Richard D. Kahlenberg, Washington Post, 2011 - Walker's argument - that greedy teachers are putting their own interests over the interests of the public - resonates in part because in recent years, many Democrats have made that argument as well.
Exhibit A is former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Under Democratic mayor Adrian Fenty, she repeatedly clashed with the Washington Teachers' Union, which she said put the interests of adults over those of children. "Cooperation, collaboration, and consensus-building are way overrated," Rhee said at the Aspen Institute's education summit in 2008. She told journalist John Merrow it is imperative that teachers-union bargaining rights exclude issues such as devising a fair teacher-evaluation system.
Since resigning as chancellor last year, Rhee has launched a new organization, Students First, with the express goal of raising $1 billion to counter teachers unions. Her approach remains confrontational. In a profound sense, Democrats like Michelle Rhee have paved the way for Scott Walker.
But Rhee couldn't have done it alone. Then-candidate Barack Obama endorsed Rhee in a 2008 debate as a "wonderful new superintendent" and later applauded the firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. (The teachers were later rehired.) Rhee's agenda also received a big boost from liberal movie director Davis Guggenheim, whose film, "Waiting for 'Superman,' " implies that teachers unions are to blame for the failures of urban education and that non-unionized charter schools are the solution. The movie includes no acknowledgment that the things teachers want for themselves - more resources devoted to education, smaller class sizes, policies that allow them to keep order in the classroom - are also good for kids.