The Professional Educators of Tennessee is part of a growing network of “independent teacher associations,” many of which have deep institutional and ideological connections to the leading proponents of the corporate takeover of public education. PET’s ultimate goal, their very reason for existing, is to undermine teacher unions in service of the privatization agenda. So it makes complete sense that J.C. Bowman, a man who has worked for decades as a political operative in service to the corporate agenda to privatize public education, would be appointed the Executive Director of PET in 2011.
J.C. Bowman has decades of active involvement on the frontlines of some of the most extreme privatization groups in the country. This includes his work as the President of the Children’s Scholarship Fund in Chattanooga, a program intentionally designed to demonstrate the viability for vouchers in Tennessee that was seeded with money from the Walton family and described by the Heritage Foundation as the “largest private scholarship program in the country.” This also includes his time spent as the Director of School Choice in Florida, overseeing Governor Jeb Bush’s voucher program, which was not only the first in the nation, but one of the largest. Bush believes fully in the total privatization of public schools and loves to publicly bash teachers unions for actively fighting his corporate education reforms, like when he routinely refuses to use the term “public school district” in reference to local school systems and instead describes the United States as having “over 13,000 government-run monopolies run by unions.” Likewise, Bowman has written pro-privatization editorials and speeches that demonize unions for being “tenacious, relentless, single-minded” in their opposition to the corporate reform agenda that he and Bush have dedicated so much of their careers advocating for.
One of the first major initiatives that Bowman undertook as the Executive Director was the repeal of the Education Professional Negotiations Act (EPNA), which provided Tennessee teachers with the right to collectively bargain contracts with school districts. The EPNA was replaced with a much more limited piece of legislation, called the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act (PECCA). Under PECCA, teachers are no longer legally allowed to negotiate with the local school board on a whole range of crucial issues, such as teacher evaluations, merit pay schemes, tenure, seniority, or transfers and reassignments. By advocating for the repeal of collective bargaining rights, PET effectively silenced the voices of their own dues paying members.
PET actively lobbied for legislation that stripped Tennessee teachers of their rights to collectively bargain and silenced the voices of their own dues paying members
In 2014, J.C. Bowman was a presenter at the largest anti-teacher union conference in the country. In the lead up to the conference, PET produced a video in which Bowman beamed with pride as he bragged about PET’s success in secretly working with the legislature to strip teachers of their fundamental rights. The video has since been taken down by PET, probably because PET doesn’t want their members to learn that their dues money is being used to advance a political agenda that does not reflect their interests or values: silencing teacher voices on the job, stripping educators of their rights and advancing the corporate takeover of public schools.
Luckily, a Tennessee teacher snagged the video before it disappeared and then shared the relevant pieces online:
The full video has also been shared with PETexposed and it is provided online for free with no editing, as a service to the actual and potential dues paying members of PET who have a right to know how their money is being actively used to silence their voices and undermine their rights, all as part of a strategy for advancing the privatization agenda: