Teachers Triumph, Freedom Foundation Falters Again in California

After a historic six-day strike, Los Angeles teachers scored a major victory for working people and the nation’s public education system. Teachers in the country’s second-largest school system reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday that includes reduced class sizes, mandated support staff, raises for educators, and a pathway to cap corporate-funded charter schools.

This momentous achievement remains a direct result of the collective action of tens of thousands of educators and allies who braved uncharacteristically poor L.A. weather in a massive display of solidarity against the billionaire-funded assault on public education. This triumph is the latest in a nationwide wave of teacher activism and, rest assured, as working people flex their collective muscle for the greater good, there’s one organization that is none too pleased: the Freedom Foundation.

The Freedom Foundation’s campaigns in the Northwest have proven massive failures, wasting millions of their funders’ dollars while inadvertently boosting union membership in states like Washington. As their ineffectiveness in the Northwest became increasingly clear, the Freedom Foundation turned the attention of their failed “Opt Out Today” campaign to states like Vermont and Massachusetts through digital advertising. When it became clear that Los Angeles teachers would strike, the Freedom Foundation and their cohorts at the Koch-funded State Policy Network fixated on the Golden State and attempted to undermine striking teachers.

The California Policy Center, one of the state’s State Policy Network affiliates and ally of the Freedom Foundation, put up billboards badgering teachers about their union membership while Freedom Foundation staffers took to the L.A. Times to propagate their billionaire-funded agenda. Both organizations ran Facebook ads and a plethora of other social media posts aimed at causing division amongst striking educators. These tactics aren’t new for the anti-worker network; the Freedom Foundation has a history of actively trying to undermine striking teachers, including sending staffer Jami Lund to Oklahoma during the state’s 2018 teachers’ strike.

In their L.A. Times op-ed, Freedom Foundation vice president of operations Bob Wickers joined their California outreach director Sam Coleman to push a style of collective bargaining that they think will undermine unions. It’s something they have been pushing for years in Washington State and something the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) already ruled illegal. After failing in their home state, the Freedom Foundation seized on the opportunity of the L.A. strike to sow seeds of division and push their nonstarter policy initiative.

As long as working people are organized and fighting for the betterment of their communities, you can count on the national network of billionaire-funded front groups to show up in opposition. The Los Angeles strike was as much a fervent defense of public education as it was a movement to improve conditions for students and workers. The rapid expansion of unregulated, corporate-funded charter schools in Los Angeles is a direct result of a privatization campaign led by a small group of wealthy donors, including major State Policy Network funders like the Walton Family. Charter schools are predominately unorganized (for now). By bankrolling their expansion, billionaire donors see an opportunity to erode the power of unions and their support for pro-worker, pro-education policies. As the stated mission of the State Policy Network and the Freedom Foundation is to take away the power of organized workers and “defund and defang” unions, their support for charter schools falls right in line with their agenda.

The success of the L.A. teachers strike once again proved the power of working people. It also proved the Freedom Foundation is desperate to undermine workers whenever and wherever they unite. As they are wont to do, the Freedom Foundation and their partners once again failed.