Over at ThirdBasePolitics, I saw a post boasting about a “teachers’ organization” that is publicly in support of SB 5. The organization is called “Association of American Educators,” who had an issued statement in favor of SB 5 that was included in a report by WEWS Channel 5 in Cleveland last week.
Since I thought I was aware of most major players in education, I was surprised to hear of this teachers’ organization that supported SB 5. When I went to their website, I realized why I hadn’t heard about them: they’re located in California. And while they have State chapters in nine States, Ohio isn’t one of them.
What’s also surprising is that their statement in support of SB 5 omits any indication of how many, if any, members they have are from Ohio, which is remarkable since they’re being quoted in a news story as attitudes about the referendum on SB 5 in Ohio. I contacted the AAE to ask how many of their “300,000” teachers nationwide are from Ohio. If they return my call, I’ll update my story with the number. What is telling is that so far the AAE has never featured an Ohio member in its statement’s about SB 5.
What’s even more remarkable is that you can join AAE and have no background in teaching at all. Yes, this is a non-union organization that claims to represent teachers that doesn’t restrict its membership to teachers or former teachers. And this doesn’t just apply to membership. The organization was founded in 1994 and is still lead by Gary Beckner, who has no experience as an educator, nor does its Associate Director or its Director of National Projects (who came over from the Heritage Foundation).
And AAE is not “just interested in the kids” as TBP pretends. It’s main drive is to oppose unions in education. Again just look at this Dispatch column by Mr. Beckner. The AAE is an astroturfing organization that is designed to promote charter schools and “right-to-work” laws in education. That’s why it’s no surprise to see the organization regularly team up with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to oppose public school unions.
And it makes sense given that both the AAE’s Foundation gets donations from conservative donors like:
- The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation which is supports about every year along with NRWLDF.
- The John M. Olin Foundation, before it closed in 2005.
- The Walton Family Foundation (the family behind anti-union WalMart)
- The Jaquelin Hume Foundation;
- The Randolph Foundation;
- The Scaife Family Foundation (yes, that Scaife, as in Richard Mellon Scaife) ;
- The Anschutz Foundation (which is control by the same gentleman behind Walden Media, which distributed the pro-charter school voucher movie “Waiting for Superman”).
Many of whom also donate to anti-union, so-called “Right to Work” organizations like the NRWLDF, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity.
But that’s not all the AAE’s undisclosed conflicts, as this AAE hit piece on the NEA demonstrates, they’re interesting in replacing the NEA as the premiere “teachers” organization on public education policy matters. The AAE doesn’t just want the NEA to lose the ability to collect dues; the AAE wants to pick them up from the NEA. So no, AAE isn’t in it “just for the kids.” Hardly. They support SB 5 because they view the NEA and other teacher unions as competitors to their efforts to collect dues and sell insurance policies to their members.
So what we’ve got is a conservative, anti-union astroturfing organization that is supporting the legislative agenda of Americans for Prosperity, which shares some of the same major institutional donors. Americans for Prosperity who is also training the Tea Party organizations to serve as “grass roots” organizations that support SB 5 as well. It’s the conservative circle of astroturfing.
Don’t forget Third Base Politics is no stranger to astroturfing. All last year it served as an astroturfing outfit for the Kasich campaign while its main writer, an out-0f-state resident, was getting paid over $11k by the Ohio GOP to attack Strickland on the Internet. Now, it’s throwing up California-made astroturf and declaring it grassroots support for SB 5. Maybe after awhile that plastic grass really does start to look real. It sure seemed to fool the media.