Thursday, March 14, 2013

TN Republicans Will Need Chiropractor to Put Them Back in Line After These Political Contortions

Hypocrite? Who, me?  Republicans take Opposite Side of Their Usual Table-Pounding Points for Larger Agenda

Once this session of the Tennessee legislature is over, many Republicans will need to see a chiropractor. 
The state's majority party members will need to be re-aligned, because they are turning into hypocrite pretzels as they twist and contort their usual talking points into legislation that fits a larger agenda.
Causing these awkward positions are the new charter schools panel bill and the vouchers-for-private school bill, which are moving right along through House and Senate committees.

"It's a death panel for public schools," Mike Turner, House Democratic chairman, said of the charter panel bill.

This new, nine-member panel would not be elected by those who are subject to its rulings but rather appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker.   The panel will review appeals from any charter schools that have been turned down by the local school districts.  Their word will be final, like the Supreme Court of charter schools.  The point of this is to speed up the agenda of privatization of education here and nationwide.  The legislation that is leaving Republicans tied up in knots:

1---Creates a new level of bureaucracy---and we know how those Republicans bad-mouth bureaucrats, don't we?   We will be putting bureaucrats between children and their teachers!

2---Requires more evil government spending, and ultimately taxes will have to increase in various counties to make up the expected shortfalls of public school funding from the state.  The panel bureaucracy itself is expected to cost $239,000 to operate in the first year---although the bill's "funding note" reads, "Estimated Fiscal Impact: Not Significant." 

More significantly, the total cost of education spending will necessarily increase, because when money is taken away from counties on a per pupil basis, they must still heat the schools and run the buses, and those plus other fixed costs will not go down in proportion to the lost students and lost revenue.   Taxes will have to be increased for the public schools to keep pace---Metro Nashville Public Schools figures it will cost them an additional $15 million next year to operate the charter schools that are already being added.   As for these future tax increases, where's Grover Norquist when we need him?

3---Remember when AT&T was forced by the Department of Justice to split up its so-called Baby Bells?  Ah, the good ol' days, when the U.S. actually exercised the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.  Now, AT&T has been re-monopolized, which is the favorite play of giant corporations.  Mergers and acquisitions are the name of Wall Street's game, and that cuts corporate costs as they can ditch people who have been doing the same jobs at the acquired corporation.  But, this wrong-way Republican move to loot the state's treasury splinters education and creates massive duplication of administrative and other costs.

4--- Takes away local control and puts it in the hands of Washington, er, Nashville, as this panel rules from on high and mandates out to the cities and the hinterlands. As much as Republicans in the legislature holler about "states' rights" and want the federal guvmit out of their hair, this law would put Nashville in place of Washington in the relationship between the county school districts and the governor and legislature.  

While dishing it out to the cities and counties, these Republicans can't take it from the federal government.  Indeed, the Republican-sponsored Beavers and Butt bills (SB 250 and HB 248, respectively) declare that the state is not subject to any federal guidelines, executive orders, judicial decisions or acts of congress regarding guns.  

Worse than the charter bill is the voucher schools bill, which is styled Orwellian-like the "opportunity scholarship act" and which would take taxpayers' money away from public schools and hand it over to private schools, including church schools and corporate for-profits. Now, there's opportunity! Similar bills have been ruled unconstitutional in Louisiana and Florida.

The Republicans' contortion in this bill is that it is launched as initially available only to kids who receive free or reduced price lunches and who are in a poorly achieving school. Don't get teary eyed yet over the Republicans' change of heart which makes them suddenly yearn to lift up poor, urban children. Those are the kids whose parents Republicans more typically deride as "handout takers." This bill is the camel's nose in the tent as the number of students in the program grows every year---but then, once in place, the law can be broadened however they wish, thus letting in the entire said camel.  The rallying cry will be, "Private School for Everybody!"

So, what makes these bills so key that Republicans are doing these back flips? As it fits the Republicans' long-range business plan, this continuing assault on public education has these payoffs and ulterior motives:

1---Political power grab, which took off in Tennessee with the 2011 legislature when they cut down collective bargaining rights of teachers, who more often vote for Democrats than Republicans. Teachers' associations are key donors for Democrats, so smashing public education all to pieces, as Republican Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson vowed in 2011, wipes them out.

2---Corporate profits. When has this not brought a twinkle to a Republican's eye? Rupert Murdoch says that privatization of education represents a $500 billion-a-year industry; other industry insiders say he is only half right, being half a billion shy from the "T" word.

3---Keeping wages down as the dismantling of public education will ultimately put more distance between the haves and the have-nots while we re-visit separate but equal. Segregated schools were not equal in 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, and they won't be in this busting up of public education. But, we will expand the working poor, and those have-nots who are left behind will be competing for jobs with 10-year-olds in Bangladesh. For Republicans another side benefit of the further dumbing down of America is fewer voters.

If you want to do something constructive for education, pass legislation that helps alleviate poverty and creates jobs for working Tennessee families. Improve the lives of the have-nots, and you will improve education.  A student's education achievement correlates to demographics---how much money his parents make and their level of education.  It does not matter if said student goes to public school, private school or charter school.  This fact exposes the fallacy of the "failing schools" mantra; the failing part is not the fault of the school and teachers only. 

 Just as free public education lifted America over the last 100 years with an equalizing of opportunity, which led to broad prosperity and an expansion of civil and human rights, the dismantling of free public education will accelerate the dumbing down of America, will expand poverty, will weaken our economy and will leave us with a feudal system of lords and serfs.

While these Republicans are taking one for the team now---and showing themselves for the hypocrites they are---it's a set of muscle spasms they will have to work out once this session is over.

"No man's life, liberty and property is safe when the legislature is in session."  ---Mark Twain, 1866

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