Tag Archives: collective bargaining

PET Continues To Hide Anti-Union Legislative Agenda #EPICFAIL

The registered lobbyists for the Professional Educators of Tennessee spent the most recent legislative session working alongside pro-voucher organizations such as the Beacon Center to lobby for model ALEC legislation that would deny teachers the right to voluntarily choose for union dues to be automatically withdrawn from their paychecks.

PET’s Executive Director, J.C. Bowman, even went so far as to publicly claim during a House committee meeting that this anti-union legislation was necessary because PET had been “discriminated against” from having the dues deducted from their members by the Robertson County school system.

In a formal letter to the General Assembly, the Robertson County Board of Education called PET out for spreading so much fertile bupkis.

Pretty embarrassing for PET/Bowman. Not that many would have noticed, since PET’s anti-union legislative agenda was largely hidden from their members – in the same way that PET hid their work advocating for the repeal of teacher collective bargaining rights in 2011.

PET did mention the legislation in their most recent organizational magazine, likely due to all the additional light shed on the issue after this blog exposed Bowman’s distortions about Robertson County, namely the “discriminatory practices that came to light during the committee meetings” and were proven to be a sham:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.39.32 PM

This is the just the most recent in a long series of anti-teacher and anti-public school reforms that Bowman has spent decades advocating for – like his paid work advocating for the state law legalizing charter schools in 2002 or when he was appointed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush to be the “Director of School Choice” and oversee the first state-wide voucher program in the country. All of which you can continue to real all about it, right here at PETexposed.com

BUSTED! J.C. Bowman Was Paid Advocate for Tennessee Charter Schools

In 2002, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Charter School Act, which legalized charter schools for the first time in the history of the state.

Charter schools largely exist so private, for-profit companies can extract taxpayer money from the public educational system. Every charter that opens steals money from already strapped public schools. Charters also have a long history of stripping away basic protections from teachers, screening out special needs students, and even expelling and pushing out students prior to state-mandate tests so their own scores can stay artificially high. They are also notoriously difficult to close down once they open. Charter schools and vouchers are policies peddled by the business community to advance their bottom line, not the interests of students.

At the time charter schools were legalized in Tennessee, J.C. Bowman – the current director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) – was the “Director of Education Policy” for the Tennessee Institute for Public Policy, a “free market think tank” that publicly advocated for vouchers, charter schools and terminating the collective bargaining rights of teachers. The Tennessee Institute for Public Policy was later replaced with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which has continued to advocate for those same policies and continues to work closely with PET under Bowman’s leadership.

While acting as Director of Education Policy, Bowman organized a group called Education Policy in Action. The group had a Yahoo listserv that is available for public viewing online.

Bowman used the group to push heavily for charter school legislation to pass in Tennessee. He circulated pro-charter school editorials, provided legislative updates on this status of charter school legislation and even helped to pass along talking points for why teachers unions – who Bowman repeatedly mocked for being the strongest opponent to charters and vouchers – should be denied collective bargaining in Tennessee.

Bowman even wrote a call to action, requesting that pro-charter activists support the final version of the 2002 legislation even if they didn’t get everything that they wanted. Namely, Bowman wanted the state legislature to legalize explicitly for-profit charter schools in Tennessee:

Charter Friends:

While the proposed bill is less than perfect, it certainly puts Tennessee in the Charter School game. If US Representative Van Hilleary wins the
Governor’s race we will be in position to make any needed changes, as he is a strong Charter School advocate. If Phil Bredesen wins the race, we are guaranteed he will not work to strengthen any Charter bill since he opposes Charter Schools nor is he likely to introduce legislation. He will certainly have heavy teacher union support. I suggest we face an “all or nothing” battle here in Tennessee in the next two months, which will have a shelf life of four plus years. It is okay to be critical of the bill, for not having a “for profit” element and other provisions, such as start-up costs. But it is a fairly decent bill. Commissioner Faye Taylor has done an excellent job to get us to this point. We are indebted to her strong leadership. Governor Sundquist has been consistently supportive of Charter School legislation. Many political pundits  speculated the bill would die an easy death, now many people feel it has an excellent shot at passage. We are working on limited time, we need support at this point on a national
scale with laser like precision, and help or suggestions are welcome and needed. Please ask your supporters in Tennessee to join with us and contact their legislative leaders to support Charter Schools. We can pass Charter legislation in Tennessee this year, but we will need alot of help and support to guarantee a good bill.

