I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

B4K Buys Revenge Against An Outspoken Teacher

B4K was founded by two hedge fund managers to lobby for the removal of teacher tenure. Its Executive Director, Derrell Bradford, has admitted that he came into the education sphere not because of any deep conviction, but because he needed a job (it's obvious who is being referred to in the linked post). This is the same noble fellow who said (all emphases mine):
We can be about pure activism because we don't have anything to gain from the success of the agenda other than that kids get better educational opportunities.
Yeah, right.

(Have to update this chart - KL on Facebook reminds me these are 2010 numbers.)

When B4K first arrived on the scene, there was a great deal of skepticism about their goals and motives. One of the very few brave teachers who was willing to speak publicly against their goals was Marie Corfield:
Marie Corfield, a Flemington teacher running for the Assembly in the 16th district, said she had no complaints about how the NJEA was spending her annual dues.
Once you introduce private sector reforms into education you lose a certain measure of accountability and it becomes a for-profit program," she said, fresh off addressing a crowd of public workers at a rally in Trenton.
"When you couple that with dismantling collective bargaining rights, it becomes an all-out attack."
Now, B4K loves to say that they are all about supporting great teachers (and believe me, Corfield is a great teacher). But when a teacher starts to question them and gets uppity enough to think she should run for state-level office... well, that's when they start writing the really big checks:
How much is a seat in the state Assembly worth? If campaign spending is any indicator: Quite a bit.
Republicans and their supporters almost hit the half-million dollar mark backing Assemblywoman Donna Simon in the 16th Legislative District.
Simon’s campaign raised nearly $381,000 for the general election contest, according to most recent filings with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
In addition to the hefty war chest, more than $109,000 was spent on her behalf by the education-reform group Better Education for N.J. Kids, or B4K — bringing the total to $490,000.
By comparison, Simon’s Democratic challenger, Marie Corfield, raised about $173,000.
That's right: B4K has spent six-figures in a state-level election against a teacher who dared to say she had no problem with her union spending money to defend her collective bargaining and due process rights.

B4K is StudentsFirst's "partner" in New Jersey. And like SF, they are throwing a lot of money around to get their chosen candidates elected. But this one is particularly galling, because they are aiming their ire at a teacher - the very profession they purport to defend.

Regular readers know I have supported Corfield from the very beginning, even before a tough primary. I support her not just because she is a fantastic candidate and will make a great assemblywoman; I support her because she wasn't intimidated by Chris Christie and didn't back down when he tried to bully her in public.

This is the most dangerous thing corporate "reformers" can imagine: an educator with guts. Nothing is more dangerous to these people's agenda than a teacher who isn't afraid to speak her mind.

And so an insane amount of money is spent on a state-level election:
Simon’s campaign received large support from the state GOP ($109,128) as well as the Assembly Republican Victory fund ($63,445). She also got financial backing from several trade groups and companies, including Johnson & Johnson ($1,000), Maersk ($1,400), the N.J. Business Industry Association ($2,350), and the N.J. Liquor Store Alliance ($1,500).
She also received $2,600 from Robert Mitchell, the CEO of Atlantic Wind Connection, which wants to build a wind-power transmission line off the coasts of New Jersey and New York City.
Corfield enjoyed the financial support of labor unions, including the N.J. Education Association ($8,200), N.J. State Federation of Teachers ($1,000) and the N.J. State Policemen’s Benevolent Association ($2,600).
Yes, that's right: the NJEA spent about 7% of what B4K spent. By law, all of that money from NJEA had to come from voluntary contributions of members; B4K's money came from hedge fund managers taking a position that required the US Government to pay more than market rates for failed bank stocks.

But reformy pundits like the Star-Ledger's Tom Moran will tell you that the evil teachers unions have been dominating politics for years and must be stopped at all costs. Apparently, the answer is to have billionaires throw obscene amounts of cash into elections: like, for example, the $64,700 wealthy out-of-staters ponied up, following the lead of one of B4K's founders, to win one seat on the Perth Amboy school board. And that's after B4K spent untold amounts buying a public relations campaign defending the controversial superintendent there, Janine Caffrey.

There is a legitimate case to be made about the dangers of special interest campaign contributions influencing politicians - and, yes, that includes teachers unions. But no one - save the corrupt or the deranged - can possibly believe the answer to this problem is to allow extremely wealthy people to overwhelm the process with gigantic piles of money.
Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of N.J. Citizens Action, which backs public financing of elections and endorsed Corfield, said the race was a “poster child of why we need publicly funded campaigns.”
“Of course money matters,” she said. “I would much rather have candidates participate in a level playing field. This is not a level playing field. They should be elected on whether people support their positions, not on how many calls or mailers or whatever the money buys.
That's exactly right. This isn't about policy and ideas (B4K's contention that this race hinges on vouchers is ridiculous, considering how tepid their support for the Opportunity Scholarship Act has been). This is about power and money. The very idea that one or two wealthy individuals can have this much influence on a local race is an affront to democracy.

Democracy? Meh...


Anonymous said...

Nothing is more dangerous to these people's agenda than a teacher who isn't afraid to speak her mind.

So true. She is an inspiration.

habsanse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.