Where the Teachers Unions Send Their Money

Show Notes

Grades are in for the nation’s schools and the effect of the closing of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic is glaring.

The report comes from the National Center for Education Statistics and is known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” It has long been used as a measure of educational progress in the United States. The New York Times reported recently that the “pandemic erased two decades of progress in math and reading.”

NAEP Reading Scores

In reading, scores declined from 220 to 215. In mathematics, scores declined from 241 to 234. There are three undeniable factors behind this drop. The school closures; so-called “hybrid” learning; and a shift in focus by the public-school teachers unions from education to politics. Each of these factors has contributed to a plummet in the reading and math proficiency of American public-school children.

On the latest episode of The Drill Down podcast, co-hosts Peter Schweizer and Eric Eggers discuss a new report by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) that looks at the dramatic politicization of the nation’s two biggest teachers unions. GAI researchers examined the spending forms the two unions file reach year detailing their spending activities. The findings are startling.

GAI observed that last year, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) collected approximately $575 million in dues from their members. How, we asked, did they spend these funds?

In the last twenty years, vastly more teacher dues are being spent on political campaigns and lobbying. In fact, during the last four years, the NEA spent more money on political activities and lobbying than on traditional “representational activities.”

NAEP Math Scores

Because of pressure from teachers unions, children were kept out of schools during the pandemic, and Americans have noticed how union leaders have chosen to take very public positions on divisive issues.

GAI president and investigative journalist Peter Schweizer commented on the report’s findings: “Unfortunately, this research confirms that America’s national teachers unions are more interested in advancing a radical political agenda than in actually representing their members.”

Teachers unions have always had a political element, of course. What may shock many Americans and even union members, however, is the diversion of spending priorities imposed by top union officials over the last fifteen years related to tens of millions of dollars in funds collected from America’s teachers.

Surveys show that the approximately 57 percent of teachers call themselves Republicans or independents, yet almost 100 percent of the union spending supports Democrat and progressive candidates and policy positions.

Highlights from the report:

  • In 2021, the NEA spent more union dues on political activities and lobbying than on representational activities – and it was not close. Documents show in 2021 the NEA spent $66 million on “Political Activities and Lobbying” and $32 million on “Representational activities.”



  • The NEA and AFT routinely make campaign donations to such polarizing candidates as Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Berne Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton.


  • From 2018 to 2020, the AFT and NEA donated $1.475 million to Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight political action committee (PAC).


  • Comparing 2005 to 2021, spending by the NEA and AFT on political activities and lobbying increased by $74 million. During this same 16-year period, spending on teacher representational activities increased $5.3 million.



  • In 2021, the NEA and AFT gave approximately $30 million to left-wing issue advocacy groups, this is up from the $10 million given to these groups in 2005. The AFT gave to For Our Future and their related PAC ($1,500,000); Priorities USA Action ($500,000); and the Color of Change PAC ($100,000). The NEA gave $250,000 each to Priorities USA and the Virginia New Majority, and $100,000 to Progress Iowa.



  • The AFT and NEA donated a total of $360,000 in 2021 to the issue advocacy group Sixteen Thirty (DOL filings). A watchdog group “identified five Facebook pages (Colorado Chronicle, Daily CO, Nevada News Now, Silver State Sentinel, Verified Virginia) that ‘gave the impression of multiple free-standing local news outlets,’ but are in fact ‘merely fictitious names used by the Sixteen Thirty Fund.’… These pages published Facebook political advertisements that favored Democrats and left-wing causes during the 2020 election. After the report was published a number of these pages were deleted.”



  • Reports show that the NEA also gave $3.5 million to the host organization for the Democratic National Convention in 2020.