Greg on Voucher PR Gains in PJM

Greg has long been arguing that rhetoric matters.  In a column in Pajamas Media today he notes the shift in the political rhetoric and tactics from voucher opponents.  Here’s a highlight:

Because the unions have lost the fight for public opinion, both at large and within the Democratic Party. And they know they’ve lost it. And they’ve apparently decided that they’re OK with that. So they’re just not even bothering to pretend to care about kids anymore.

Let’s not indulge in naïve optimism. Having lost the public relations battle may in some ways makes the teachers’ unions more dangerous, not less. America’s last education labor reporter, Mike Antonucci, offers a sobering observation:

The public perception battle is over, and the teachers’ unions have lost. But will it have any effect on Congress and state legislatures? The NRA, tobacco companies, PETA, the ACLU and Big Oil all have negative public images they can’t shed, yet they are still effective in getting their way. What if NEA and AFT stop caring what other people think?

On the other hand, there is a key difference between the teachers’ unions and the other groups Antonucci mentions here, and that gives us considerable grounds for hope. All of those groups have retained power in spite of their bad public images either because (for the NRA, tobacco, and oil) what they really represent is the desires of consumers who want their products and mostly just want to be left alone and aren’t trying to mess around with other people’s lives; or else because (for PETA and the ACLU) they care very intensely about a narrow set of issues that most Americans just don’t care much about.

The teachers’ unions, by contrast, are fattening themselves by destroying the lives of America’s children. That’s just not in the same ballpark.

Update: Link corrected.

One Response to Greg on Voucher PR Gains in PJM

  1. allen says:

    Let’s add to this political stew the increasing disenchantment with the public education status quo of one of the Democratic Party’s critical constituencies, the black voter.

    Obama’s obviously aware of the situation and has made his decision, basing my observation on Obama’s, and Duncan’s approving remarks about vouchers and charters as well as Obama’s fight to hang onto the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. He’s also not the only Dem to make the switch as shown by Feinstein’s and Durbin’s swapping of tart remarks over the same program. Then there’s Democrats for Education Reform and the Citizen’s Committee on Civil Rights both of which are populated by lefties with impeccable credentials but have chimed in to support education alternatives.

    The key problem for the NEA is that they’re specifically dependent on the district model to hold down organization costs and cost of organization is something they’ll have to consider if the number of charters continues to go up. Especially when, making a magisterial prediction, school districts start to collapse as I believe is inevitable given the continuing pressure for more charters. Worse still, the most vulnerable districts are the big, municipal districts which are home to a lot of NEA members.

    It’s that dependency on the institution of the school district that differentiates the NEA from some of the other organizations Greg mentions. The NEA depends on the school district to aggregate teachers into conveniently concentrated groupings. Charters splinter that convenient aggregation and at some point, when the superfluity of the district for educational purposes becomes unignorable, the institution of the school district itself will become a target of attack.

    Now what does the NEA do? Expend political resources to try to defend the existence of school districts? I’m sure that’ll go over real well with the membership. I’d be interested to hear the justifications for the spending of dues dollars to defend the six-figure salary of district superintendents.

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