The past month has been a watershed moment in Florida politics, and the ripples will be tubular in November. Democracy was triumphant, and the Democratic Party gained a whole heap of new strength. The Republicans, led by Jeb Bush, stumbled and fell flat on their swollen faces.
Jeb Bush has dreamed his whole political life of plunging a dagger in the heart of public education.
On April 9, 2010 at 2:26 a.m., the Florida House of Representatives voted Jeb Bush closer to his life’s dream than he has ever been. At the very same moment they destroyed it. Jeb Bush, like Icarus, has finally flown too close to the sun. A sleeping giant has been roused.
Those poetic observations were written by Paul A. Moore, a high school teacher here in Miami. Truer words were never spoken.
I still can't believe this happened. The grassroots triumph of Barack Obama's presidential campaign taught us to hope, but we had no money behind us this time. Jeb's team included the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Council of 100 corporations. We were just a bunch of teachers fighting for our jobs and the future of our children.
For once, the people defeated a corrupt corporate-backed government.
Here's how it went down.
- Jeb Bush used the Obama Administration's Race to the Top educational reform program as an excuse to revive his dream of destroying public schools and teachers unions.
- State Senators John Thrasher and Jeff Atwater loaded up a truly evil piece of legislation called Senate Bill 6 and railroaded it through the Senate and House. SB6 would have made it illegal for local school boards to consider advanced degrees or years of experience in computing salaries or retaining teachers. It would have placed all teacher certificates in the hands of some unknown level on some unknown standardized test.
- They timed it to coincide with our current standardized testing and Spring Break, thinking we would be too distracted to notice.
- They put all their cards on the table, and used all the force they could to make sure they had the votes, even though the bill was a travesty in the eyes of all who read it.
- The teachers fought back. I first caught wind of the SB6 stench on Facebook, two days before my local union started an official campaign to stop the bill. Within two weeks, we had 50,000 members on each of three different Facebook groups.
- Jeb Bush and his corporate backers bought television spots and robo-calls in an attempt to fight the teachers.
- Our last line of defense was a veto by Charlie Crist. The Republican State Congress laughed in the face of all witnesses to the horror that the bill would bring to Florida education, and the voices of 200,000 emails, phone calls, and snail letters were ignored.
- 30% of Miami's teachers all took a personal day off on the same day, closing a few schools that were missing 90% of their staff. It was very effective, without any major problems, and the bill was so disgusting that the parents who were affected supported the teachers in their protest. It was a textbook case of how to strike in a state where striking is illegal.
- Charlie Crist listened to us, and vetoed the bill.
- The anger generated by SB6 created an aftershock that is organizing into a campaign against the Repbublicans who wrote and voted for the bill. John Thrasher has been exposed as a former lobbyist for the testing industry that would have benefited from the bill.
- Marco Rubio and Bill McCollum were both stained by the sordid mess.
- November will be very different in Florida.
Yesterday, on the Facebook page of the Florida Senate Majority Office, the repugnant politicians who blundered into this scenario made me laugh out loud. They are now pushing SB4, which still pads their pockets but does not do much damage. In trying to drum up support for SB4, they linked to an opinion piece that ripped SB6 to shreds. That's correct, the people who wrote the bill advertised a scathing indictment of their own work on their own Facebook page.
Not only do these GOP dinosaurs not understand the Facebook, but they don't understand their own party. Some are calling for Crist to quit the Fl-Sen race. Some are calling for him to run as an Independent. Some are begging him to stay Republican.
Even the Tea Party in Florida was against SB6, since it created total state government control of local schools. Too bad their boy Marco Rubio said the bill should be law. Teachers will remember in November.
This was a complete GOP disaster. It was a thrill to be part of it.