The State Policy Network (SPN) is an alliance of 66 rightwing “ideas factories” that span every state in the nation. SPN uses its $80m war chest – funded by billionaire super-donors such as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that flows from the Walmart fortune – to coordinate conservative strategy across the country. Another financial backer of SPN is the billionaire DeVos family of the Amway empire. Betsy DeVos is the current education secretary in the Trump administration.
SPN’s previous campaigns have included a plan to “defund and defang” public sector unions. Now it is turning its firepower on the striking teachers. The new rightwing strategy is to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay. Teacher strikes and wildcat actions have been spreading across the US against unlivable wages and savage Republican cuts to education budgets at the same time as they are cutting taxes.
The SPN document urges its followers to attack the walkouts stealthily, rather than criticising them directly. Top of the list of talking points is the claim that “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families”. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that “it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.” SPN’s talking points advise rightwing activists to emphasise the damage done to “good” teachers by the strikes instead of trying to justify low pay for all teachers. Similarly, attacking teachers for asking for more funding for schools would not be a winning argument, so SPN urges its followers to emphasise instead “red tape and bureaucracy”.