It was like going to a Marine Corp base and talking about strengthening the military, or a Chrysler assembly line and giving a pro-union speech. The pResident came to Eden Prairie, Minnesota yesterday to tell the world about the importance of education and how "noble" the teaching profession is.
Promoting education in Eden Prairie is about as tough as promoting free beer at a frat house. A little demographics: EP is about 92% white, the cheapest home would cost about $150,000 (the average is between $200-$350K, with many over $million), and the graduation rate is about 90%, with almost that many going on to college. Eden Prairie is what Bush loves about America--it's rich, it's white, and it's very GOP.
You can tell which cars belong to the teachers in the high school parking lot--they're the ones over five years old or have rust on them. The kids drive SUVs, cute little sports cars, or daddy's old "Beemer." This was the kind of audience Bush loves--the children of trust fund babies and the nouveau riche. A real "let them eat cake" crowd.
Bush gave lip service to the teachers and their "noble profession,"
talking about student loan forgiveness for those that teach
in "needy areas" (like Eden Prairie?), and tax deductions for teachers on the money they spend out of pocket for classroom supplies. One Minnesota teacher had the courage to speak up on radio. She said, "The average teacher spends $600 out
of her pocket per year for classroom supplies, thanks to budget cuts. They would get back $106 of those dollars if they itemized their tax returns...most teachers in Minnesota don't make enough money to afford a mortgage so they don't need
to use the itemized form."
Bush did praise one teacher from a "needy area," a teacher he brought
up on stage from Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis. Patrick
Henry is the antithesis of Eden Prairie--mostly black, inner city, lower
income--a tough school with
tough kids who don't usually go to college but do kick everyone's asses in the state basketball tournament. Bush smartly brought the teacher from Henry down to Eden Prairie. I can't imagine his message would have sold as well there.
So, if you saw Bush on Peter Jennings last night speaking to a throng
of cheering students, don't get too excited. Eden Prairie
is whiter than Britney Spears' teeth, impoverished like the Hamptons, and about as progressive as the Flat Earth Society.
He was preaching to the choir, and got the exact response he was looking for.