Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Koch Brothers are funding a right-wing network that is behind a new secret initiative attempting to discredit teacher walkouts while harming teachers’ unions.
There is a nationwide network of right-wing thinktanks that has begun a public relations offensive to counter the positive press being received by the teachers’ strikes that have occured in several states and seem to be spreading throughout the country. The strikes have erupted as the nation’s educators finally are taking action to protest cuts in education funding that have led to low pay, underfunded schools and intolerable working conditions.
This network has been distributing what they call a “messaging guide” for anti-union activists, which is essentially a three-page document filled with anti-teacher and anti-union talking points. The guide describes the teacher walkouts as hurting low-income parents and their children.
It is entitled “How to talk about teacher strikes,” and it lists “dos and don’ts” for how to smear teachers and discredit their valid claims.
It provides advice for people who want to campaign against the teachers unions and advises them to argue that “it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.”
This so-called “messaging guide” was produced by the “State Policy Network” (SPN), which is a formal alliance of 66 right-wing groups that have received funding from the Koch Brothers, the DeVos family and the Walton family (founders of Walmart).
Thanks to these right-wing billionaires, SPN has an $80 million war chest they are using to promote conservative strategy across the country. They are very well organized and coordinated and have presence in all 50 states.
In the past the SPN network initiatives have included PR campaigns and a plan to “defund and defang” public sector unions. As the middle class in American declines, these anti-union billionaires are doing everything they can to kill unions and reduce wages for the average American.
Now it is turning its attention to the striking teachers and is attempting to harm them and prevent them from receiving the pay they are entitled to.
The SPN document urges its followers to attack the teacher walkouts in a stealth manner, and not to attack them directly.
According to the guide “A head-on assault on teachers for their long summer vacations would sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs [and] having to rely on food pantries.”
Teacher strikes have been spreading across the US following the example of West Virginia where a rebellion in February closed state schools for nine days but ended in victory for the teachers with a 5% pay rise. Additional strikes erupted in Oklahoma and Kentucky in protest at what many teachers say are unlivable wages caused by terrible Republican cuts to education coupled with reduction in the taxes that have funded public education.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, had this to say about the SPN guide: “It’s fascinating that even Koch-funded conservatives recognize that there’s huge public support for public education and for treating teachers with respect.” She denounced SPN’s guide as a “piece of propaganda – the conservative strategy is to defund schools and delegitimize the voice of teachers”.
You can read the entire messaging guide on SCRIBD.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.