Teachers, Guns, and Money

by on February 26, 2018 · 0 comments

in Education, Under the Perfect Sun

The generalized rage and indiscriminate, spectacular violence that characterized the first year of the Trump era shows no sign of abating. In the wake of yet another horrifying mass murder at a school in Florida, the President’s response is to meet senseless violence with the threat of more violence.

Speaking to justify his breathtakingly stupid proposal to arm teachers as a defense against school shootings, Trump opined that if the educators at Stoneman Douglas High School had weapons they would have stopped the attack, “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”

The logic of Trump’s cartoon Western version of the world is chilling. As the New York Times reported, the key to Trump’s plan is to give teachers bonuses for packing heat on campus:

President Trump on Thursday enthusiastically embraced a National Rifle Association position to arm highly trained teachers to fortify schools against mass shootings like the one last week. Mr. Trump, who said the armed teachers should receive extra pay as an incentive, promoted his idea as demands for stronger gun control intensified across the country.

“You give them a little bit of a bonus, so practically for free, you have now made the school into a hardened target,” Mr. Trump said. The president estimated that 10 percent to 40 percent of school employees would be qualified to handle a weapon — he offered no data for the claim — and said he would devote federal money to training them.

Credit: Pixabay

Rejecting other, less martial approaches, Trump insisted throughout the aftermath of the mass killing that the only answer was to “have a hardened school.” So when I send my 14-year old to school, my only hope of protecting him from the possibility of mass murder, according to the President of the United States, is to turn his junior high into a dystopian armed camp where the unspoken lesson taught there every day is that the only way to stop violence is to “shoot the hell out of” troubled young men with guns who may roam the campus.

Let that sink in. This is how we live now.

Of course, it is revealing that Trump would think he could easily turn teachers into the equivalent of vigilantes in Deadwood by tossing them a bonus. Why? Because in the Deadwood that is the present-day United States, everything and everyone is for sale.

Greed and violence are the name of the game and only losers think otherwise.

That’s why only days after the murder, Florida’s House callously refused to take up an assault weapons ban as students from Stoneman Douglas watched. Mourning kids don’t have the money that the NRA has so, despite their naked pain and heroic activism, they don’t matter. And while Florida’s Governor may have signaled support for a few, largely symbolic, changes, don’t expect even those to make it through the Republican-controlled state legislature.

But, when the folks with money come calling, it’s a different story. As the Miami New Times reported, a Florida Senate Committee was happy to consider busting the teachers’ union less than six days after three members of the Broward Teachers Union were killed in the shooting:

After Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people including three members of the Broward Teachers Union (BTU) last week, union members — led by President Anna Fusco — began marching in the streets to demand gun reform, better school mental-health counseling services, and a world where their students can learn without worrying about being murdered for no reason.

Tomorrow, less than a week after the shooting, a state Senate committee is scheduled to hear a bill that could lead to decertification of the BTU. HB 7055, a sprawling education-funding package, includes a provision that would strip bargaining power from any union that fails to enroll 50 percent of its workforce . . .

Reached via phone today, Fusco, BTU’s president, said she was flabbergasted when she first heard state lawmakers were pushing the bill. But now, in the wake of last week’s tragedy, she says lawmakers must scrap the measure completely.

“These are educators who want to take care of students, to teach their students, and now we’ve learned that they are shields and bulletproof vests for their students too,” she says, referencing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School educators who died trying to keep their pupils safe. Football coach Aaron Feis, for example, was killed because he used his body to shield students from gunfire.

However, the heroism of these teachers is easy to shrug off when you see a chance to weaken your enemies politically and funnel more public money into private hands. This is the cold hard logic of the American Right, and it doesn’t rest for tragedy. As the Miami New Times notes:

Republican Florida Rep. Scott Plakon proposed the decertification measures in standalone bills during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Those bills included provisions exempting state police, fire, and corrections unions from the decertification law. (Those union members generally vote Republican, while teachers, nurses, and most other statewide union members vote Democrat.) . . . The lobbying arm of the Koch brothers’ political-influence network, Americans for Prosperity, has endorsed the idea . . . In 2017, Miami-Dade’s union head, Karla Hernandez-Mats, told New Times that teachers see the idea as part of the nation’s multidecade assault on workers’ rights. The provision is nearly identical to Wisconsin’s infamous Act 10, the transparently anti-union bill that Gov. Scott Walker passed in 2010. Since Act 10 passed, union membership has been crippled — and Wisconsin has reportedly seen the largest decline in middle-class wages of any state.

HB 7055 would also impose a long list of education funding changes that state teachers unions oppose — notably, the bill would create a program called the “Hope Scholarship,” which would let any student who reports being bullied flee to a private school. Public-school unions in the state say this is just a transparent attempt to shovel more money toward the private-school system, since rates of bullying at public and private institutions are basically identical.

“This bill is about more than just decertifying the unions,” Fusco said. “They’re looking to defund so many things and just put money into private institutions. Like this ‘bully bill’ — the idea that we have a ‘bully epidemic’ in public schools is totally false.” (Fusco is also calling for the state to postpone its upcoming round of “high-stakes” standardized testing, which hits public schools every March.)

Given the fact that Florida teachers unions like the BTU have been lobbying hard for gun control, the decertification bill is a twofer: it takes money away from that effort AND paves the way for privatization. The mourning students and teachers might be unhappy, but it sucks to be them. The Koch brothers network and the NRA, on the other hand, will be pleased as punch. It’s their world and we’re just living (and dying) in it.

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