Ogden’s West Virginia political reporter, Steven Allen Adams, detailed the Republican plans for the upcoming legislative session on the front page of today’s Wheeling newspapers. Most of the article is an interview with Senate President Mitch Carmichael who explains Republican legislative plans as well as leadership changes.
Given the role that teachers played in the last election, the first two paragraphs about education got my attention:
Carmichael officially announced that state Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, will become the new chair of the Senate Education Committee, replacing state Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe.
“She is a former public-school teacher and an amazing advocate for change,” Carmichael said. “She’ll do a great job in bringing forth bills that include school choice as it relates to charter schools, perhaps some education savings accounts, and things that will help our students become more successful in the state.”
“An amazing advocate for change”? What kind of change? Carmichael’s statement hints at a couple of possibilities (charter schools and savings accounts) – but what else? I decided to do some research.
On teaching, home schooling, charter schools and vaccines
The Charleston Gazette-Mail tells us that Rucker did teach public school for two years in Maryland. She and her family then moved to West Virginia “as refugees from socialist Montgomery County" as she later described it. Perhaps because of her experience with public education, she home-schooled all five of her children.
Some of her legislative leadership would also appear to reflect an anti-public education bias. From the G-M:
In this year’s session, Rucker was the lead sponsor of a failed bill to create “education savings accounts,” which provide public money for students to get tutoring and attend private schools and religious schools.
She was also the lead sponsor of successful legislation that eliminated the requirement that home-schooled students earn a high school equivalency degree to be eligible for the state’s Promise Scholarship.
Additionally, as Panhandle Progressive tells us, she sponsored the “Tim Tebow Act” so that home-schoolers could participate in extracurricular activities.
On vaccines, the G-M explains:
She’s also backed several pieces of unsuccessful legislation to allow for more exemptions from vaccine requirements, including requirements for schoolchildren.
Some additional background on Rucker
Last year, Rucker told a Federalist reporter that she originally ran for office to stop socialism. (Rucker is originally from Venezuela.)
Rucker was the president of the local Tea Party and back in 2013, she supported the government shutdown because, as she told NPR:
My biggest problem with Obamacare has always been that the government should have nothing to do with our health care.
Rucker is currently the State Chair of ALEC, the corporate bill-writing organization with connections to the Kochs. Earlier this year, she was named their State Legislator of the Week.
That’s quite a resume.
It should be noted that Steven Allen Adams’ front-page story gives us none of this. Nor does he tell us why this year’s education chair, Kenny Mann (R – Monroe) was replaced. Here, the Gazette-Mail fills us in:
The state’s teachers’ unions support Mann and have opposed Carmichael, who was a big target of public school workers’ ire during their historic statewide strike earlier this year.
Mann was one of two Republican senators who voted against a bill [SB 335] this year that would have required school employee union members to agree each year to have part of their paychecks withheld to pay union dues. The Senate passed that bill, but it died in the House of Delegates.
Mann was obviously not anti-union and anti-teacher enough for Carmichael.
The well-financed PR campaign by the West Virginia Republican Party on education that began earlier this year is obviously still ongoing and Ogden Newspapers continue to play their part. Last Saturday, Editor Mike Myer again used his column to further support the effort:
All that may help his [Justice’s] popularity with some public school employees. But the “Remember” movement really wasn’t about their grievances. It was a carefully manipulated campaign to kick Republicans out of office and replace them with Democrats. Again, it’ll continue.
Can Myer get any more condescending? Yes, those public employees are so easily manipulated by Democrats. And an Intelligencer editorial even warned them last March. Fortunately, we have Adams, Myer and Ogden newspapers supporting the Republican propaganda campaign from which we all can learn.