By now, most of you know that Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin–better known as “Kim Jong Bevin” or “Governor Be(a)vis,” depending on who you talk to–railed that when teachers went on strike to protest his plan to take a meat-ax to school funding, they put kids at risk for being sexually assaulted or exposed to drugs. Well, it turns out that Bevin was reading from a script supplied by a think tank funded by a who’s-who of conservative billionaires.
Less than 24 hours before the Kentucky General Assembly put party labels aside and overrode Bevin’s attempt to gut school funding, Ed Pilkington of The Guardian got his hands on a list of talking points that conservative groups are using to counter this spring’s mushrooming wave of teacher strikes. It was crafted by the State Policy Network, a network of conservative think tanks focused on influencing public policy at the state level. In essence, it’s a state-only version of the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council.
At the top of this “messaging guide” is a warning that when teachers go on strike, low-income families end up getting squeezed.
“For parents who work low-wage jobs without benefits, taking a day–or a week–off work on short notice because they don’t have or can’t afford additional childcare can lead to losing their jobs. Parents working white collar jobs with benefits may have to spend more on childcare, but aren’t likely to lose their job. It’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.”
This statement sounds breathtakingly tone-deaf, considering the large number of teachers who struggle just to live decently, or who have to scrape in order to get supplies. I speak from experience, having dated a teacher in one of North Carolina’s poorest counties. Many of her co-workers had to work multiple jobs just to get enough money to pay the bills, and others were on food stamps. Sounds like SPN is missing a letter in its acronym.
But then again, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that such a tone-deaf statement made it into these talking points, considering who funds SPN. A large chunk of SPN’s $80 million war chest comes from the most infamous Republican megadonors in the nation, the Koch brothers. Other right-wing billionaires who have thrown money into the SPN pot include the Walton family of Walmart fame, as well as the DeVos family of Amway fame.
It’s even more outrageous considering that SPN admits that conservative activists are going to be in a tough spot if they live in a state that is cutting education budgets at the same time that it’s cutting taxes. In a colossal understatement, SPN notes that this will be “a challenging message to counter.”
That wasn’t lost on American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who called this messaging guide out for the agitprop that it was.
I’ll go one better. This is a classic attempt to wedge parents away from teachers. Something similar is playing out here in North Carolina, where the Republicans in the state house are trolling two Democratic candidates who have vowed to hold listening sessions with teachers if they’re elected.
And now Bevin is trying to say that teachers standing up for themselves harm low-income families by putting kids at risk for being assaulted. Let’s make no mistake about it–there is an all-out assault on our teachers. And the Koch brothers and their fellow billionaires are fueling it.
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