While it is not surprising that those who worked for a corporate Democrat like President Barack Obama have moved on to shilling for Big Business after they leave the White House, usually the opportunism is less crass than this. Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former press secretary, has signed on through his public relations firm to lead a national PR campaign to destroy teachers unions.
Incite Agency, founded by both Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will manage a nationwide public relations campaign to build support for lawsuits against teacher tenure, seniority, and other job protections won by teachers unions. If Incite Agency’s campaign is successful and the cases are won in court, teachers unions would be crippled, if not obliterated – opening the way to privatizing public schools and making public education a hollow commitment for millions of American children.
The national legal campaign is being organized by Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who told POLITICO that she has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months to get the effort off the ground. She intends to start with a lawsuit in New York, to be filed within the next few weeks, and follow up with similar cases around the country. Her plans for the New York lawsuit were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Brown’s campaign will be modeled on the recent Vergara v. California decision, which dealt a major blow to teachers unions. In that case, a state judge earlier this month struck down California’s tenure system and other job protections embedded in state law, ruling that they deprived students of their constitutional right to a quality education because they shielded even the most incompetent teachers from dismissal. Teachers unions have said they will appeal.
Of course, Gibbs is not the only Obama White House alum to try to break teachers unions, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also made an aggressive effort at breaking the teachers unions in Chicago. It is almost as if the Obama administration was packed with corporate hacks instead of people concerned about the 99%
The larger issue is the division in the Democratic Party between those who support public education and workers and those entranced by neoliberal logic which strangely claims that America’s problem is an inability to compete with workers in the developing world who are wage slaves/are enslaved, and that this problem will be solved with a privatized education system somehow.
Beyond those prostituting themselves on school privatization are some Democrats who are genuinely beguiled by the mythology that America has an “education crisis” and that pushing products by private education companies will somehow solve this “crisis.” There’s little to no evidence that the reforms/privatization has any positive effect on education outcomes and even less evidence to correlate bad outcomes with teachers having job protections. It’s a complete non sequitur cooked up the private education industry’s marketers.
Though it is a nice way for the rich to misdirect responsibility for wealth inequality and poverty onto teachers rather than their own malevolent activities and rigged economic system. And hey, as long as the check clears right Gibbs?
Photo by White House [cropped] under public domain.