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Rhode Island Gov.’s Trump Love

She’s pro-choice, a Clinton super-delegate, and the first female Governor of the State of Rhode Island. Yet Gina Raimondo has said she is “keeping open mind” about Donald Trump. Why?

Simply put, she just had a massive dump truck full of money drive up to her door, piloted by the President-elect. While she puts forward a skeptical but optimistic face for the news cameras, on the inside she is jumping for joy and probably has given a high-five to her husband since Trump’s election.

When one understands my contention here, one also has a fundamental understanding of how deep the rot of the Democratic Party goes and why the efforts to change it are for naught.

So let’s begin with the fact that Gov. Raimondo’s husband, Andrew Moffit, is something of an industrial player in the charter school industry, ensconced comfortably with an adjunct job at Brown University’s Education Department and also a position with McKinsey and Company, which “conducts qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to evaluate management decisions across the public and private sectors” according to Wikipedia. The charter industry as a neoliberal effort to deform and ethnically re-segregate the nationwide education system back to the days before Brown vs. Board of Education depends on so-called “analytical data” (in reality just metrics rigged to be failed) to say a public school is “failing” so to privatize it.

And who has just been rolled out as the gaggle of geese that will run the Trump White House? No less than the major political enablers of the charter school movement, with names like Chris Christie and Michelle Rhee floating to the surface of the cesspool. Even if Raimondo and Moffit put on a decent show of being Democrats this year, they just scored big with this election. While Trump’s vile narcissism and bigotry is obviously awful, it is the bipartisan cooperators, the people who are willing to sit down in the board room with the new administration, that are the genuinely dangerous white supremacists.

This begs the question of why exactly the unionized teacher movement is under attack by Raimondo, Moffit, and company. And this is where things get truly important.

Being a teacher is hard work. Students have a tendency to be great sometimes but overall they deposit everything from germs to vomit to emotional explosions on their teachers with regularity. Those who work with black and brown students are quickly becoming not just instructors but counsellors, social workers, and role models. The mass incarceration plague has made male teachers and coaches into sometimes the only seriously respectable male role model a young boy might have. The poverty-level minimum wage has made it so working mothers cannot be able to be at home for a girl’s growth into a woman and so teachers take on these tasks. If you ever wanted to meet Martin Luther King, Jr. but were born after 1968, you have the chance to do so if you go into a city like Providence and shake the hands of a public school teacher. They are not perfect, let’s be clear, I don’t have any illusions here, but if you ever were looking for a disciplined cadre of working class civil rights champions, it’s them.

A teacher’s salary is also a watermark in our communities. Salaries in the public and private sector are both measured in comparison to the salaries of public employees like teachers. Your boss says “Well, teachers in this municipality make x number of dollars, therefore compare your wage to theirs.” So if the politicians and business interests they represent get their way and drop that watermark down significantly by breaking the unionized teachers movement through school privatization, it will be your paycheck that takes a hit also regardless of whether it would reduce your yearly tax bill.

This is part of the ultimate goal of the neoliberal project. These people recognize, much as Marx and Engels did in their Communist Manifesto, that capitalism is a revolutionary and that “The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.” As such, they intend to push human society backwards, toward a feudal system defined by the payment of rent to an all-encompassing FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) sector whose behavior would make the targets of last century’s trust busters green with envy. Public school teachers, as a movement of unionized white-collar professionals who care deeply for the most vulnerable in our society and work daily to improve their lot, are a massive hindrance to such efforts. Breaking their unions is would be a massive achievement on the road to this goal. (See Michael Hudson’s excellent and valuable Killing the Host, published by Counterpunch Books, for more on this topic.)

Providence has already seen such efforts nearly succeed in the past. Tom Brady, a former superintendent, fired the entire job force en masse several years ago. Now Mayor Jorge Elorza, who sits on the board of the Acchievement First charter school, is looking to expand the charter industry. The original application was for a modest expansion but of late it has been grown exponentially. Providence Teachers Union head Maribeth Calabro told me in a recent interview, “The financial impact of what happens with a charter school expansion to this size and degree would be so financially detrimental to our school district that we would never recuperate. If you use the example of 720 students in a charter school and its per pupil expenditure is $14,000, it’s over $10,000,000 per pupil expenditure that leaves our district. And the thing about per pupil expenditure is if those children do not survive or are not successful at that charter school and they come back, the funds don’t necessarily come back with them that year. So that creates a further disparity and we’re doing our very best to make the necessary changes and accommodations to service all students in a wide variety of ways from social, emotional, academic to physical and so I think that in order to have successful public schools, you need to believe in public school teachers and I know I believe in our teachers. Let’s see if the Mayor and others in the city do so as well.”

Regardless, we know that Gina Raimondo and Andrew Moffit do not. They are “keeping open mind” about the people who want to break the teacher unions.

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Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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