Being CCEA means never having to say you’re sorry

First, to recap the story (reported by Ralston): The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) ran an ad saying let’s not bother with raising the minimum wage let’s just focus on spending more money on education. Then the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) issued a release saying no, raising the minimum wage is important too and we can walk and chew gum at the same time (or words to that effect) and by the way CCEA you are “crass.” And then the director of the county association responded to the state association by saying: “They’ll be out of business in two years. You can quote me on that.”

The CCEA ad, which as of Thursday morning had been deleted from the internet, showed pictures of children while a child doing the voiceover said: “Nevada legislators are debating raising the minimum wage. But they need to hear our voices…and start talking about raising education funding, so we don’t grow up needing a minimum wage job.”

Here’s NSEA’s response:

The CCEA and its director, John Vellardita, have been playing footsie (crass political triangulation) with legislative Republicans, expecting that to pay off via more money to particular schools and programs to account for particular needs and challenges — the “weighted funding” reform that nearly everyone agrees is a great idea but that of course there isn’t enough money to fund properly because come on it’s important but it’s not like it’s a football stadium amirite?

CCEA is making a calculation, perhaps not stupid, that at the end of the session when legislators and lobbyists and political consultants finally get around to deciding what’s going to get funded and what isn’t, Democrats can’t be trusted to go the mat against Republicans and their veto-pen-brandishing governor for weighted funding. So if you can’t count on legislative Democrats (a sentiment with which I am not unsympathetic), then you’ve got to get Republicans on board. And if that means CCEA sits on its hands in the fight against vouchers, well, as the moonies in the education “reform” movement like to say “school choice is the civil rights movement of our time.”

I am not in Carson City (and never will be) and frankly haven’t been following the Legislature all that closely. It mostly looks like the longest campaign event of the 2018 cycle. GOP senate leader Michael Roberson is hell-bent on never letting a Republican get to his right in a congressional primary again, and Aaron Ford, the senate majority leader, is running for … attorney general, governor, some damned thing. But posturing and positioning notwithstanding, I’ve never had much faith that Democrats would tell Sandoval and Roberson that the only way they get their holy sacred vouchers is by signing off on, say, a significant minimum wage hike and paid sick leave. Agreeing to fund vouchers in exchange for modest progress on weighted funding that Republicans may already be predisposed to support anyway — now that sounds exactly like the Lilliputian sort of deal we’ve come to expect from Democratic legislative majorities over the years. Ford has been mealy-mouthed on vouchers, by the way. But I’m digressing from the point I want to make, which is this:

Relegating the ad to the cyberdumpster is not enough. CCEA needs to apologize to parents, former students and other working Nevadans for being so recklessly disrespectful, so shamefully ignorant, so … well … Republican, about the very real need for higher wages in Nevada. And that apology should include CCEA’s full-throated support for raising the wage.

Of course, that’s not what we’ve got. What we’ve got, as of Thursday morning, is Vellardita swinging his dick around and tossing rhetorical flash grenades, all while conspicuously failing to address the wage issue at all. It sounds like something Trump would do. Indeed, one wonders how Vellardita resisted the urge, while predicting NSEA’s demise, to describe NSEA as “failing.”

Another thing we’ve got is CCEA declaring in a branded messaging campaign that weighted funding “is the heart of social justice” and so “should be the number one social justice issue this legislative session.”

Weighted funding is fine and good and should happen, but declaring it “the heart of social justice” is not only naïve, but an echo of Republicans and education “reformers” who use education as a distraction so they don’t have to discuss more urgent and consequential — and more politically difficult — issues.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere (including but not limited to here, and here, and here), education isn’t going to make minimum wage jobs disappear. Education isn’t going to force employers to start paying a decent wage or provide workers with even the most basic benefits, such as paid sick leave. As I’ve said before and will say again (and again and again probably): If we could snap our fingers and tomorrow every adult Nevadan had an advanced degree in a STEM field, hundreds of thousands of them would still be working in jobs that suck, because those are the jobs we’ve got, and those are in large part the jobs we will continue to have for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know if Vellardita and CCEA are ignorant or cynical — not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course. But the entire thrust of that organization right now appears to be pitting education against the larger community while reinforcing Republican narratives. It might work in the short term. In the long term, CCEA is undermining the actual fight against income inequality and for, as CCEA puts it, “social justice,” while strengthening the hand of those who, if they could, would wipe teachers unions from the face of the earth.