J. C. Bowman
Director of Education Policy
Tennessee Institute for Public Policy
Telephone: 615-327-3120 x 103

In other Education Policy in Action posts, Bowman also pushes for readers to support eliminating the cap on charter schools and for legislation that would allow the state to take over any public schools that were deemed to be “failing” and turn them over to a charter school operator. Bowman also supported the creation of a state-wide charter authorizer, stripping approval of charter schools from local school boards. Remarkably, Bowman also supported removing any requirements mandating that charter school teachers have a teaching certificate or be licensed to teach by the state! Many of these proposals would later come to be a reality under Governor Haslam. You can read his support for these policies on the listserv here.

The Yahoo listserv ends with Bowman announcing that he was leaving the Tennessee Institute for Public Policy to join the Jeb Bush administration in Florida:

I believe Education Policy in Action has been a huge success. However, I have now left the Tennessee Institute for Public Policy. I am joining Governor Jeb Bush’s staff in Tallahassee next week. I am honored to be selected for this
opportunity. I believe Florida is on the cutting edge of education reform in America. I am very excited to be part of this great challenge.

While in Florida, Bowman would oversee the first state-wide voucher program in the country as the “Director of School Choice in Florida.” Bowman would later brag about his time there, saying:

“I served the state of Florida as Director of School Choice, where I oversaw a groundbreaking voucher program, 2000 Private Schools, 230 Charter Schools, and 40,000 home school children.”

At every step of the way, Bowman continued to recognize that it was the teachers union that continued to be the single greatest threat to his school choice program. While advocating for passage of the Tennessee Charter School Act of 2002, Bowman wrote:

Well-to-do Americans across the rest of the nation already have choice by private means. All Americans, especially the poor, would benefit from educational choice. Students in failing schools most assuredly should be given an option out of the system. Opposition to school choice most often does not arise out of concern for children attending public schools. In fact
most hostility comes from organizations and people who have a financial stake directly tied to the current system.

The current education monopoly, in which state and public school bureaucracies assign all tax funds without parental choice should be
scrutinized for effectiveness. Schools that perform poorly under the current system are not penalized, in fact they usually get additional
funding. Bureaucrats continue to assign children to failing schools.

The vested interests of teacher unions, special interest groups and local and state bureaucracies can scarcely afford a change in public policy that would end their monopoly advantage over public schools and put them in a competitive and comparative environment.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone then that the very first legislative priority that Bowman undertook after being appointed the Director of PET was to join forces with the same right-wing, corporate-funded, anti-union and pro-privatization groups that he has always to actively lobby for the passsage of a state law outlawing the collective bargaining rights of teachers in Tennessee.

Don’t let PET take you for a ride. Help to get the word out in your schools and communities. The Professional Educators of Tennessee are just another right-wing astro-turf organization that exists to advance the corporate takeover of public education in the state.

Bowman’s Anti-Union & Pro-Privatization Buddies

Back in late August/early September, I wrote a post on my personal blog detailing the political connections between J.C. Bowman, the director of the Professional Educator of Tennessee, and several right-wing anti-union and pro-privatization politicians and groups:

You have to hand it to the Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET), they don’t bother to try and hide their connections to the far right extremists and big monied interests that are working so hard to privatize Tennessee public schools. Just take their recent tweets, praising Williamson County School Board member Susan Curlee for receiving an award from the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism (CEAFU), a project of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), for “exposing forced unionism in public education.” (Nevermind the fact that Tennessee is a so-called “right to work” state and no worker can be “forced” to pay the costs of the union representation they receive or the union contract they benefit from).

