Opinion » Bill Cope

Ed Rush-Pt. 1

Turning school kids into cash cows


Time is approaching for me to wrap up this personalized petition drive I've engaged in for the past five weeks. Too bad. I've enjoyed it. I could go on and on, recommending that we reject not only Tom Luna's corrosive reforms, but Tom Luna, himself, for cursing us with them. The consensus seems to be that the recall effort doesn't stand much of a chance, not compared to the referendum to put the reforms on the ballot. That may be. But it would behoove us to remember that nothing stands much of a chance when we don't give it a chance.

Furthermore, I don't believe the vindictive Luna will give us the opportunity to vote his ass out of office in 2014. It's my best guess that he doesn't intend to run again. Why would a man force-feed the citizenry these objectionable, disruptive and unproven policies if he wanted to survive the next election? Instead, I believe he has a fat payoff job awaiting him, something that doesn't look so much like an obvious bribe that a future reporter would dare call it a bribe.

I predict we will eventually regard Mr. Luna's career as an arc: Stage 1: unqualified groveler comes out of nowhere and ingratiates himself with Republican ideologues to whom being qualified doesn't matter; Stage 2: arranges to expedite the privatization of Idaho's public school system if installed as ed head in one of the most conservative states--hence, a state foolish enough to elect a man like Luna in the first place; Stage 3: days into second term, introduces intensely unpopular reforms that would have ensured his defeat had he been honest enough to campaign on them; Stage 4: rams reforms through with compliance of ideologically rigid, intellectually stunted legislature and governor; Stage 5: leaves office, possibly resigning early, to take a space-filling quid pro quo position with whatever online education provider or chain charter school conglomerate that benefits most richly from Luna's legacy; and Stage 6: we never hear from the weasel again, as he fades back into the obscurity from whence he came.

So frankly, as far as I'm concerned, even if the recall drive falls a few thousand names short of a successful attempt, it would be worth the time and trouble for no other reason than to let Luna know how many Idahoans believe him worthy of a recall drive. But time is about to run out, especially on the referendum. The petitions for that referendum are due in early June, so if you haven't signed on yet, get it done ... unless, of course, you are one of those parents who are willing to bet your children's futures on the same sort of corporate craps table that has served us so well with health insurance and corporate prisons.

Make no mistake, Mom and Dad, that's what's happening. When and if we allow the Republican dream of a privatized universe to materialize in its entirety, your offspring will be at the mercy of Wall Street priorities. Your babies will be a board of directors' bottom line. Your darlings will be commodities, rolling out of production plants like little iPeople.

For the duration of this column (and next week's, too, as this is far bigger than I can wrap 1,000 words around), forget those sopping catchphrases, "No Child Left Behind" and "Students Come First." Hog slop! Try, please, to be sophisticated enough to understand that those slogans were designed to con you into believing Republican leaders actually give a crap about your kids, rather than the price-per-unit they represent on the ed market.

Nor be so gullible as to think this is only about the mash-up of reforms that a Canyon County yokel like Luna foisted off on Idaho this year. It's nationwide, it's growing, and it follows the same pattern Republicans use every time they want to move a mountain of taxpayer money out of public hands into private pockets. Except in rare cases, it has worked for them over and over, particularly when it comes to defense contractors.

The key element to their trickery is to either inflate the threat from a real enemy to cartoonish proportions, or create a foe from thin air. As to the former, recall how the Reagan administration exaggerated the perils from the crumbling Soviet Union into the golden age of $1,000 toilet seats and epic cost overruns on military equipment that went obsolete as soon as it hit a war zone. Or how George W. Bush/Dick Cheney met the faked menace of Saddam Hussein with pallets heaped high with cold cash to Haliburton, Blackwater and any number of cronies.

But when there isn't an obvious monster, then they must fabricate one, even if they have to patch together that nemesis out of familiar faces. Our neighbors, our friends, our family, our fellow Americans. Our teachers. They have met the enemy, and it is Miss McGillicuddy, the school marm. She used to be OK, huh? ... until she started insisting on her right to bargain collectively.

And that, Mom and Dad, is the existential threat the Republican Party must convince you of to justify the diversion of such an endless supply of public money--i.e., the education budgets of 50 states--into stock dividends and bonuses for CEOs. Without the specter of lazy, corrupt, incompetent, unionized teachers looming over our children like tenured Dementors, they wouldn't stand a chance. We would stop them dead were we to realize there was no reason for this human gamble other than the insatiable lust for profit.

Next week, we must discuss the growing evidence that the worst thing you could do for your child's education is put a Republican in charge of it.