The Growing Power of The Teachers Unions

Show Notes

As Peter Schweizer says to kick off the latest episode of the Drill Down podcast, “Parents are in a full-blown revolt.”

Parent anger centers on COVID-19 lockdowns of the public schools, but also on what their schools are teaching. Critical Race Theory gets all the attention and has galvanized thousands of parents to speak out at their local school board meetings in the past year. In Virginia this past November, the issue cost Democrats the governor’s seat.

The lockdowns, the racialized curriculum and schools rushing to teach young children about transsexualism, the progressive politics and social activism – all of it is driven by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) – two of the most powerful unions in the nation.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, head of the National Education Association (NEA), confirmed to Education Week that the core business of the NEA is no longer pensions and health insurance, but social activism and political lobbying.

Her counterpart at the AFT is no different. “Much of the politics and many of the policies pushed by Randi Weingarten detract from the original purpose of the union, which was to bargain collectively to increase the pay and protect the rights of workers in education and other public services. [attribution?] Rather than focus on pension issues and protection against mistreatment, Randi Weingarten’s agenda has emphasized radical changes in education that do not serve students or teachers.”

The Government Accountability Institute (GAI) released a brand new report this week on the influence of the teachers unions on our schools and our politics. “Teachers Unions: From Academics to Activists – How Teachers Unions Reward Insiders, Promote Political Activism, and Push A Divisive Agenda.Co-hosts Eric Eggers and former congressman Jason Chaffetz join Peter to discuss the report, the massive power of the teachers unions on American education, and hopes for reform.

The report shows how, since the emergence of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, teachers unions have pressed for continued school closures across the U.S. In cities such as Chicago, Newark, Atlanta, teachers unions’ have used their clout to press for remote learning as they come back from winter break, provoking anger from parents and at-risk students.

GAI’s report also details how the AFT under Randi Weingarten’s presidency has vastly increased its political spending since she took control, from $3.7 million in 2008 to about $20 million during the last election cycle. More than 99% of that money went to Democrats running in federal races. The report documents how the union dues of teachers are passed to radical social justice groups. The NEA donated approximately $726,200 to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which bills itself as a “leading national organization working to guarantee LGBTQ+ students safe and affirming education.” During the last three years, the AFT and NEA have donated approximately $3 million to pass-through groups that then fund Black Lives Matter organizations.

GAI looked at AFT’s annual resolutions to measure where their focus really is. The analysis contained in the report showed the most frequent topics discussed in AFT resolutions in 2020 and 2021 were COVID-19, elections, race, violence, and criminal justice, followed by “education.”

Peter and Jason then discuss innocuous-sounding “community schools.” Who could be against that? As Jason says, “it’s a counterfeit argument.”

The idea has been around for over three decades in the US, but the Biden Administration financial wants to increase it fourteen-fold, from $30 million to more than $400 million per year. A bill in Congress would spend $3.65 billion over the next five years on community schools. Why?

The answer is “wrap-around services.” The community school idea seeks to offer all sorts of other programs, from day care and health services to haircuts, in their community. While it might sound nice, in the teachers unions lobby federal and local governments and partner with union insiders to provide these wraparound services, taking focus away from both their educational mission and their focus on representing teachers in collective bargaining, according to the report.

Also, the most troublesome aspect of the community school model is the unprecedented amount and array of personal data collected from our nation’s most vulnerable and needy students through those wraparound services. The report exposes the story of KneoMedia Limited, a digital edutainment company that partners with New York City schools. One of KneoMedia’s crucial features is data capture and analysis for schools. This data harvesting also produces highly detailed biometric data on students that was not previously available.

Copies of the report have been furnished to the news media and to the chair and ranking members of the House and Senate committees that oversee education policy, with a letter saying, “We share these findings with you in the hope they will help inform policymaking on an issue that is of highest priority to American families. Our findings indicate that the actions taken by the unions have gone far beyond their traditional mission of bargaining for increased financial benefits and improved working conditions for teachers.”