For anyone who has not heard of them, the NRTWC is one of the slimiest pack of lawyers around. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the NRTWC is one of the “national leaders in the effort to destroy public and private sector unions” and has “strong connections to the national right-wing network, including to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Republican National Committee, and the State Policy Network (SPN).”

Well, I just discovered that the CEAFU decided to double down on their love affair with Bowman after my blog post.

In response, the CEAFU published a web post bemoaning the “vicious ad hominem attack” I had launched against Bowman for his being an “outspoken critic” of “the TEA’s [Tennessee’s teachers union] radical agenda.”

What makes TEA’s agenda so radical, to the CEAFU and PET, is that the TEA has historically supported teacher tenure, the rights of teachers to collectively bargain a contract, using public money to fund public schools (not private businesses acting as schools) and other mainstream views on how teachers should be treated and our public schools should be run.

But that is the agenda that J.C. Bowman/PET are united with other corporate interest groups – like the CEAFU and the NRTWC – in undermining.

Bowman has spent decades working alongside right-wing groups financed by big business to destroy the legal right of teachers to organize on the job, because privatizers know that organized teachers are the largest, most powerful obstacle standing in the way of the full-on corporate takeover of public schools.

Not only that, but the CEAFU post, written on September 15, ends with the statement: “Tomorrow, a proud Defense of JC Bowman.”

On September 17, Bowman’s daughter published a column on another website defending her father, which the CEAFU reposted. What this would seem to imply was that Bowman and his family were actually coordinating with the CEAFU to publish responses to my previous posts – while never once contesting any of the facts that I presented. All they could ever say was that, well, Bowman is actually a swell guy and I shouldn’t be trusted because I worked for the teachers union. Which, I did. At the time. I am openly pro-teacher, pro-union and pro-public education. I don’t hide those facts at any point.

This is not the first time that privatization activists have come out in defense of Bowman. Steve Gill – a paid consultant who worked for the Tennessee Federation for Children to build public support for vouchers (he failed) and K12 inc. to protect their for-profit charter chain in the state from being shut down – wrote a piece defending Bowman after an expose published on this site that connected PET’s leadership to the coordinated racist attacks on Muslims as a cynical method for passing off absurd claims about Islamic indoctrination within public schools during the lead-up to the most recent legislative session.

All that this continues to demonstrate is that Bowman and PET are deeply entrenched within a powerful and well-funded network of corporate interest groups that are fundamentally dedicated to demonizing unions in support of defunding, dismantling and selling off Tennessee’ public educational system. None of which should come as a surprise to anyone if they have read the rest of this site.

BUSTED! PET Lied To State Legislators To Advance Anti-Union Privatization Agenda

For months now, the registered lobbyists of the Professional Educators of Tennessee have been working alongside pro-voucher organizations such as the Beacon Center to lobby for model ALEC legislation that would deny teachers the right to voluntarily choose for union dues to be automatically withdrawn from their paychecks. Bowman testified in support of the anti-union legislation during a House Education Administration and Planning subcommittee, saying:

“We have been discriminated against. We have consistently asked to have payroll deduction and it is inconsistent from one district to the other. In Robertson County, for example, they may say that you need to have 20% membership.”

In response to Bowman’s testimony, the Robertson County Board of Education has issued a statement to the members of the General Assembly, stating that Bowman and the Professional Educators of Tennessee have never even requested payroll deductions in Robertson County:

Central Office Scanned Document

So, to date, the Professional Educators of Tennessee have spent the last year:

  • Working alongside a pro-voucher consultant and a man listed as a nationally prominent racist by an organization that tracks hate groups to demonize public education.
  • Claiming to not be political, while retaining lobbyists on staff who have actively supported anti-teacher and anti-public education legislation, the most notorious example being their support for the repeal of the collective bargaining rights of teachers in 2011.
  • Working alongside some of the largest pro-voucher groups in the state to attack the biggest foe to the corporate takeover of public schools: the teachers union.
  • Using the dues money of their members to lobby for legislation that would strip teachers of more of their rights, such as voluntarily choosing to have union dues deducted from their paychecks, all in an attempt to weaken the organized position to privatization.

