Koch Brothers, Haslam Gang Up on Gloria Johnson

The race for Tennessee’s 13th District House Seat features incumbent Democrat Gloria Johnson versus an army of out-of-state special interest groups who have teamed up with Governor Bill Haslam to unseat one of the most outspoken defenders of public education in the General Assembly.

Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity has sent mailer after mailer comparing Johnson to such horrible figures as Lane Kiffin and Barack Obama (it is difficult to tell which of the two is viewed less favorably in Knoxville).

The Tennessee Federation for Children has spent $100,000 against Johnson. The outfit is curiously named, since it is based in Washington, DC, and doesn’t have a Tennessee presence until it is time to push for risky and expensive voucher schemes at the General Assembly. Thanks in part to Johnson’s leadership, the TFC’s voucher plans have failed in two consecutive General Assemblies. Now, they’re coming after Johnson.

Joining (leading?) the parade of attacks against Johnson is Governor Bill Haslam. His Advance Tennessee PAC is spending $50,000 on a new TV attack ad against Johnson.

What’s Haslam’s beef against the Knoxville teacher-legislator? Gloria Johnson has routinely criticized Haslam for his lack of leadership and general failure to communicate, especially when it comes to education issues.

Johnson correctly warned that Common Core would die in Tennessee unless Haslam did a better job of talking with teachers and parents about the merits of the program.

The good news for Johnson is that Haslam and the Koch Brothers teamed up with TFC in the primary in August to challenge Republicans who weren’t sufficiently in support of privatizing public schools, and they lost many of those races.

Of course, a teacher and defender of public schools can’t compete dollar-for-dollar with such intense spending. But the focus on House District 13 when the GOP already holds a big majority in the General Assembly makes one wonder what exactly these groups want for their money.

I wrote a piece about the GOP 2013 legislative agenda on education that I think is exactly what these groups want to see pass in 2015. If only they can get Gloria Johnson out of the way.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

3 thoughts on “Koch Brothers, Haslam Gang Up on Gloria Johnson

  1. My issue with Johnson is her bill to create Community Schools. The bill is an overreach into the parents responsibility to take care of their children. She bought the poison packaged as perfume. The agenda pushing these schools will lead to our schools being data collection centers under one roof. The school IS NOT and should not be the center of the community. Church and the family should be the center of the community. Schools should educate not parent our children. This will lead to children thinking the government takes care of their needs. Indoctrination data collection centers. Our legislators need to do much research before they sell.out our children to the snake oil salesman.

  2. Karen, you have a very idealistic view of our country. If we want to change things for the better, it’s time to be realistic: If children in poverty do not get “wrap-around” services that community schools provide, they are unlikely to succeed in school and will likely continue the chain of generational poverty.

    These children often have no stability and very often the only stability they find is at school. We cannot expect people in deeply rooted poverty to be able to easily pull themselves out of it. And we can’t expect parents who are struggling under immense pressure to suddenly become more engaged with their children and their education. If we do not intervene at an early age with these children, they will have little hope of pulling themselves out of poverty on their own.

    It would be wonderful if religious organizations/churches provided these wrap-around services–including free preschool–but most of them don’t. And the ones that do clearly cannot meet the needs of every needy child in our country. So, until the private sector (i.e., churches, non-profit organizations) can do so, it is left up to the government to try and end this cycle of poverty.

    By providing these precious children with the supports they need, they will gain the skills needed to succeed on their own–without government aid. They will actually have a chance at having a fulfilling, “successful” life. Or we could just sit back and do nothing, as you suggest, and watch these children who, by no fault of their own, struggle to survive. I, for one, am not going to wait for our selfish society to finally step up to the plate and start looking out for our fellow man as Christ commanded us to do.

    The cycle must end. And once it ends, perhaps the family and/or church will become the center of our communities again. But to reach that idealistic goal, you must first be realistic…

  3. Pingback: Tennessee Education Report | Tennesseans Against Liberals?

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