The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) spends a fortune of members’ dues money on what loosely could be called “communications”–advertising, promotion, public relations, marketing, and other methods of getting its message out. And, last year, it put a lot of that effort behind the election of Cory Booker as United States senator despite Booker’s embrace of ultra-conservative educational policies, including vouchers. You’d think that, this year, it would use the same approach to correct that awful mistake–but it hasn’t.
Nearly two years ago, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, stopped by Newark long enough to help seal a hare-brained, privately-financed merit pay deal between its Newark Teachers Union and Cami Anderson, the dictator personally selected by Booker to make Newark the “charter school capital” of the country. Anderson has used the pact to weaken the NTU and other unions. You’d think that, this year, the NTU would try to recover lost ground to the union-busters–but it hasn’t.
Both unions have ways of communicating to its members the sense of its leaders on educational issues. In the past, I have received lectures on bureaucratic procedures aimed at explaining why the NJEA, for example, had to make this decision or that about its views.
“We’re a membership organization,” I’ve been told. “We can’t be far ahead of our membership.”
Please. When NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer spoke on the Statehouse stairs last March, leading the assemblage in chants about “Our schools,” I am sure he didn’t send a message out to the membership asking them for permission to align the NJEA with the anti-Christie struggle in Newark.
But this did happen: When Steinhauer spoke, he created the impression that the state’s largest teachers union would lead the fight against privatization. Similarly, when the NTU got knee-deep into Ras Baraka’s campaign, it gave the implied promise that the struggle of the Newark community also would be the struggle of Newark’s teachers.
Tomorrow is primary election day. Cory Booker, a member of the ultra conservative E3–Excellent Education for Everyone, a voucher front–is running unopposed in the Democratic primary because Democratic leaders are the worst traitors to an important cause since Quisling. People like Joe DiVincenzo, who stabbed Barbara Buono in the back last year, is on the same line with Booker. All members of the Christie Party.
I don’t know how long it takes to put together a robo-call and get through to the NJEA’s and the NTU’s members. Sounds like it should take only a few hours.
Why can’t we have this call going out from Steinhauer? “My colleagues in the proud teaching profession: Today is a primary election day. Cory Booker, who won his senate seat through the connivance of Gov. Chris Christie, is running unopposed so he can’t lose. But it’s time to show him, the national administration–including Education Secretary Arne Duncan–and Chris Christie that teachers will no longer be used as door mats to have their faces rubbed in the dirt of those who use teachers as scapegoats for the problems of the schools, especially in the inner city. We hope today, when you go to the polls, you vote for whomever you choose–but do not vote for Cory Booker. If he garners fewer votes than candidates down-ticket, he will appear weak to party bosses. The NJEA regrets its endorsement of an enemy of public education and promises to do better in the future.”
The AFT should broadcast a similar robo-call, adding something about the merit-pay provisions–financed by union-hater Mark Zuckerberg–in the NTU contract. Also, with an apology.
I support unions. They may be the last bastions against the encroachment of billionaires who have corrupted the Democratic Party from Obama on down. But, in recent years, they have lost their way. New Jersey unions have played serious games of footsie with Christie, Anderson and, of course, Booker. They rail against charters and privatization and high-stakes testing and Common Core State Standards–but, in fact, the union leadership supported the people who made this all possible. They have been enablers to those who would destroy public education.
If the unions don’t make at least one gesture of independence from the Wall Street Mafia, then they will have lost close to their last measure of credibility among the teachers they represent and the communities in places like Newark and Camden that have come to rely on them.
Vote “No” on Booker and the Democrats for Education Reform. Just write in your name or don’t pull the lever or push the screen to vote for Booker.