One additional update: In his testimony before the committee, Bowman reference this website and it’s author, attempting to connect petexposed.com to the teachers union. As of this writing, I am employed by Labor Notes, a labor movement media and organizing project. However, even when I was employed with the union, this site has operated as a wholly independent and volunteer project. You can read about what led me to create the site in the About section. Unlike Bowman, who allegedly writes for Rocky Top Politics, anonymously.

PET and the State Policy Network

The State Policy Network (SPN) just wrapped up their 2015 annual meeting ( #SPNAM) in Michigan. The attendees were a Who’s Who of privatization organizations and the conference’s agenda was packed with sessions on how to advance the corporate takeover of public schools in state legislatures across the country.

SPNAM 2015 sponsorsSponsoring organizations of the 2015 State Policy Network Annual Meeting

In case you aren’t aware, the SPN is a shadowy web of privately funded, extreme right-wing “think tanks” that, according to an extensive report by the Center for Media and Democracy, “work together in coordinated efforts to push their agenda, often using the same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions that purportedly advance the interests or traditions of the state.” Their “extreme right-wing agenda” aims “to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.”

The SPN’s annual meeting agenda certainly reflected their extreme right-wing goals, including workshops on how to message voucher legislation to the public, how to create alternative forms of “accountability” from the test-based model used in public schools for private schools receiving publicly financed vouchers, how to transform higher education in a system resembling a market based system, how to remove state-based caps on vouchers and charter schools. According to participants in these workshops, “the end game is to eliminate every barrier to school choice for every student” with recognition that the “hurdles to a barrier-free education marketplace are laws and public policies in the states.”

Through the SPN, right-wing think tanks are connected with other extremist right-wing organizations, often affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote their model legislation across the country, as well as extremist right-wing politicians, like Jeb Bush, who actively pursue that model legislation, as has been the case in Florida.

J.C. Bowman, the executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, has a long and sordid history of working for and with SPN affiliated “think-tanks,” ALEC and extreme right-wing politicians.

Bowman’s PET profile explicitly states that he served as the chair of the “Union Affairs Sub-Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Education Task Force” from 1999 to 2001. J.C. Bowman  not only served on the ALEC committee dedicated to advancing legislation that targeted teacher unions and their collective bargaining rights, but, acting as the newly appointed executive director of PET in 2011, Bowman successfully lead the fight to repeal the collective bargaining rights of teachers in Tennessee.

Bowman has also spent decades advocating on behalf of the corporate takeover of public education while working for or with several of the ALEC-aligned member organizations in the State Policy Network, including: the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Tennessee Institute for Public Policy, the Beacon Center and the Heartland Institute. Bowman himself has previously attended the State Policy Network’s annual meetings and is even quoted in their literature praising the events.

Bowman quote 2003
Bowman quote featured in the SPN’s 2003 Annual Meeting update

It is little wonder that Bowman was appointed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush to oversee Florida’s state-wide voucher program.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee is an especially active member of the State Policy Network and is highly committed to the privatization of Tennessee’s public schools. To give you an idea of the scope of the Beacon Center’s recent privatization efforts, just look at their 2013 “school choice” campaign, which aimed at gaining state-wide support for vouchers with a focus on parents, community leaders and politicians in Memphis and Nashville. During this campaign, the Beacon Center:

  • Ran a series of radioand television commercials in support of voucher legislation.
  • Launched a single-issue websitededicated to promoting vouchers and “school choice”.
  • Produced propaganda materialsthat attempted to obscure the fact that the legislation being introduced in Nashville was ALEC’s cookie-cutter, model voucher legislation.

While the teachers union and pro-public education advocates across the state have been vigorously fighting the Beacon Center and their privatization agenda, Bowman, acting as PET’s Executive Director, has continued to work alongside the Beacon Center. Both organizations work together to regularly co-author anti-union editorials, attacking not only teacher unions but attempts by the UAW to organize factory workers in Chattanooga as well. The State Policy Network’s July/August 2013 newsletter featured information on the activities of all the Network’s state affiliates across the country and proudly championed the annual Beacon Center and PET alliance to attack teacher unionization.

