By Their Friends Shall You Know Them: The Students First Edition

It’s hard to believe Education First, the anti-teacher union ‘reform’ group founded by Michelle Rhee, really cares about students, especially minority students, when they actively support bigoted legislators. From the Great State of Georgia (boldface mine):

Remember the Georgia state senator who’s trying to close down an early voting site because too many black people might vote there? Yeah. That guy. Let’s talk about his ties to StudentsFirst, the organization Rhee founded.

State Sen. Fran Millar not only thinks that having an early voting location in an area “dominated by African American shoppers and … near several large African American mega churches” would be a big problem—he’d prefer “more educated voters”—he’s also been the state Senate Education Committee chair. In that role, he lavishly praised the StudentsFirst state education report card. That report card doesn’t focus on results. It focuses only on whether state education laws conform to StudentsFirst-preferred policies—basically states are graded on whether they attack teachers and privatize education sufficiently. The National Education Policy Center labeled it bunkum. But to Millar, it was “a thoughtful, well-researched tool that will help guide lawmakers toward putting policies in place that have the power to transform our schools.” In other words, he saw it as his marching orders.

And no wonder. StudentsFirst has endorsed Millar and has given him $4,000 in direct contributions since late 2011. So this is the kind of politician Michelle Rhee built an organization to support—an education committee chair who doesn’t want black people to vote because they’re not educated enough for his taste.

It’s all about the children. Unless their parents try to vote. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, another Students First gem:

…as StudentsFirst reformer of the year in Tennessee state Rep. John Ragan, who is an author of legislation as anti-gay as Rogers’s legislation was anti-immigrant.

Ragan was the state House co-author of Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which:

[…] bars Tennessee teachers from discussing any facet of “non-heterosexual” sexuality with children in grades K-8. But the newest iteration also includes a provision requiring teachers or counselors to inform the parents of some students who identify themselves as LGBT.

StudentsFirst was one of Ragan’s largest donors, citing a long list of Michelle Rhee priorities he’d actively supported.

I’m guess the Honorable Ragan isn’t too fond of gay students.

Of course, if you’re a rightwing bigot who gets into political trouble, StudentsFirst might consider hiring you (boldface mine):

Former state House Representative Paul Scott earned a reputation during his time in office as one of the most anti-teacher legislators in Michigan. In his position as the Chair of the House Education Committee, he oversaw some of the most egregious attacks on teachers since Republicans swept into power following the 2010 election. It was bad enough that, eventually, Scott was recalled by voters in his district….

We now learn that, despite his homophobic, extreme views, Paul Scott has been hired as a lobbyist for the anti-teacher group StudentsFirst or “Regional Legislative Manager”, as they call him.

Scott has a long history with StudentsFirst. As the Chair of the House Education Committee, he shepherded multiple pieces of legislation written by them through his committee, legislation which did things like making illegal teacher strikes more illegal. In a leaked internal document from 2011, StudentsFirst thanks Scott for “overseeing the entire process” and gives credit to House Policy advisor Jason Mancini for “literally [running] every amendment by me before deciding to allow it in [Scott’s] committee.

During Scott’s recall, a whole host of anti-teacher corporatist groups, including StudentsFirst, contributed enormous amounts of money to help him win. StudentsFirst, in fact, contributed an astonishing $73,000 to help Scott save his job.

Given their long history together, it’s not too surprising that StudentsFirst, which spends much of its time attacking teachers, trying to destroy public schools, and promoting for-profit charter schools across the country, would hire Paul Scott.

Oops, I forgot the hatred. Here ya go:

Scott is also a notorious homophobe. He once accused an opponent of receiving support from “far left and radical homosexual groups”, his term for LGBT advocacy groups like Equality Michigan. An observer described Scott’s behavior during one debate this way:

<At several points during the debate, Scott sneered at “the liberals,” whom he said have ruined this state, the family and our economy. Twice during the debate, he balled his fists and raised his voice in anger about the threat that gay people pose to our civilization. Scott’s angriest moment came when he expressed his utter “disgust” that middle school students in Goodrich are taught about condom use in a voluntary sex education class.

Funny thing about the condom disgust: while he was a legislator, he got one of his staffers pregnant–and, no, she wasn’t his wife. Maybe a condom or two might have helped? (If you’re wondering, he moved her to his Secretary of State campaign staff; why pay child support when your campaign contributors can?).

It should be very clear that the ‘education reform’ lobbying groups are just like any other conservative organization: full of corrupt hypocrites who disdain the very people they purport to help.

Same as it ever was.

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