For months leading up to the current legislative session, prominent representatives of the Professional Educators of Tennessee have been actively working alongside a pro-voucher consultant and a nationally prominent racist to spread hate, demonize public schools and cultivate an environment conducive for the passage of voucher legislation in the state legislature. Based on the facts laid out below, it is obvious that PET has been actively working with other right-wing extremists to till the ground: using anti-Muslim fear and hate to sow distrust of the public educational system in the hopes of reaping increased support for their privatization schemes.
Meet Voucher Consultant Steve Gill
Steve Gill is right-wing consultant who has worked for numerous out-of-state special interest groups that are actively working to advance privatization in Tennessee, including Americans for Prosperity, K12 inc. and the Tennessee Federation for Children. Gill also has a history of working alongside PET.
In the months leading up to the current legislative session, Gill was organizing public forums, spreading sensational anti-Muslim and anti-public education propaganda claiming that the state’s 7th grade social studies standards were indoctrinating students into Islam. These were fact checked by the Tennessean and found to be completely fraudulent (but any 7th grade teacher could have told you that).
The forums featured Bill Warner, a man identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, as a right-wing extremist.
These forums not only spread lies about Muslims, but attempted to sow distrust in Tennessee public schools and Tennessee’s educators. This fear reinforces the common right-wing arguments for why parents should have the option of siphoning money from Tennessee’s grossly under resourced public schools so they can send their children to unregulated and unaccountable private (Christian) schools.
Introducing PET Leader Kyle Mallory
Kyle Mallory is a prominent leader in the Professional Educators of Tennessee with a history of being on the frontlines of PET’s attacks on teachers and public education. In 2011, Mallory represented PET at the Tennessee General Assembly, lobbying legislators in support of repealing the collective bargaining rights of teachers and speaking before the TEA Party and other extreme right-wing groups in attacking the state’s teacher union.
More recently, Mallory was featured in a right-wing gossip site lashing out at the mythical “Islamic-centric standards” that are the centerpiece of Gill’s astroturf public forums.
Mallory has publicly promoted Gill’s events, reinforcing the lies about student indoctrination and demonizing public schools and educators.
Mallory has also represented PET in media debates, attacking the Tennessee public schools and the state’s teacher union.
Over the past couple of years, Mallory has been called into meetings by prominent Republican legislators to attack the Tennessee Teacher’s union for spending money in political races to defeat pro-voucher and pro-privatization candidates.
Mallory has publicly shared Gill’s pro-voucher attacks on the Tennessee teacher’s union (and me for writing this blog, pointing out how PET works hand-in-glove to advance the privatization agenda).
For all of this, Mallory was named the 2015 Advocate of the Year by the Professional Educators of Tennessee.
Enter PET Staff Attorney Mike Sheppard
Mike Sheppard serves as the General Counsel for the Professional Educators of Tennessee and publishes opinion editorials on their behalf.