Saturday, October 19, 2019

Unusual Supporter, Maybe

Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez headlined in Queens, NY on Saturday a huge Bernie Sanders rally which included Nina

Turner, a veteran of the 2016 campaign known for her pugnacious style, went on an extended riff blasting both former Vice President Joe Biden and Warren without naming either of them.

“There are some people who sat on the sidelines before and there was only one person who stood up to the establishment and his name is Bernard Sanders,” Turner said, referencing Warren’s neutrality during the 2016 presidential primary.

“There are many copies, but there is only one original,” she added. “I don’t know why you would take the copy, baby, when you can have the original.”

Nina Turner supporting a candidate because he was the only "person who stood up to the establishment' is really rich.  That would be "rich" as in the interests which the then-state senator stood up for only a few years ago in Ohio.  Last month, Rachel Cohen of The Intercept reported

As an Ohio state senator in 2012, Turner played a leading role in shepherding a package of policies through the legislature to bring Cleveland schools under a more robust system of mayoral control, to expand charter schools in the city, and to weaken teacher job protections. The so-called Cleveland Plan was styled off the portfolio-model of school reform pioneered in New Orleans, Denver, and Hartford, Connecticut, and had the backing of business leaders and philanthropic organizations. Both for-profit and nonprofit charters can operate in Ohio.

"Nearly all" the Democratic candidates for president have been moving away from support for the charter school industry but Turner described the Cleveland Plan to The Intercept as

“a way to allow the Cleveland schools to be a little more creative,” at a time when the city was in need of “transformational” changes to the school system. “We had to do some things to help guarantee that the residents would get a big change, and it was kind of hot at first, but at the end all the parties came together,” she said. “The unions were not happy at first, but everyone came together for the betterment of the children, and we ultimately succeeded.”

The original version of the Cleveland Plan, which Turner introduced in the state Senate, included a provision to gut existing union contracts and renegotiate everything from scratch. The “fresh start” provision, as it was known, would have also given the school district the power to unilaterally impose a contract if the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

Advocates of the Cleveland Plan eventually dropped a provision which would have revoked existing union contracts but

along the way pressured the union to agree to a number of other reforms like ending seniority-based layoffs and tying teacher compensation to student test scores. Teachers were “stunned” by Turner’s leadership on the Cleveland Plan, Quolke said, especially since she had played a major role in opposing a statewide bill to weaken public-sector  collective bargaining, which had been overturned by Ohio voters on the ballot only months earlier. “She tried to characterize [the Cleveland Plan] as she pulled the union together, but she wouldn’t even talk to us,” said Quolke, who described Turner as “absolutely unapologetic” and said his union has “a horrible relationship” with her to this day.

Powerful interests committed to the notion that schools should be run for the benefit of profit rather than children recognized her as one of their own and

Turner was lauded by charter and voucher advocates for her work passing the Cleveland Plan. In June 2012, School Choice Ohio, a statewide advocacy group, gave Turner the Fannie M. Lewis Courage Award, named after a longtime city council member who helped establish Cleveland’s private school voucher program, the second of its kind in the nation. The controversial program, which allowed public dollars to flow to private and religious schools, launched in 1996 and was narrowly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. Nearly 7,500 Cleveland students used private school vouchers in the 2018-19 school year.

Evidently not comfortable with the wall of separation between church and state

“It doesn’t matter whether our young people go to public, private, religious schools — it is all about choice, and it is all about high quality,” Turner said in her award acceptance speech. “We should demand high-quality schools, no matter how they come. … And to the parents, I want to salute you, because choice is something that God almighty has given us as human beings.”

As a surrogate for Bernie Sanders, the Ohioan now has become a skeptic of the charter school movement, at least in public. However, Cohen notes "Turner referred to herself as 'a public schools person through and through.'”

Referring to oneself as "a public schools person" is a tell. As Turner is doubtless aware, charter schools are technically considered public schools because they are partially funded by the public in the form of taxpayer dollars.  Openly touting "public schools" can be a nod and a wink to the for-profit school industry, and likely is here.

"There was only one person who stood up to the establishment and his name is Bernie Sanders," Turner noted.  Nonetheless, there is only one person in the Obama Administration who stood up to Treasury Secretary Geithner and NationalEconomic Council Director Summers, which proved very discomfiting to President Obama as he prioritized big banks over homeowners facing foreclosure.

Bernie Sanders demonstrated courage, as Turner implied, in running for the Democratic presidential nomination against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.  Elizabeth Warren showed a different kind of courage, arguably greater, and is still reviled by some veterans of the Obama Administration because of it.

To Sanders' credit, he gained Ocasio-Cortez's support. However, the more surrogates of his such as Nina Turner swipe at Elizabeth Warren, the more likely it is that the Party will end up with a more centrist nominee as it did in 2016.  Unfortunately, as Nina Turner's work for the for-profit school industry indicates, that might not be an unpleasant outcome for a few of the Vermont senator's loudest supporters.

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