The wildcat teacher strikes taking place across the country have brought new attention to what many teachers have been saying for years; teachers are devalued, underpaid, and have faced a decades long war on their profession through austerity politics and organizations funded by anti-union billionaires determined to bust their unions. The strikes have resulted in concrete victories for not just teachers, bus drivers, school cooks, but also a decisive shift in public opinion and a stronger resolve for public sector labor unions as they face down a Supreme Court decision that could do great damage to working families.
The teacher strikes have caused fear at the State Policy Network, a collection of dubious non-profits that have led the efforts to demonize teachers and forced them to go on defense. Rightfully so because they know that when union members fight, they win. Recent polling shows that 78% of Americans, Independents, Republicans and Democrats alike, think that teachers are underpaid. Fifty percent of them would support a tax increases to pay teachers more. This goes directly against the type of austerity politics affiliates of the State Policy Network continually agitate for, a point they recognize themselves.
Documents from the State Policy Network were leaked to The Guardian recently on how their affiliates, like Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, should handle talking about the teacher strikes. Let’s unpack for a moment all that is going on in this document. It opens up noting that pictures from teachers highlighting their working conditions, their pay, and their student’s learning conditions are hard to counter. Apparently, they’ve come to the conclusion that a teacher receiving food stamps is a hard counter for a billionaire funded collection of corporate front groups.
The State Policy Network suggest using this “opportunity” of viral pictures of poor school conditions, conditions they helped create, to now sympathize with teachers, something you’d be hard pressed to find in any of their affiliates actions and output. In fact, the Commonwealth Foundation and the Fairness Center have worked together to sue teachers across the state, denigrate them in Harrisburg, and actively take money away from public schools.
The State Policy Network also notes its part in trying to keep teacher pay low. They discuss how all of the tax cuts to billionaires they’ve called for has starved public education. It’s blatant admission of what we’ve known at PA Spotlight for a while, they only represent their anti-union billionaire funders. True to form, the Commonwealth Foundation went on attacking teachers since the strikes began attacking Pennsylvania’s laws on teacher strikes. It’s no wonder the Commonwealth Foundation wants to ban this, just like the State Policy Network, they are scared of what organized teachers can do when they fight back.