It’s widely acknowledged that the two Cabinet nominees of President-Elect Donald Trump that are most at risk of not getting confirmed are ex-Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin. But self-styled progressives are gunning for a third head on a pike, and since their attempts to derail Jeff Sessions were a bust, Betsy DeVos — that nasty rich lady from Michigan who wants to help poor kids like some kind of monster — is in the firing line.
Who’s behind the effort to take DeVos down? You’ll be (not) shocked to hear the answer is: public employees’ unions, radical interest groups, and rabid leftist rabble-rousers. Oh and a little help from a familiar money man.
As Mother Jones reports, leading the charge against DeVos are the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—big, bare-knuckle fighting teachers unions.
This should be utterly unsurprising to anyone paying attention: DeVos has for years been a champion of education reform that—shock, horror—could disadvantage union members while benefiting kids.
She, like Gov. Scott Walker, represents an existential threat to these people. So, they’re “trying to disqualify DeVos,” releasing letters condemning her and getting union members to sign them, and setting up operations for union members to flood senators’ offices with calls, emails and letters. The AFT and NEA have a combined 4.6 million members, but they could only drum up 130,000 signatures on a letter opposing DeVos, according to Mother Jones.
But don’t worry. Teachers’ unions have other tricks up their sleeve, and other people to do their dirty work that have more well-intentioned, altruistic-sounding names and titles than they do.
One is “education historian” Diane Ravitch, who is such an ally of teachers’ unions that Weingarten and other AFT officials seem to retweet her roughly once an hour, on average. Ravitch runs the Network for Public Education. NPE doesn’t disclose its donors on its website, but about 10 seconds and Google allows anyone to figure out that the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation funds NPE.
NPE’s Twitter bestie, the AFT, is radical. Set aside its radical anti-charter school and pro-bad-teacher-protection stances exposed by “Waiting for Superman”; the union was once headed by Albert Shanker, who was notoriously quoted as saying “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children,” and now is headed by Randi Weingarten, who used to head the UFT, which was the focus of much criticism in connection with “rubber rooms” and its defense of continued pay and benefits for teachers accused of sexually harassing and assaulting kids. But CTU is very radical, too: Take a look at this Slate piece about how CTU is out there, even by Chicago liberal standards. The CTU makes Rahm Emanuel look like Ted Cruz—and they’ve bankrolled Ravitch, who is merrily crusading along against DeVos just like her benefactors.
As well as Ravitch/NPE, a major opponent of DeVos’ nomination is the anti-public-private-partnership In The Public Interest, which has received funding from George Soros, and is pretty openly a union front group. ITPI has mostly escaped notice from people reporting on Big Labor and Big Labor front groups, because they’re relatively small. But they’re radical, too, and not just on education policy matters.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that ITPI is funded by the AFL-CIO, of which the AFT is a part. But their union funding and ties go well beyond that. On their “About” page, IPTI states that that they’re a project of the Partnership for Working Families. If you check out the Partnership for Working Families’ list of state affiliates, you find names like “Community Labor United,” and “Pittsburgh United (Unions and Neighborhoods Invested in Transforming Economic Development).” If you look at who’s on the board of the Partnership for Working Families, you see it’s almost 100% people who have spent their entire careers in union organizing, many working for the most rough and aggressive unions in the country. ITPI has a track record of opposing charters, hardcore. But they also do things like rail against Uber (doing the dirty work of taxi unions). Amusingly, they even picked a fight with Gov Bruce Rauner over using a private entity to rehab Illinois’ state fairgrounds (yes, that really happened).
So, it’s no surprise that along with the AFT, NEA, and NPE, ITPI is pushing hard to beat DeVos. You can check out some of their tweets here, here, here, here, here and here. They’re also fundraising off the back of her nomination, so they can fund more campaigns against those pesky private fairground fixer-uppers (or whatever other heretofore uncovered “evil” the private sector is perpetrating).
These are the entities invested in stopping DeVos, trying to convince Senate Republicans and even moderate Democrats—some of whom have supported education reform— to give her the boot.
Senators who are not philosophically in line with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and indeed unsuspecting members of the public watching coverage of DeVos’ hearing, and reading media coverage of it, probably want to bear that in mind when deciding how to vote. Unless they think that sending Republican majorities and Donald Trump to Washington was some covert way for the electorate to signal that it shares the objectives of Hillary Clinton-backing Big Labor institutions and the front groups they fund, that is.
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