AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Martin
For the last year, parents of American schoolchildren have collectively risen to oppose mask mandates, critical race theory, and school closures head-on. For parents fed up with a subpar education system, the school boards pushing these policies were a great place to start in taking back control of their children’s learning. But if parents want to root out the real rot, they also need to look toward the biggest education swamp creature there is: national teachers’ unions.
Certainly, speaking up at school board meetings and demanding change is absolutely essential. But the real action—and long-term problems worth solving—lie in exposing the ideological, indoctrinating insiders with power over millions of young American minds: the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The teachers unions.
A long way from local school board meetings, these two groups amass their power in the swamp of Washington, D.C. This is the command center for woke school board members, and the source of their marching orders—and their hubris.
These massive teachers’ unions are led by Randi Weingarten at AFT and Becky Pringle at NEA. While both claim to represent the interests of teachers and to be apolitical, their woke agenda suggests otherwise. For example, Pringle said last year said that America was in the middle of “twin pandemics,” COVID and institutional racism. Pringle also said one of her top priorities was to “transform the system into a racially just one” – code language for critical race theory. Meanwhile, there’s no mention of actually teaching kids core skills like reading and math, which the Nation’s Report Card shows they are woefully behind on. Stopping school choice is high on the unions’ list too, harkening back to when the former head of NEA said they should “stop talking about letting kids escape.”
Randi Weingarten hasn’t been much better. In the wake of deadly Black Lives Matter riots throughout the country in the summer of 2020, Weingarten led a resolution declaring the first week of February 2021 as “Black Lives Matter at School Week,” which read in part that “AFT will encourage its members to wear Black Lives Matter at School shirts to school that week and teach lessons about related topics.” Especially after months of BLM riots, such a statement hardly constitutes political neutrality, or a focus on helping kids acquire the skills they need to compete in a global economy.
Weingarten and Pringle and their union organizations are also largely responsible for keeping kids out of school when they could have returned in person. While many state and local decision makers were ready to open schools once the worst of the pandemic had passed and all research pointed to kids being at extraordinarily low risk of contracting and spreading the virus, the powerful unions and their affiliates stepped in to shut them down.
In Pringle’s hometown of Philadelphia last winter, the school district was ready to open the doors when the union forced it to stay closed, refusing to allow members to show up for work. This was not an isolated occurrence. One researcher from the University of Nevada found that the stronger the union presence in a school district, the more likely it was to stay shut down. This phenomenon was also on full display as AFT coordinated with the Biden administration and the CDC to issue guidance that would help them keep schools shut down.
Pringle and Weingarten are, in fact, the head cheerleaders for Joe Biden and the progressive left and their zero-COVID policies. And they are using tens of millions of dollars in union dues paid to them by teachers to achieve those political ends.
Last year alone, teachers’ unions contributed over $66 million to political causes, with 97 percent of that cash going to Democrats.
In other words, these two powerful teachers’ unions, run by Weingarten and Pringle, have their hands directly on the levers of power throughout the Democrat Party and the Biden administration. And those levers only pull one direction, to the left. They aren’t afraid to silence their opposition either – look no further than Biden’s Attorney General, Merrick Garland, threatening to sic the FBI on angry parents, or school boards having parents who speak out at meetings arrested.
There are signs that the resistance against these progressive powers is yielding results, however. Many parents are running for their local school board themselves to change policies imposed by national teachers’ unions, and often they are achieving impressive results. Earlier this month, Weingarten tried to flex her influence in Virginia by appearing with Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who promptly lost his race. Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe’s opponent, promised to give parents back control of their kids’ education from people like Weingarten, and parents responded by handing Youngkin a victory in the race.
In Washington State, one school is walking away from Pringle’s NEA entirely, noting that their union dues “helped fund social and political agendas which were often personally offensive.” Such developments would undoubtedly be welcome by parents in school districts throughout the country who are tired of elites in D.C. dictating progressive ideology to their children.
When it comes to draining the swamp, the swamp monsters who run the nation’s largest teachers unions are a great place to start.
Ben Martin is the pen name of a commentator who previously worked in government and has worked in public policy for over a decade. He has testified before Congress on several occasions, as well as before many state legislative committees, on domestic policy issues.