Saturday, September 9, 2017

Outside Money Funds Attacks on #oklaed

We saw it through the last election cycle: American Federation for Children, a foundation devoted to private school 'choice' in the form of vouchers, and its local affiliate, Oklahoma Federation for Children funneled almost $200,000 into legislative races in Oklahoma, specifically targeting our Teacher Caucus, educators and family members who risked everything to contribute to a new conversation about education and funding in our state. I wrote about it last year, and I truly hoped we'd seen the last of Betsy DeVos's meddling in our state.

Alas, I was incorrect. OFC, funded directly by AFC, congratulated Darin Chambers, Republican candidate for HD46 on his primary win, aided in part by their attacks on his opponents.

This is MY House district, and these last days of the campaign (VOTE on Tuesday, September 12), OFC has sent attack ads to our mailboxes, defaming MY candidate, Jacob Rosecrants. It's a tactic they employed in the primary against his Republican opponents, and, frankly, we knew it was coming. Time-worn strategy:smear the opponent with too little time for them to mount a rebuttal, and do it with dark money so the candidate can feign shock and surprise, while reaping the advantage of the attacks.

The flyers are clear that they have not been "approved" by the candidate, giving Mr. Chambers the gloss of deniability. But, there is no denying the fact he's relying on out-of-state from a group that has vouchers as its prime directive. They will want votes from him. Even if he hasn't 'approved' the attack flyers, we know there will be a reckoning...and it will involve his votes. I, for one, do not want MY Representative to pay AFC and OFC back for their support with votes for vouchers when our schools are not fully funded.

Disclaimer: Jacob Rosecrants is my friend. He was my student. I've literally watched him grow up, grow as an educator and as an advocate. These attacks are ones I take personally for my student and friend. But, I'm trying to follow the positive example of Jacob's campaign, and trying to tamp down my outrage and hyperbole.

Rage amplified by the fact that a Norman Public Schools Board Member is featured prominently on Chambers' campaign literature as a supporter. Yes, a Board member of a PUBLIC school district, one of the best in the state, is supporting a candidate funded by a group who pushes private school vouchers over public schools. "Disturbed" is the politically-correct term for my emotions.

We must fight for OUR schools, OUR students...and Jacob is the only choice for HD46. We must tell DeVos and her foundations that they are not welcome in #oklaed. Jacob has been supported by legions of neighbors, knocking doors, making calls, hand-writing postcards. Volunteers have streamed down from Edmond every weekend. We know what's at stake and we're committed to Jacob's positive message.

In case you think I'm the only one incensed over this dark money trick, my friend Alison McCormick Petrone described the situation well. I am using her words with her permission:

"American Federation for Children is a voucher peddling SuperPac with chapters in every state attacking Public Ed. They have endorsed Darin Chambers because he believes in vouchers and charters, and created a smear campaign of a dedicated and talented local public school teacher in an attempt to seat another voucher-pushing corporate Private Ed state representative. 
"Public Ed is truly under attack in Oklahoma. This cannot be stated any more clearly. The groups want all of our children to go to corporate, for-profit schools. These D.C. SuperPacs they have created to push their agenda may have bottomless cash bags, but we will not be intimidated by their money and lies because our children deserve a quality public education by birthright as Americans.

"Vote for Jacob Rosecrants! Get out and volunteer for Jacob. Make calls from the Hilton meeting room today through Tues. Get people out to the polls.
"This isn't about Democrat vs Republican. This is about our kids."

I've sent the following to our local paper as a letter to the editor. But, knowing the election is Tuesday, and my letter may not make it into print, I'm sharing it here. So, on the great chance I've missed the deadline to have my letter printed, here it is to be shared.

"There have been some ugly flyers dropped in HD46’s mailboxes, full of innuendo and downright attacks against candidate Jacob Rosecrants. I’ve known Jacob since he was my student in English 1 and English 2 at Central Mid High. I watched him as a student, always with a smile on his face. I watched him create friendships with his classmates, reaching out to everyone, being inclusive and positive. You were never a stranger when Jacob was in the room.

 I watched him decide to become a teacher and those same gifts I saw in the fourteen-year-old Jacob helped him forge climates in his classroom of mutual respect and acceptance. He has taught in some tough schools in OKCPS, and he has thrived.

I saw him show an interest in fighting the school reforms that were damaging his classroom. He educated himself on the issues and found his voice.  As a social studies teacher who takes his role seriously, he began to speak out, to advocate for his students and their families.

Some of the volunteers Saturday morning! 4 Central Mid High folks!
I saw him begin to take an interest in politics, attending meetings, joining party groups, speaking up and speaking out. I’ve seen him educate himself on other issues that voters in our district care deeply about. Jacob has built a grass-roots campaign with volunteers who believe in his message of inclusion, public schools, health care, and adequate funding of schools and other core services. He ran a positive campaign against Representative Scott Martin, learned valuable lessons, and was ready to run again. He has prepared himself to lead.

How ironic that an out-of-state group who works against public schools is now financing the attack ads in our mailboxes. US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos is someone we should trust with our public schools. But she has a long history of favoring privatizing our schools, giving vouchers to private school families, at the expense of public school students and their families. The Oklahoma branch of Ms. DeVos’s foundation, Oklahoma Federation for Children funded attack ads against several of the “Teacher Caucus” candidates in the last election, using their out-of-state funds to blanket districts with what we are now seeing in our district. Vouchers and privatizing schools are their core issues. In the last election cycle, OFC spent $190,000 to attack Teacher Caucus candidates, $180,000 of which came from the National Federation for Children (Oklahoma Watch 1/10/17).

 While we must wonder about the independence of a candidate who would accept assistance from OFC and NFC, we will never doubt Jacob’s support of public schools and adequate funding for our core services.  

Jacob is the independent voice for all of HD46."

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