The Tea Party Demands That Public Education Not Be Equal For All

This is the follow-up of my Groundhog Day visit to a Tea Party School Choice Rally pushing for passage of tax credit bill, HB 4576 for parents abandoning public schools. In the first segment I told of the flood of propaganda handouts, mostly funded by school choice sugar daddy, FreedomWorks, headed by a hack who almost makes Newt Gingrich look saintly, Dick Armey.

After loading up with enough school choice propaganda to do Pravda proud, I surveyed the room for a table with a close-up view of both the speakers and an escape route.

I spotted a partially filled table about 10 feet from the speaker’s podium and 5 feet from the door. I surmised the table hadn’t been completely filled because it was occupied by 3 little kids, ages in the 5-8 range. Who would want to sit with three little kids at a school choice meeting?  Also seated at the table were mom and I would guess, grandma. I put down my propaganda haul and sat down. Two other chairs remained empty. The adults at the table were nice enough during our exchange of maybe 10 words. The youngsters were well behaved and very quiet.

At the podium, the local Tea Party head gave a brief welcoming speech before giving way to the inevitable radical anti-public school rhetoric. The first speaker was America’s most conservative senator, Jim DeMint. He teleconferenced the group from Washington via a TV monitor.

DeMint threw out about 2 minutes of predictable red meat and then fled as if Sarah Palin was waiting just off camera in her running shorts.

After one other irrelevant TV public education basher, the meeting was finally treated to a live human being – too live for my taste. He was an overweight, twenty-something Dick Armey protege in the employ  of FreedomWorks. His name was David Spielman and he was a campaign coordinator for school choice. He bragged about standing with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as he fought the unions. Though young, Spielman was the perfect mouthpiece for the subject of the night, ripping ‘government’ schools. The right-wingers call public schools ‘government’ schools in adopting a meaningless advertising agency name that’s supposed to evoke a fearsome image of jack-booted ‘government’ administrators.


Spielman informed the crowd that his wife was a teacher in Maryland. His mother, father and had also taught.  Teaching in Maryland, his wife most likely belongs to either the American Federation of Teachers or the Maryland State Education Association. A fact not shared from the podium.

Young David said he didn’t remember the last time our schools were kid-focused. Has this ‘expert’ even set foot inside a classroom? How about the most recent school day being the last time our schools were kid-focused. Let’s check out the Winter edition of NEA Today, a quarterly from one of those teachers unions he castigates. In the magazine, President, Dennis Van Roekel’s column is about the union’s Priority Schools Campaign dedicated to accelerating student (kids) learning. There’s an article on the price children pay in the budget-cutting orgy initiated by state legislative Tea Party types. There was a story on the questionable efficacy of No Child Left Behind and how being forced to teach to the test impacts ‘kids’. The NEA is attacking that problem. There were at least a dozen more articles and columns that were “kid-focused”. The overwhelming majority of this union magazine is dedicated to kids.

Spielman knows this, of course, but he’s got a future to think about and borderline operatives like his boss can eventually lead him to millions as a lobbyist. That’s where Armey made most of his money after leaving congress. Later, Spielman lamented that the Democrats were in bed with the unions to the clueless cheers of people who want their kids in schools where teachers are less educated, get paid less and the boss is in it for the money.  For a guy who claims all those ties with teachers, his ignorance of the profession is staggering. I confess to a huge bias for public schools. My dear wife is a Special Ed teacher of the emotionally disabled. She holds a Masters degree. She and her colleagues are 100% kid-focused. She works at least10 hours in the school setting, often longer. She sits in front of her home computer another couple of hours and puts in the equivalent of an 8-hour-day over the weekend.

Spielman was followed by Chad Connelly, the South Carolina Republican Party Chair, who may just be the most annoying man on the planet. He talked a mile a minute for way too many minutes and felt constrained to tell us his first wife committed suicide (no comment).

He insisted his education enmity was not about the teachers who he described as scared to death of the system and the union working against them. In this state, the union can mail out literature, lobby and email to their heart’s content, run a website and bitch. Neither the NEA nor any other union has any collective bargaining rights. What teachers are ‘scared to death’ of is school policies being driven by a bunch of uninformed, pseudo- religious hypocrites like Spielman and Armey who couldn’t answer a single Masters level question about education if their lives depended on it.

After mercifully shutting down his one-man distortion speech, Connelly gave way to the featured speaker of the night, Dick Armey, current head of FreedomWorks. Up close Armey favors Representative Barney Frank, the man he once called Barney Fag.

He doubled down when asked by columnist Dave Barry in 2000, “Are you really Dick Armey?” Armey replied, “if there is a dick army, Barney Frank would want to join up.”

Yep, a perfect guest speaker for a Tea Party rally.

Armey informed the local audience that his wife had once been a teacher, but quit. He claims her principal told her, “It’s always the good ones that leave.”  I wonder if she was that same ‘good’ one who left Armey?

