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It is all about the union (again)

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As a veteran of the last two school board elections, I shouldn't be surprised that the Douglas County GOP is using its tried and true strategy of making the Board of Education election all about the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (the teacher’s union).

In 2009, the Douglas County GOP took the unheard of measure in a non-partisan race of recruiting, endorsing, and supporting school board candidates in the hopes of changing the board to a less union-friendly, reform-minded group. The DC GOP said the union endorsed candidates were selected to do the bidding of the union president, protect the status-quo, and raise taxes. There were emails, mailers, and robo-calls (paid for by wealthy donors from outside of the district) pitting the Republican-endorsed candidates against union-endorsed candidates, with union-endorsed candidates being accused of associating with ACORN.

In 2011, many of the same tactics (again paid for by outside interests) were used even though the union never endorsed a single candidate. Mailers and robo-calls once again portrayed the reform-minded Republicans as foils to the status-quo-loving union candidates.

On September 5th, 2012, the DCSD Board of Education voted to dismantle the union and their collective bargaining agreement. They had previously disregarded an independent arbitrator’s decision over a monetary dispute with union officials. This all occurred less than two years after the district and the union’s relationship was recognized as a model of cooperation. The Douglas County GOP had attained their goal of eradicating the union from the district. One would think that with the union gone, it would no longer remain a talking point for the Board—but here we go again.

In October, 2012, the Center for Union Facts, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm with ties to ALEC and the nefarious Richard Berman, took over the “I Stand with DougCO Kids” website—a side project of the supposedly grassroots, ParentLed Reform organization. One has to wonder how this “grassroots” organization came into the hands of such a well-known anti-union group. The Center for Media and Democracy revealed that The Center for Union Facts “is a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities. It is part of lobbyist Rick Berman's family of front groups”. In 2012, a complaint was filed with the IRS claiming that Berman and his companies acted as advocates for corporations and were in violation of IRS rules.

The Center for Union Facts began airing television commercials alleging that the nonexistent teacher’s union was “spreading misinformation about the school system's attempt to implement much needed school reforms, such as paying teachers based on performance and skills rather than seniority”. The ads made it clear that once again, it is all about them (the benevolent school board), against the evil union.

Just a few weeks ago, another group, Douglas County Education Alliance, came to town with fliers (distributed by paid canvassers), television commercials, and robo-calls, asserting that the AFL-CIO is launching false attacks against schools for monetary reasons.

A fellow blogger has uncovered the Douglas County Education Alliance’s true nature. The domain is registered to “DC London”; a group supported by the Koch brothers.

So here we go again, another Republican campaign being funded by outside interests portraying their candidates as protectors from the evil teacher’s union. Making the election all about the union allows the board to avoid talking about their record. Has this board kept its campaign promises of local control, transparency, and accountability? What about the board’s signature policy (rejected by voters in 2011), pay for performance? Isn’t this board responsible for the mass exodus of teachers and administrators, and the drop in satisfaction amongst both parents and teachers? Shouldn’t voters explore their record and reject this union bashing strategy?

The school board and their supporters would like nothing more to make this election yet another referendum on the union. Let’s make the 2013 election a referendum on the current Board. Let’s make it all about their record.

To be continued….

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