An activist group, Tennessee Education Report, has ramped up its efforts in encouraging teachers in the state to strike through a series of three posts in as many weeks on its blog, as The Tennessee Star reported.
Andy Spears is the head of the Tennessee Education Report.
“Teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Los Angeles have experienced some level of success in recent strikes. Teachers in Virginia were on strike today. These strikes have earned the support of parents and community members and have yielded tangible results both in terms of new investments in schools and increased political power for teachers,” Spears wrote in a January article titled, “When are teacher strikes coming to Tennessee?”
“Here in Tennessee, however, teachers have yet to strike. In fact, it’s difficult to find serious discussion of a strike. Sure, our investment in schools is less now than when Bill Haslam took over ($67 less per student in inflation-adjusted dollars). And yes, our teachers earn among the lowest salaries in the region with no significant improvement in recent years. Oh, and our own Comptroller says we’re at least $500 million short of what we need to adequately fund schools. A closer look at what the state’s BEP Committee leaves out reveals that number is very likely $1 billion,” he added.
“So, when will Tennessee teachers strike?” Spears wrote.
This, despite the fact that teacher strikes are illegal in the state of Tennessee.
Here’s what the law states:
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-606, Education Personnel, Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011, Unlawful Acts (b) It is unlawful for a professional employees’ organization or its representatives to (4) engage in a strike; (5) urge, coerce or encourage others to engage in unlawful acts as defined in this part
Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-607 Strikes – Remedies (5) When local boards of education have determined which employees have engaged in or participated in a strike, the employees may be subject to dismissal and, further, shall forfeit their claim to tenure status, if they have attained tenure, and shall revert to probationary status for the next five-year period. Any professional employee who engaged in, or participated in, a strike and who is not a tenured teacher may also be subject to dismissal.
A commenter on Spears’ article if it is illegal for teachers to strike in Tennessee. Spears responded, in part, “Yes, striking is technically illegal” but that it is also illegal in other states, parenthetically referencing Kentucky and Ohio.
Despite the potential loss of a job and forfeiture of tenure status for striking, Spears told the commenter, “those telling you ‘not to strike’ are not on your side.”
Strong Schools Connection
Strong Schools is a Political Action Committee (PAC) that was started in 2014 and focused on the May primary elections for County Commission in Sumner County. The group, with Andy Spears as its executive director, favored additional allocations by the Sumner County Commission to Sumner County Schools.
Williamson Strong, based in Williamson County, Tennessee, sprang up at around the same time also with a similar focus on elections.
While “strong schools” organizations present as developing organically out of a local need to support schools, particularly with a view toward additional funding, an internet search will reveal that the moniker is used in various places around the country, and using similar messaging.
In 2014, Strong Schools supported candidates in Sumner County defeated many of the conservative candidates running for County Commission. Just a few months later, a 24 percent property tax increase was approved with all of the Strong Schools candidates voting in favor of it.
For the August 2018 general election, Sumner’s Strong Schools PAC once again endorsed County Commission candidates. The endorsements included candidates running as Democrats, Independents and Republicans, but none that identified as conservatives.
Most of the recent public posts to Sumner’s Strong Schools Facebook page are from Spears’ Tennessee Education Report.
The most recent Tennessee Education Report post dated April 5, tells of a parent group – Tennessee Strong – and the plan for action regarding proposed “voucher” legislation at the Cordell Hull Building at noon on Tuesday, April 9.
Link To George Soros-Funded Organization
Another one of Spears’ organizations, Tennessee Citizen Action, is a “member organization” of People’s Action Institute or its associated 501(c)4 or People’s Action, according to Influence Watch, a Capital Research Center project.
Indeed, the People’s Action website states that it is a national organization that is driven by local and state organizing. The site encourages, “Take action in your community by joining one of our member organizations,” under which 26 states are listed, including Tennessee. Tennessee’s only listed member organization is Tennessee Citizen Action, that lists Andy Spears as its Executive Director.
“People’s Action Institute is one of the most aggressive left-wing advocacy organizations” according to Influence Watch. The group formed in 2016 from the merger of several progressive agitation groups, including National People’s Action, Alliance for a Just Society and USAction Education Fund, also says Influence Watch.
According to its website, “The mission of People’s Action Institute is to advance a long-term agenda for racial, economic and gender justice by investing in powerful state and local organizations and campaigns that win real change in people’s lives.”
With People’s Action Institute or its associated People’s Action apparently not disclosing its donors, Influence Watch looked at contributions by progressive foundations to its predecessor organizations and found that George Soros’ Foundation to Promote an Open Society was one of the substantial contributors.
Activist Facts is a website created by Center of Organization Research and Education (CORE), through analyzing media clippings official statements and government documents that includes a database of detailed information about organizations and activists.
Activist Facts calling out National People’s Action, one of the predecessor organizations to People’s Action, for its actions and funding, says “The Chicago-based, union-associated, and George Soros-funded organization is somewhat notorious for radical, over-the-line campaigning tactics that resort to demonstrations in residential neighborhoods designed to intimidate employees of financial services firms.”
National People’s Action, according to Activist Facts, “is heavily backed by left-wing foundations in the United States,” having received $1.2 million since 2009 from multi-billionaire financier George Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society.
People’s Action Institute’s director is George Goehl, who co-sponsored a demonstration at the U.S. Mexico border against the separation of immigrant families. Goehl was one of eight credited by left-leaning newspaper The Guardian as “leaders of the grassroots resistance” to Donald Trump.
Resisting President Donald Trump
Resistance to Donald Trump is another area where Spears’ aligns with People’s Action’s Goehl.
While Tennessee elected Donald Trump as President of the United States with nearly 61 percent of the vote and more than a 25 percent margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, Spears protested the President at a 2017 rally in Nashville.
Spears looked proud as he displayed a banner outside the rally disparaging the President, a picture of which was shared on Twitter.
In another tweet, Spears replied to then U.S. Senator Bob Corker that @realDonaldTrump, using the President’s Twitter handle, is the greatest threat our nation is facing.
— Andy Spears (@TheAndySpears) September 14, 2017
Here are some of his other anti-Trump tweets:
You failed. You fail us every single day. It's long past time. #TrumpResign
— Andy Spears (@TheAndySpears) August 24, 2017
— Andy Spears (@TheAndySpears) August 21, 2017
As the Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action, Spears wrote a piece for the OurFuture.org blog, which bills itself as the “daily progressive strategy and insights from People’s Action.” In the article, Spears tells of a march against Trump’s planned repeal of Obamacare held in March of 2017 organized by a coalition including his Tennessee Citizen Action, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), Nashville Indivisible, Planned Parenthood and others.
— The Resistance Party (@ResistanceParty) March 15, 2017
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