wall Street Journal? This article from Mother Jones in October might help explain it: “Who’s Really Behind Campbell Brown’s Sneaky Education Outfit?”
Brown was there to plug her new venture, the Parents’ Transparency Project, a nonprofit “watchdog group” that “favors no party, candidate, or incumbent.”
[. . .] what she failed to disclose was that her husband, Dan Senor, sits on the board of the New York affiliate of StudentsFirst, an education lobbying group founded by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Washington, DC, chancellor. Rhee made a name for herself as public enemy No. 1 of the teachers’ unions and has become the torchbearer of the charter school movement. In 2012, her “bipartisan grassroots organization” backed 105 candidates in state races, 88 percent of them Republicans.
[. . .] Despite its nonpartisan billing, Brown’s nonprofit used Revolution Agency, a Republican consulting firm, to produce the mayoral attack ad. Its partners include Mike Murphy, a well-known pundit and former Romney strategist; Mark Dion, former chief of staff to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.); and Evan Kozlow, former deputy director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The domain name for PTP’s website was registered by two Revolution employees: Jeff Bechdel, Mitt Romney’s former Florida spokesman, and Matt Leonardo, who describes himself as “happily in self-imposed exile from advising Republican candidates.”
Brown probably isn’t taking on the job of attacking unions for free, out of a spirit of doing good for the world by driving down people’s wages and benefits. It is more likely that Brown has tapped into the lucrative Republican-aligned corporate/billionaire-funded anti-union money fire hose. THAT would explain a lot.
P.S.: See the 2004 report I coauthored, “Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions” and this 2007 talk on how the right developed the “Overton Window” to attack public education, “We’re All In This Together.”