The battle over the UFT contract agreement has gotten me thinking about public relations and messaging.
Earlier I wrote a post asking people to start thinking through the p.r. war that is sure to come if the UFT contract agreement is voted down.
My argument basically was this:
Contracts are not negotiated in
isolation of the political environment - what gets reported in the
press, the propaganda that gets spewed, affects negotiations.
more importantly, it affects the kind of support teachers can get from
the public on a whole host of things, not just contract negotiations,
but school policies, charter vs. trad schools, etc.
We have to start to find effective ways to get our message out in the face of a hostile corporate print press and electronic news media.
This is true not just in this contract fight but in the fight against the corporate reform agenda and its proponents as a whole
What first spurred this on for me was watching the fight between Eva Moskowitz and Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio had the moral high ground here when his chancellor announced that three Success Academies co-locations were being canceled - one of which would have taken space away from special needs kids, another of which would have put young elementary school kids in the same building where high school kids rioted in the recent past.
Despite de Blasio inhabiting the moral high ground in this battle, Moskowitz went on a p.r. offensive worthy of a presidential campaign, reached out to Governor Andrew Cuomo and other charter-friendly politicians with entreaties and campaign cash and, in the end, thoroughly routed de Blasio.
Moskowitz managed to do what GOP consultant Karl Rove always said political campaigns should do - she made her own weakness into a strength and her opponents strength into a weakness.
Eva played the victim here, messaging to the public through press conferences and ads that played over and over that her "kids" were being thrown out onto the street by the charter-hating Mayor de Blasio.
The truth was, Eva was throwing deaf kids out of their school space, but de Blasio and Farina never got that message out to the public and wound up smeared as the villains in the charter wars.
This was a sophisticated and masterful p.r. operation, one that was most certainly helped by the $4 million+ Moskowitz and her hedge fundie friends could spend on ads.
Nonetheless we should not dismiss the masterfulness and sophistication of the Eva p.r. operation just because she had the money to get her message out.
Instead we must find ways to match the sophistication and masterfulness in the messaging wars against the deformers and their destructive agenda, and do it without the help of the money that Moskowitz has behind her.
We know we cannot count on the unions because they are playing for their own interests and those often do not coincide with the interests of teachers looking to protect traditional public schools, the teaching profession, etc.
I stand in awe of what Karen Lewis and CTU managed to do in Chicago, reaching out to parents in a long-term effort to find common cause against the deformers.
I see some of the same happening in the battle against Common Core, the Endless Testing regime and APPR teacher evaluations.
While many parents are not necessarily going to go out of their way to fight for fair evaluations for teachers, they show much more willingness to do so when it becomes apparent that APPR evaluations are behind so much of the Endless Testing.
When it was just teachers complaining about Common Core, the papers were pretty brutal toward CCSS critics.
But when parents joined the protests, suddenly the paper coverage got a lot more nuanced and fair (in Newsday in particular.)
I think there are some lessons here that we can use going forward as we try and combat the messaging of the deformers in the p.r. wars.
More and more, I am becoming convinced that we must get more sophisticated and masterful in how we approach the p.r. wars against the deform movement - not just in the contract battle, but in the whole "war" against corporate reform.
I know there is a lot of anger and fury among teachers that has been building up for over a decade.
I share this anger and fury with you.
I don't think coming from a place of anger and fury is a terribly effective way to actually get the outcomes we want, either short-term or long-term, however.
So, finding a way to channel our anger and fury and get a coherent message out despite the millions of dollars the other side has for p.r. - this must be our task going forward.