Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Don’t Fall For The Corporate PET | History, Journalism and Commentary

Don’t Fall For The Corporate PET | History, Journalism and Commentary:

DON’T FALL FOR THE CORPORATE PET



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One of the biggest players in the long-term agenda to demoralize teachers and defund, dismantle and privatize public education in Tennessee is the Professional Educators of Tennessee, or PET, which might come as a shock to some of their members. After all, PET bills itself as an innocuous member-run business: a “non-union, professional educators’ organization” that “offers a premium package of benefits including exceptional legal protection and liability coverage.” In the past, organizations like PET what have been called “yellow unions”: organizations that claim to represent the interests of workers while actually advancing the company’s agenda. PET is just one example of a growing number of public sector yellow unions that are spreading across the United States. This is  important because, typically, the greatest fightback to the corporate takeover of public schools has come from teachers who are organized in their schools, in their communities, and at the ballot box. Not only do these so-called “independent teachers associations” share deep institutional and ideological connections with the corporate education reform movement, but by siphoning members and resources away from teacher unions they are intentionally undermining the largest and most politically organized opposition to the corporate reformers and their privatization agenda. 
To expose just how yellow of a union PET actually is, we need only look as far as the profile of J.C. Bowmen, PET’s Executive Director, which is publicly posted on the organization’s website. As we shall see, the interconnection of the privatization agenda to the growth of “independent teacher associations” sets the stage for Bowman’s  career trajectory, from working for a Texas free-market think tank to the head of the Florida voucher program to the Executive Director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee.



AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC)

Bowman’s PET profile explicitly states that he served as the chair of the “Union Affairs Sub-Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Education Task Force” from 1999 to 2001. According to The Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC is “a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.” For example, both Tennessee State Rep. Harry Brooks and Tennessee State Senator Dolores Gresham are members of the ALEC Education Task Force and both were the primary sponsors of the ALEC model legislation that legalized the virtual charter school, K12 Inc. In fact, the vast majority of Senate Republicans in Tennessee are members of ALEC, spending tens-of-thousands of tax-payer dollars every year to fly around the country and schmooze with corporate leaders at their catered functions and then returning to Tennessee to fight for ALEC’s extremist corporate agenda, such as defeating the expansion of Medicaid and introducing the legislation that ALEC provides them, like the recently passed IEP voucher bill.
Outside of bought-and-paid-for politicians, the primary drivers of ALEC’s agenda are a nationally coordinated web of privately financed “free market think tanks,” called the State Policy Network (SPN), which are dedicated to promoting “market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues.” Through the SPN, right-wing think tanks are connected with other extremist right-wing organizations, like the Association of American Educators, and extremist right-wing politicians, like Jeb Bush, to collectively push model privatization legislation (one such example can be seen in the agenda for Don’t Fall For The Corporate PET | History, Journalism and Commentary:

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