Armey claimed that for 200 years “we did education better than anybody; better because we did it ourselves.” In the period Armey is apparently referencing (beginning roughly with the signing of the Declaration of Independence), schooling was so diffuse throughout the states, there would have been no way to quantify a national performance model. Secondly, school attendance was almost the exclusive domain of the rich until the mid-1800’s.  Jefferson would have made the move to public schools many decades earlier.

Armey kept talking; somebody whose life has been dedicated to enriching himself from the public teat (he once sued to keep his government health care) is now hustling the Tea Party crowd. As he launched into his latest extremist tirade, I got up and walked out. I hope it looked like I was walking out on the speech because I was.  I wonder if Armey shared the facts that bills like HB 4576 only benefits those with incomes high enough to declare such credits and parents of public school students essentially pay the tab estimated at nearly $100 million Carolina dollars the first two years of this farce.

I apologize to my dedicated teacher wife for Armey and his band of opportunistic BS-peddlers. Armey and company should have been hooked up to polygraph machines.

Image: City Profile



13 Replies to “The Tea Party Demands That Public Education Not Be Equal For All”

  1. Teachers in countries that do especially well on international tests are both respected and revered. I’m always amazed at how badly paid and disrespected teachers are in the U.S. It is such a shame, and cannot help but affect a student’s performance and achievement. And is it any wonder that so many schools take measures to ensure their students are not armed? Disrespect begets violence.

  2. Well when a few years ago I saw Phyllis Schafly’s list of the ten most dangerous books ever published and found John Dewey’s “Democracy and Education” on it, I was shocked to my core.

    Now such sentiments are commonplace.

    Luckily, the (Tea) Party’s over in the minds of most Americans. Except, obviously for the really really backwards people of South Carolina and their hero, Jim DeMint.

  3. The friggin tea-baggers demand a lot, so do two years old with their incessant whining. However two year olds are worth putting time and effort into, because they eventually mature and become reasonable people, you can not say the same about any of the tea-party…..spoiled,poorly educated brats.

  4. Disrespect also causes lower grades (especially if the lack of respect is mixed with fear).

    In high school, I had a monster of a teacher who was impossible to get along with. My grades were in the low C’s and upper D’s, I could NEVER figure out how to get through her tests (mostly fill-in-the-blank, which I’ve always failed miserably). Then she got pregnant and a new teacher came in. Low grades went to straight A’s.

    I wasn’t the only one. We didn’t respect her (she was into facts and figures, but never took a second to explain how or why they were important, plus extremely abrasive and curt) and feared her because she had so much control over our future.

    We felt we could trust the second teacher, who also didn’t adhere to the fill-in-the-blank tests all the time.

  5. Little more than South Carolina. They dominate in Florida, and I suspect several other states (hopefully citizens from the others will also speak up).

    They ruled the schools my nieces attended.

  6. they are going to do their best to shut down public education and once that happens there is no longer a need for a voucher program because let’s face it that’s government spending. And then we are going to have a very large number of children who will never get educated because they will not be profitable for the private schools. Private schools will always remain in the employ of the rich and not here to educate the masses. A public school has the responsibility of educating every kid in America, a private school has no responsibility to do the same. It’s only responsibility is to get the parents money

  7. As a man of Southern free farmer stock, I can tell you it’s no accident that NO slave state had ANY public education for anyone of any color until Reconstruction! We must fight and fight hard to maintain and reinvigorate public education–including the idea of it!! In the Union army, literacy was 94%; only 53% of the Rebs could read or write. If more of them could read and write, maybe there would never have been a national civil war!

  8. Tell it. People, never ever forget: the primary motive of any private corporation is…………..PROFIT. This entire privatization idea, whether it’s schools or prisons or whatever entity it may be, is nothing more than a long-term plan to put profits into the pockets of a select few, at the expense of society. I’m in my 50s now, I grew up in the heyday of government funded public education and I got a damn good education. We were the envy of the world for our education. Then the republicans came along with their greed, and began the decades of demonizing public education, demonizing teachers, demonizing government. And here we are. The fight is FAR from over. I hope the US doesn’t have to learn this lesson the hard way.

  9. Another aspect of this is that we are our own worst enemies. we give kids three or more months off during the summer when kids in Asia get a couple weeks. The kids coming out of Asia, India and other countries have parents who are far more intense about their children’s education, and push their children to do better. I think that is to a great deal lacking here in the United States. I cannot talk about the teaching methods and other countries because I don’t know what they are but I know that education is up to two things to start with. A kids desire to learn, and a parents desire for their kids to learn.even before a teacher enters into the equation if those two things do not exist it doesn’t matter who the teacher is. kids in other countries have dress codes and are taught respect for each other. Here we have kids who dress like zoo animals, while showing it is more important To show how stupid they can than that it is to learn.

    people can blame the teachers, but I tell you right now it is the same as people crying that there is no prayer in school. Parents are doing their best to hand off their own responsibilities to the schools and then blaming the teachers when it doesn’t work out.

    that is not to say that there aren’t still a lot of students who have a natural burning desire to learn and do so. These are the kids who move on to college and become our future leaders

  10. I wonder where the Tea Partier who thinks “calculis” is easy was educated. He needs to enroll in a community remedial spelling program.

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