All week I have been thinking about Steve Brandt’s November 9 article about Josh Reimnitz’s win in the Minneapolis School Board election. (http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/178176771.html)
Another Steve Brandt article in this morning’s paper (http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/179887871.html) struck many of the same themes.
Here they are: Lots and lost of out-of-state money financed the Reimnitz campaign, much of it from Teach for America contacts with a strong agenda that apparently includes great weakening of the union protections that many teachers have. Reimnitz’s opponent was pretty clearly more involved, had volunteered more, and had a huge advantage in residency and knowledge of the district. Reimnitz’s opponent lost in spite of DFL and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers support.
Frankly, I had not been paying much attention to this race. It was a regional representation on the board that did not include my neighborhood. Neither candidate was on my ballot.
Still, I am concerned. From where I sit, it looks like several of the main institutions that have been strongest supporters of the American middle class are losing ground and losing ground rapidly: unions, the DFL or Democratic Party and (perhaps) quality public education itself. Without the strength of those organizations, we would be living in a much different class structure today. Workers would not have received the wages and benefits allowing them to join the middle class. Teachers would have been subjected to the whims and pathologies of their administrators. Wave after wave of intelligent poor and immigrant populations would never have been able to overcome the advantages of inherited wealth. In short, our society would look a lot more like the kleptocracy favored by people like Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Or simply like most other 3rd World countries ruled by a tiny group of the obscenely wealthy, served by a huge underclass of their powerless and under-educated servants.
When unions actually fit the mold of the right-wing stereotypes, when unions serve the extremely narrow interests of their members at the expense of the entire society, we all lose. When politicians use the rhetoric of progressives to pander to the wealthy and powerful, we all lose.
To me, the Wilf Sports Palace was a prime example of falling into a long-term death spiral. The Building and Trades union leadership sold the rest of us out. For the crumbs of a few jobs for their members, they are delivering a crushing long-term debt to all Minneapolis citizens. The Minneapolis and state DFL leadership sold us out. For the fleeting sense of community provided by cooperating with a New Jersey billionaire and his purple clad, horn-wearing minions, they saddled us with an expensive albatross that is much less “people’s stadium” and much more “rich people’s stadium.”
These are tragic realignments that leave most of us without much protection against the truly greedy. They are foolish in terms of long-term strategy, because they totally undercut their high-sounding words.
But I am not aware of any such folly by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. To me, it looks like a craven attempt at casting the blame on an innocent target, when the real problem is that our society seems to be willfully determined to undercut the schools and unions and political movements that have given them the most. We are using school “reform” to destroy our quality public schools, as far as I can determine.
How sad. And what will be do when there are no more unions, partly because some unions behave in short-sighted ways? And what will be do when we have undercut public education to the point that it no longer deserves our support? And what in the world will be do when the DFL is merely a less outrageous form of the Republican Party?
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