Monday, March 29, 2021

Take me home, West Virginia - How will Red for Ed respond as Extreme Voucher Law passed to decimate Public Ed?

I see some of my colleagues salivating over the state teacher strike in West Virginia. Don't hold you breath here in NY. Maybe when the conditions of teachers ... Ed Notes, 2018 -

March 29, 2021 by Norm Scott

There was much hope here in Mudville about a trigger of militancy in NYC -  but I pointed out teachers in West Virginia were eating pet food - don't forget  - it's the economy, stupid, not the ideology.

[ See Diane Ravitch comment:West Virginia Passes Sweeping Voucher Bill].

One of my fave warriors against ed deform, Jennifer Berkshire with her writing

partner Jack Schneider, authors of Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door were interviewed today with one of my fave podcasters, Sam Seder, on Majority Report - listen to the wide ranging discussion of how ed deform got into the door and where it intends to take us to the end of public ed  - ( But let me focus on just one aspect of the interview.

Jennifer (also check out their podcast - Have you Heard) pointed out that West Virginia legislature passed the most oppressive voucher law you can imagine which fundamentally can kill the entire WV public school system and turn the state into what happened in New Orleans. I've been worried since the pandemic began that this will be an opportunity to tie a noose around public school systems - and watch all the people who are screaming about how important it is for kids to be in school jump ship to virtual learning when it becomes convenient. Jennifer pointed out how fundamentally this is all about saving money and since labor is the major cost of education, de-unionizing and de-skilling teachers is the goal. Since teacher unions are one of the major bulwarks of the Dem Party, I see the threat of killing our unions as greater than the voter suppression movements by Republicans.

The West Virginia story also got mentioned in the libertatian anti-union publication of Mike Antonucci - with maybe a bit of glee with the snarky Remember West Virginia?  But you know I still like Mike's coverage because it takes me out of the bubble and also feeds my own libertarian and cynical streak.

I get the snark since the left made such a major deal about the Red for Ed movement that began in WV and spread to other red states - Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. The teacher unions in these right to work states are fairly weak and without a grassroots movement spanning left and right, the ability to resist Republican moves to destroy the movement will be weak if there is an resistance.

My thoughts went back to how a red state which gave Trump his biggest per centage victory despite a long pro-labor history had a wildcat teacher strike that closed every school in the state. There are no charters in WV and at the time I thought the powers that be will never allow teachers to wield such power again. And the recent voucher law was retribution.  

The question is what will be the response and if there isn't one does that mean red for ed is wounded or dead?

The West Virginia teacher strike action three years ago (see wiki) and the New Yorker take) led to all kinds of speculation and inspired entire books, even from the Unity caucus resident leftist Leo Casey has a book  - and an interview with Randi - The Teacher Insurgency: A Conversation with Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten. but even more so from groups to the left of Leo - Labor Notes, Jacobin - see links at the bottom.

I covered the strike as did James on the ICE blog and started searching links on Ed Notes and google but there is so much out there I realized why I don't blog so much anymore - providing full context takes work. Do a full seach for West Virginia in the search box on top of the side panel and you will get loads of stuff but here a few quick hits:

West Virginia: Do-It-Yourself Class Struggle - Jacobin. One lesson from the West Virginia teachers' strike is clear: nobody is coming to save us. We'll have to do it ...

West Virginia Mountain mamma, take me home ... - Ed Notes Online

And I wrote: I see some of my colleagues salivating over the state teacher strike in West Virginia. Don't hold you breath here in NY. Maybe when the conditions of teachers ... [fill in the blank  along the lines of SUCK AS BAD.

Given that many teachers in WV were probably Trump supporters, the strike made for some interesting analysis and we did hear that socialists and DSA played a role in the organizing efforts. Also interesting was the role the state and national unions from the AFT and NEA played both in the level of cooperation and cmpetition. I talked to some teachers at the time who told me some school had members of each and they do compete for members. But as usual, they were tailing behind the rank and file - both right and left and center wing in militancy, often urging caution. 

One of the outcomes of the strike was the formation of a statewide rank and file caucus - WV United Caucus - along the lines of other left DSA type caucuses like in Chicago, Los Angelos and MORE in the UFT. (I had intended to write about them when I first heard of them). They seem to have been somewhat quiet and we would expect some reaction to the voucher law.

Mike Antoucci also covered the red for ed strikes from the libertatian-right and here is his take today where he mentions that the caucus didn't win any positions in the state union elections but I imagine those elections are not very democratic. 

Here is his full piece today - with a bit of the usual cynicism.

Remember West Virginia?

We haven’t heard much from West Virginia since teachers there launched the 2018 strike that inspired the #RedforEd movement. It looks as though when the shouting stopped, there wasn’t anything to write about.

Most of the educators who ran for office in 2018 lost, and those that won were mostly incumbents. The group that organized the strike didn’t fare any better in internal union elections. The WV United Caucus has been silent for months.

The press moved on to other pastures, leaving Jayme Metzgar of The Federalist alone to report this:

Last week, with very little noise or fanfare, the West Virginia legislature passed the most expansive Education Savings Account program in America. While ESAs in most states are only open to a small percentage of children, the new West Virginia Hope Scholarship will be available to 90 percent of schoolchildren in the state. Every child currently enrolled in public school is eligible, plus those newly aging in.

“The unions don’t like the bill, but our phones aren’t ringing. We aren’t getting emails. It’s nothing like last time,” said the chair of the Senate Education Committee.

There has been little follow-up to the changes, or lack thereof, in the #RedforEd states. Is no news good news?

 And some links from the left:

Apr 26, 2019 — Review of Red State Revolt, by Eric Blanc (Verso, 2019). There has been a tendency to mythologize West Virginia's nine-day education strike.
Mar 9, 2018 — By: Eric Blanc. West Virginia's historic wildcat strike has the potential to change everything. West Virginia teachers, students, and supporters hold signs on a Morgantown street as they continue their strike on March 2, 2018 in ...
Feb 20, 2019 — By: Eric Blanc. Within hours of going on strike, West Virginia educators defeated a dangerous education privatization bill. They've again ...
May 15, 2019 — In his new book Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and ... writer and former teacher Eric Blanc details the history of these teachers strikes while ... As rank-and-file West Virginia strike leader Emily Comer told Blanc, ...

The DSA's dishonest and self-serving account of the US ... › articles › 2019/08/08 › reds-a08
Aug 8, 2019 — A new book by Democratic Socialists of America member Eric Blanc reviewing the role of the DSA during the teacher strikes in West Virginia, ...

Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and Working ... › Red-State-Revolt-Teachers-Politics
55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers' Strike by Elizabeth Catte Paperback $19.18 ... “Eric Blanc's compelling new book, Red State Revolt, is a thoroughly ...

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