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Teachers’ Union Transgressions

Several events of late explain the true nature of the nation’s teachers’ unions—and it ain’t pretty.

Colorado

Colorado test scores show that 35 percent of students are proficient in reading and just 28 percent are proficient in math. Hence, anyone involved with educating our youth in the Centennial State should take note and do his best to make improvements. But the Colorado Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, has been mum on the issue and recently revealed its true nature.

In late April, the teachers union adopted a resolution damning capitalism. “CEA believes that capitalism requires exploitation of children, public schools, land, labor, and/or resources. Capitalism is in opposition to fully addressing systemic racism (the school-to-prison pipeline), climate change, patriarchy (gender and LGBTQ disparities), education inequality, and income inequality.”

It is particularly ironic that a teachers union—a group that regularly exploits kids—is pointing fingers at our economic system. If the union was really interested in addressing racism and inequality, it would be backing parental choice, which has been proven to provide better educational opportunities and decrease segregation. But educational freedom, of course, is the worst nightmare for a teachers union.

I will give the CEA kudos for one thing—at least they are forthright commies, unlike so many closeted union lefties.

Oakland

In Oakland, California, the teachers union has decided to get an early start on its summer vacation. With the last day of school scheduled for May 25, the Oakland Education Association went out on strike on May 4.

Students in Oakland aren’t exactly killing it. In fact, their dreary test scores almost replicate those in Colorado. The 2022 California state standardized test scores revealed that 35 percent of students are proficient in reading and only 26 percent are proficient in math.

Teachers are paid well, however. The average total pay is $71,644, and when benefits are included, the sum rises to $95,688. Not bad for 180 days of work. On top of that, the district has offered the union a whopping 22 percent pay increase plus a $5,000 bonus.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, the union refuses to sign off on the offer because their social justice or “common good” demands have gone unmet. The OEA is demanding “safe, stable, and racially just community schools.” The union also insists on “enforceable language to make schools safer for students and staff,” spending more money on schools that serve at least 40 percent black students, and “shared decision-making.” Additionally, OEA wants the district to repurpose vacant school buildings for homeless housing and to landscape school yards with drought-resistant trees.

It’s worth noting that the Oakland school board has six members (there is one vacancy) and is home to one Valarie Bachelor, who, regarding the stalemate, threatened. “I hope that we don’t have to escalate this,” while refusing to clarify what said escalation might look like. Bachelor, you see, is also a union organizer for the California Federation of Teachers in addition to being a board member.

Maybe just a wee bit of a conflict of interest here? Nothing unusual however; this is a common occurrence when public employee unions are involved in bargaining.

Again, far from a majority of Oakland’s students are proficient in reading in math, but when drought-resistant trees are a serious issue, the union is showing where its priorities lie.

(Update: On May 15, a tentative settlement was announced, and school resumed on May 16.)

The Trouble with Randi

And then there is Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The most vocal honker in a mammoth gaggle of strident unionistas, she has been on a tear of late. In April, Weingarten testified before the House Subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic. She was there to answer questions about her union’s influence on school reopening guidelines issued by the CDC.

Weingarten insisted that her main goal was getting schools open, but in reality, it was anything but. She made constant arguments for keeping schools shuttered through the spring and summer of 2020 when her union aggressively lobbied the CDC to adjust its school-reopening guidance. Two of its language recommendations were adopted verbatim.

She had the audacity to say, “We spent every day from February (2020) on trying to get schools open. We knew that remote education was not a substitute for opening schools. We know that young people learn and connect best in person, so opening schools safely—even during a pandemic—guided our actions, which I will describe in detail.”

But her “details” were really quite undetailed. She dodged, obfuscated, and even used the fact that she is 65 years old to explain her memory lapses. She failed to acknowledge all the things she yammered about during the time she shut down schools. For example, she described the Trump Administration’s push to reopen schools in July 2020 for in-person learning that autumn as “reckless, callous, and cruel.” That summer, she also endorsed teacher “safety strikes” if unions deemed local reopening protocols to be inadequate.

She would never acknowledge that hundreds of private and charter schools opened in the fall of 2020 without the surge of illness that she claimed was imminent. Also unmentioned is that Sweden never closed their schools and not one child died from COVID, and teacher cases were rare.

Additionally, her blatant opportunism was on full display. In April 2020, the AFT released a list of demands for reopening schools, which included adequate personal protection equipment, a suspension of teacher performance evaluations, a limit on student testing, a cancellation of student loan debt, and a “$750 billion investment in state and local government to stabilize public services.”

The union boss’ charter school hypocrisy is just as outrageous. It’s no secret that Weingarten’s union has fought co-locating charter schools in buildings that house traditional public schools. But Weingarten sits on the board of University Prep Charter Schools, which is run by the United Federation of Teachers, an AFT affiliate. In April, New York’s Department of Education approved University Prep Charter’s bid for a permanent co-location for its middle school with a district school.

Eva Moskowitz, long-time operator of the very successful Success Academy charter school franchise, flipped over the turn of events. She said Weingarten and the UFT have opposed co-location since the beginning of the co-location policy 20 years ago.

“Randi Weingarten has not only opposed all of the charter co-location, she’s actually sued to prevent us from opening. Success Academy right now, at this very moment, is about to have to go to court because the UFT has sued to prevent Success Academy co-location,” Moskowitz said.

She added, “We serve 94 percent black and brown children in challenging neighborhoods where there aren’t a lot of good educational options, and we’ve got people preventing us from opening great schools. It’s madness.”

Then earlier this month, Weingarten made headlines again when she stated that educators should erase their social media history. To help with that process, she tweeted a link to a website that promotes an artificial intelligence-powered tool that searches through a person’s social media accounts to find potentially “harmful posts.”

Hey, when it comes to dumb and dishonest posts, Randi knows whereof she speaks, as she has been dinged many times by Twitter. In fact, she is a frequent target of the platform’s “community notes” because of her ongoing misinformation. In one such tweet, she claimed that “millions” of people would die under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ leadership.

And finally, Weingarten has taken on the task of rebuilding Ukrainian schools and has visited the embattled country four times to date. While many have issues with Weingarten’s globetrotting, I don’t—my gripe is that she keeps coming back.

I have touched on just a few of the many outrageous things that teachers unions have done of late. The question now becomes, why would any dedicated teacher want to be associated with such a disreputable group?

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared at For Kids and Country.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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