Presidential race

When bullies get out of hand


October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time of particular importance to parents and educators seeking to raise awareness of the cruelty of bullying and its devastating impact on young victims’ lives. Interestingly, the month also falls in the middle of a contentious season in which bullying of a political sort continues to all but paralyze our national Capitol.

With a little luck – and no thanks to bully-in-chief Ted Cruz – the federal government may stay open for another couple of months, providing paychecks to thousands of everyday, working people who perform hundreds of essential public services that most of us take for granted. And, critical federal funds will continue to be available for Head Start and other educational programs for millions of low-income and disabled children throughout the country.

But the reprieve comes at a cost. House Speaker John Boehner was bullied into resigning. A conservative Republican who recognized that government is a process of compromise and accommodation, Boehner finally got tired of butting heads with Cruz and other hard-right ideologues from his own party who seek election not to govern, but to pontificate, pander and destroy.

And, the reprieve is just that, a delaying action that may be lost to a government shutdown by the end of the year, as Cruz and his allies continue to bully their way through Washington.

Cruz has such little disregard for government – and the public education, health care and other critical programs it provide for millions of Americans – it almost makes you wonder why he is running for president, until you are reminded that many bullies have over-sized egos.

In the presidential race, the bully tag has been most prominently attached to billionaire egoist Donald Trump, who wears it with pride as he tries to intimidate everyone on the campaign trail. Cruz, so far, is content to bully Congress.

Unfortunately, it will take more than National Bullying Prevention Month to make either one of them sit down and shut up.




An anti-educator gives up


Two down but still too many left to squeeze onto most debate stages. Every working person, including educators, in the United States should be grateful that Scott Walker, who built a political career on bashing working people, has joined Rick Perry in dropping out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Walker’s priorities and suggestions – including the de facto abolition of labor unions and erecting a wall along part of the Canadian border and maybe (I guess) laying mines in the Great Lakes – were outrageous. But he couldn’t out-trump Donald Trump in the outrageous category and had dropped off the radar screen for most Republican primary voters.

In the end, the candidate who carried the water for America’s wealthiest 1 percent wasn’t even hitting 1 percent in voter polls.

Unfortunately, Walker remains the governor of Wisconsin, where he has devastated public employee unions and attacked public education. And his departure from the presidential race isn’t likely to change the absurd tone of a Republican campaign that couldn’t get any worse. Or could it?

Education “reformers” who bash teachers


Six Republican presidential candidates addressed an education forum hosted by a self-styled “reformer” in New Hampshire yesterday, and if you think they showed any respect to educators or promoted any proposal to actually help students in the classroom, you would be wrong.

Republicans were the only candidates who attended, and I am not sure any Democratic candidates were even invited. The result, anyway, was a day of bashing teacher unions, promoting privatization and releasing political hot air.

Some examples, as reported by the Washington Post:

# “I have no problem with saying that teachers’ unions deserve a political punch in the face, which they do.” – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

# “One of the things that I’d like to see is universal choice…even for parents that can afford it on their own.” – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, promoting tax-paid vouchers to help even rich parents send their kids to private school.

# Let’s “abolish all teachers’ lounges, where they sit together and worry about ‘Woe is us.’” – Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The candidates – who also included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former corporate executive Carly Fiorina – also wrung their hands over Common Core and took shots at the U.S. Department of Education.

The event, at which the candidates appeared separately, was hosted by former CNN reporter Campbell Brown, who has filed a lawsuit challenging teacher unions.

Incidentally, the last time I checked, not one of the Republican presidential candidates has responded to the National Education Association’s candidate vetting process. Three Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley – are participating.



Putting hedge fund owners ahead of educators


Several of the candidates who want to be our next president have no intention of improving our public schools or rewarding the hard work of educators. I mean, education is barely an afterthought among most Republican White House hopefuls.

Ted Cruz doesn’t want to govern. He wants to campaign and entertain tea partiers who think we already are spending too much money on education, health care and other programs they don’t care anything about. Donald Trump wants to boost his ego by insulting everyone on the planet who has less money than he has, and that includes every educator I can think of.

Jeb Bush will talk about education, but as governor of Florida, he promoted school privatization and a preposterous, counter-productive evaluation system for teachers, and he shows no signs of changing his mind about those failures now. Meanwhile in Wisconsin, as I have written a few times before, Gov. Scott Walker is trying to drive education and public employment into a ditch.

Now, Walker has added insult to injury. Last week, just one month after slashing $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System, Walker and the Legislature approved a deal committing at least $250 million in tax dollars (and maybe twice that much) to help two super-wealthy hedge fund owners from New York build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.

Walker does have his priorities, and they certainly aren’t education and educators. A few years ago, you probably recall, he pushed legislation to weaken teacher and other public employee unions and, in so doing, shrunk Wisconsin’s middle class.

According to The New York Times, the two hedge fund owners who are the new majority owners of the Milwaukee Bucks are major Democratic donors. But, otherwise, they are Walker’s type of pay-for-play people. They are rich – and about to get richer, courtesy of Walker and Wisconsin taxpayers.

One of the new minority owners in the Bucks is, perhaps not coincidentally, Walker’s national finance co-chairman.