Trying to Muzzle Arne: The Intersection of the Fight for a Health Care and the Race to the Top, Are Teachers a Key to Passage of Health Care?



Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod were sitting in the back room of their favorite Chinese restaurant, you can’t do “politics” in the White House. Scattered across the table were Kung Po Chicken stained sheets of paper. Some with “Definite Yes,” others “Definite No,” and other “Maybe.”
Rahm: “We need thirty or forty more votes, how can we lean on them …?”
David: “Nancy is doing all she can …”
Rahm: “We need phones calls, emails, visits to their offices, we need daily pressure … when they go home for the recess they have be under pressure each and every day…”
David: “Call Weingarten”
Rahm: “What can she do …?”
David: “Her members are in every congressional district, every precinct, every election district. They understand the issues, they’re articulate, they’re teachers … she can get them out on the streets, she can make all the ‘maybes’ squirm.”
Rahm: “Call her, call her now …set up a meeting, what are we waiting for …”
David: “You have to call Valerie first … she has to speak to Barrack … Arne has been bashing Randi’s people for months … “
Rahm: “What are you talking about …”
David: “This merit pay, pay for performance, lifting the cap on the number of charter schools, making it easier to dismiss teachers, threatening states over the Race to the Top funds … it pisses off Randi and it pisses off her members … you gotta get Arne to back off …”
Rahm: “Barrack loves Arne … if Arne pushes back Barrack isn’t going to lean on him”
David: “Does Barrack want health care? Does he want another term? Weingarten is the key to health care … make her happy and we’re over the top.”
Rahm: “Do what you have to do … make her happy.” 
                                                                * * *
I am constantly surprised that well educated Americans have such a high-minded view of the day-to-day politics that results in the passage of legislation. They bemoan the “deal-making” and yearn for the days when politics was pure. Days that never existed.
Thomas Jefferson hired James Callender, a “scandalmonger” to besmirch the reputation of his arch rival Alexander Hamilton over an affair, probably began for the sole purpose of collecting blackmail.
The election of 1800, the first truly partisan election makes the election of 2000 look fair and balanced.
Getting legislation passed involves building a constituency, and ofttimes trading one idea for another, frequently in unrelated bills.
The Assembly School Governance bill passed with, if I remember correctly with only 14 “no” votes. How is it possible? The blogs may have been totally on the “no” side, many advocacy organizations were opposed to the bill, however, I spoke with a legislator and asked, “how many of your actual constituents, voters in your district, contacted you over the bill?” His answer, “none.”  All the emails and letters and visits came from partisans, none of whom voted for, or against him.
During the congestion pricing debate that same legislator, in spite of Bloomberg promises of perks for his community opposed the plan, he opposed it for a simple reason, he was overwhelmed by constituents,  ordinary voters opposing the plan.
During the mid-July AFT sponsored Washington Education Conference attendees visited their legislators. On Tuesday, July 28th the AFT sponsored a call your legislator campaign
 Thank you to everyone who has mobilized and urged your legislators in Congress to support healthcare reform. AFT members and activists like you have generated thousands of calls to Capitol Hill. Congress is taking notice.  


Lawmakers are in intense debate regarding what form the final healthcare legislation will take. We need to keep up the pressure!


Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 28, AFT and our allies, including HCAN (Healthcare for American Now), are having another national call-in day.

 The number to call is 877/264-4226. Press 1 to contact the U.S House of Representatives. When prompted, enter your 10-digit telephone number to be connected directly to your representative. Urge your member of Congress to support healthcare reform now.


Make no mistake: People who prefer the status quo and oppose healthcare reform have contacted Congress, as well. We cannot let those who support killing healthcare reform to succeed. There is too much at stake.

AFT members are supporting health care because their leadership thinks its the right thing to do. Rising health care costs are an enormous burden on local governments, who pay for teacher health plans. Rising health care costs make negotiating higher salaries more difficult.

We are currently in the “comment period” for the Race to the Top, and the AFT is submitting their views, as well as probably everyone else. The USDOE will publish final regs and the states will file applications … there are two tiers of applications, this fall and next spring. Among teachers, and some scholars, there is the nagging feeling that Arne just might be wrong, after all, in spite of the press releases, Chicago is not an educational miracle.

The health care bill is on hold until Congress returns from their August recess.

Let’s see who prevails, Rahm and David, or Arne …




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