2013 SPN Update - Beacon & PET

The same year that the Beacon Center ran a barrage of pro-voucher media, the State Policy Network featured their work alongside PET in their national newsletter (click to enlarge)

Here we have a concise picture of the evil privatization troika that is active in states all over the country, including Tennessee:

  • ALEC: The American Legislative Exchange Council wines and dines state policy makers who introduce cookie cutter model legislation written by the lobbyists of corporations who stand to profit from the privatization of our schools.  The vast majority of Senate Republicans in Tennessee are members of ALEC, spending tens-of-thousands of tax-payer dollars every year to fly around the country and schmooze with corporate leaders at their catered functions and then returning to Tennessee to fight for ALEC’s extremist corporate agenda, like the recently passed IEP voucher bill.
  • State Policy Network: A web of “free market think tanks” that provide “research” and media campaigns supporting ALEC’s cookie cutter legislation are privately funded by the same corporate interests who to stand to benefit from privatization. The Beacon Center is an active member of the SPN and is “largely funded by out-of-state right-wing special interest groups.”
  • Yellow Unions: Organizations that claim to represent the interests of workers while actually advancing the corporate agenda. PET is just one example of a growing number of public sector yellow unions (they like to call themselves “independent teachers associations”) that are spreading across the United States. This is important because, typically, the greatest fightback to the corporate takeover of public schools has come from teachers who are organized in their schools, in their communities, and at the ballot box. Not only do these so-called “independent teachers associations” share deep institutional and ideological connections with the corporate education reform movement, but by dividing teachers in the schools and siphoning resources away from teacher unions, they are intentionally undermining the largest and most politically organized opposition to the corporate reformers and their privatization agenda.

The evil corporate troika might have millions of dollars at their disposal, but we have something far more powerful: teachers, parents, and community members who are committed to protecting our public educational system. The truth is, the power of organized people can overcome the power of organized money. That is why it is so important that everyone get involved in the struggle to defend public schools – especially since the State Policy Network’s 2016 Annual Meeting is going to be hosted by the Beacon Center in Nashville.

What is a Yellow Union?

One of the biggest players in the long-term agenda to demoralize teachers and defund, dismantle and privatize public education in Tennessee is the Professional Educators of Tennessee, or PET, which might come as a shock to some of their members. After all, PET bills itself as an innocuous member-run business: a “non-union, professional educators’ organization” that “offers a premium package of benefits including exceptional legal protection and liability coverage.”

But the truth is something very different.

Uncovering The Truth About Tennessee's Most Notorious Yellow Union

In the past, organizations like PET would have been called “yellow unions”: organizations that claim to represent the interests of workers while actually advancing the company’s agenda. PET is just one example of a growing number of public sector yellow unions that are spreading across the United States. This is important because, typically, the greatest fightback to the corporate takeover of public schools has come from teachers who are organized in their schools, in their communities, and at the ballot box. Not only do these so-called “independent teachers associations” share deep institutional and ideological connections with the corporate education reform movement, but by dividing teachers in the schools and siphoning resources away from teacher unions, they are intentionally undermining the largest and most politically organized opposition to the corporate reformers and their privatization agenda.

This website is dedicated to exposing PET for the yellow union that it is. If teachers are going to be successful in fending off the organized attacks against their profession and against public schools, then they need to know who they can trust – and who they can’t.

The best place to start is in the tabs at the top of this page, entitled “Collective Bargaining” and “Privatization.” The “Resources” tab is provided so that advocates of public education and public school teachers can download informational materials to hand out to their friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.

Lastly, as made clear in the “About” tab, this website is a completely independent and volunteer project of a Tennessee labor activist and public school advocate. All materials, opinions, and content contained herein have been created voluntarily and freely for one purpose: to educate and inform the public about the devastating role that yellow unions like PET have had on their members and the public schools of Tennessee. Please, feel free to share this site and the materials herein, comment on the pages and posts.

Have any questions? Want to share a story or provide information about PET? Feel free to contact me at: chactivist@gmail.com

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Follow us on Twitter at: @PETexposed