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An apple core with an out of focus apple in the background
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's favorability is in the toilet, something that's probably not going to be helped by the vicious cuts to Philadelphia schools that are on the way. Lucky for Corbett, a new poll from Republican polling outfit Public Opinion Strategies lays out a path forward: attack the teachers union.

Even the time-honored divide-and-conquer strategy is less than a sure thing, though, Daniel Denvir writes, noting that the poll assumes anti-teacher messaging would prevail:

First, the poll asks whether voters would support state and local funding along with teacher givebacks to close the budget gap only against the inherently unattractive options of "insolvency" and "increased borrowing." Second, the poll fails to sound out how a potential teachers union messages would resonate: Should teachers be hired and fired based on students' high-stakes standardized tests?

Notably, the poll does not query voters as to their attitude toward the nearly $1 billion in budget cuts to schools orchestrated by Corbett, which have affected school districts statewide and forced many to enact extraordinary property tax hikes.

The conclusion that "voters' preferred method is a combination of state funding and PFT concessions" is simply not supported by the data. Instead, it seems to reflect the "school reform" movement's anxiety to disassociate a controversial cocktail of charter school expansion, taxpayer-funded vouchers for private-school tuition, and high-stakes standardized testing from the almost universally reviled budget cuts.

Finally, the poll does not ask whether teacher pay should be cut as a freestanding question. The fact that so many said that they oppose eliminating salary hikes based on seniority and continuing education indicates that they would likely also oppose pay cuts—perhaps even more strongly.

When Corbett and his allies roll out attacks on Philadelphia's teachers, or hold the city's public education system hostage to major concessions by teachers, remember that it was planned and polled. Corbett and groups like StudentsFirst and Stand for Children want to convince voters that making teaching a job no one with options would want to take is the way to improve education. The problem with the logic in that sentence is pretty obviously flawed—just try to remember that once Republicans have put the full weight of their message machine behind it.

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Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 03:37 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Pittsburgh Area Kossacks, Philly Kos, DKos Pennsylvania, and Daily Kos.

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