THE LIGHTBOURN IDENTITY 2: WPRI chief pivots over anti-teacher sentiment among Republicans | WisCommunity

THE LIGHTBOURN IDENTITY 2: WPRI chief pivots over anti-teacher sentiment among Republicans

[img_assist|nid=61889|title=Lightbourn|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=122|height=152]Ya think he's hearing footsteps? George Lightbourn, president of the Wisconsin Republican Research Institute -- whoops, I mean, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute -- is suddenly worried that anti-teacher sentiment among his breed might harm conservative fortunes politically. Because, hey, teachers are nice. It's only teacher unions that are evil. That's as in ... evil!

Here Lightbourn is, in a telling but clueless political pivot on his own web site (URL to the full piece below):

How did this happen? How did conservatives come to find themselves glaring across the battleground at tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s teachers? In the long run, the confrontation is not one that is likely to end well for conservatives.

Too often conservatives fall into the trap of equating teachers with the teachers' unions. While hostility toward the unions might be justified ... this hostility should not be transferred to teachers themselves. Anyone who ignores the distinction between teachers and teachers' unions does so at their own peril.

How did this happen, you ask? Well, sir, your party's governor and legislature made it happen. And now the GOP -- which has managed to piss off a million recall petition signers across Wisconsin, is feeling the heat.  

Lightbourn all but says it: Continue dissing teachers -- just as Republicans currently are dissing the poor, women, and others -- and their party is going to have a hard time in coming elections hanging on to the levers of political power, even despite the party's vote-suppression, super PAC and gerrymandering schemes. 

Calling all conservatives: George Lightbourn has put you on notice. You'd better express your admiration for teachers, just like Scott Walker expressed his respect for state employees -- even, of course, as he was cutting them off at the knees. Just like the way I respect the 10-point buck I'm about to shoot.

Actually, Mr. Lightbourn is right -- although for the wrong reasons and only in a tiny way. There is indeed a difference between teachers and teacher unions. Teachers are individual human beings; teacher unions are groups of people (you know, like corporations) who have joined together to seek a greater common good. And we can't have that now, can we? Lightbourn would have you believe that teacher unions don't do anything positive for students or the teachers themselves. I mean, it's not like school districts around the state are now busy taking advantage of weakened union power and coming up with crazy-ass rules for how teachers will dress, think and talk, sometimes even outside the school, right?

Lightbourn goes on to aver that "there’s no getting around it, teachers are the people who need to, well, teach." Never mind that Republicans in control of the statehouse already have yanked around a billion dollars in aids to public school systems around the state and capped how much school districts can fund themselves. That makes it harder to teach, if you're a public educator. Much harder. 

You see, as every good Grover Norquist-style, anti-tax, anti-government sycophant knows, the solution to our nation's problems never lies in actually spending money on them. So when public school teachers across Wisconsin arrive back at school next fall and the ones after that, and they discover that, thanks to Walkerism and the GOP politics of scarcity, many of their colleagues are being laid off and class sizes have increased again, well, they'll just TEACH. That'll fix everything. That, and still more spending cuts and thus more cuts to teacher salaries and benefits, and school system resources.

You'd think Lightbourn would also go out of his way to send some love out to school kids. But no, they can't vote. So instead he figuratively suggests hugging a teacher -- it's a very helpful technique when you're attempting to pick another wallet.

This isn't the first time we've heard this kind of drivel from Lightbourn, who posed as a moderate Republican when serving as a top functionary for former Gov. Tommy Thompson. More lately Lightbourn has been showing off his lava-bright reddishness. UppityWis reported on him last July, when he insisted that Scott Walker had established a "new normal" for Wisconsin: "For starters," Lightbourn wrote then, "there will be no more deferring to the status quo. No longer will politicians automatically assume that more school spending will enhance student performance... ." 

Rather, under Walkerism, state politicians are supposed to automatically assume that less school spending will enhance student performance -- but only in public schools. In private schools receiving ever-greater public tax dollars swiped from those public schools, the old normal will still apply, only more so.

If you buy the idea that Lightbourn and his pals secretly love public school teachers, you might be shocked to see just how much they love private school teachers.

The truth is that far-right Walkerism functions this way: Public employee unions -- especially teacher unions but not police or firefighter unions -- are bad, so they're all but dissolved. Meanwhile, Republicans love public educators. That's why we're demanding they pay much more in pension contributions and health care premiums, while cutting their salaries and raising classroom sizes. And imposing more control over their professional lives and careers. Now they should just shut up and ... teach!

Hey, teachers, feel the GOP's love? Didn't think so. Indeed, the Walker sort of assault, in an earlier era, was precisely why teachers and other workers both public and private went to the very great trouble of forming unions to protect themselves and their professions against unreasonable elites. If I were a public school teacher and Lightbourn or some other conservative approached me smiling and with open arms, I'd run.


April 10, 2012 - 10:33am