New report from GAI exposes teachers union misuse of power
No U.S institution has been affected more by current events than the K-12 education
system. The COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on the mechanics of delivering
education, while the social justice movement sparked a debate over what should be
taught in the classroom. The convergence of these two issues turned traditionally
mundane school board meetings into a platform for frustrated parents and often
pitted these parents against administrators and teachers.
While parents voiced their concerns about COVID policies, critical race theory, and
gender issues to their local schools, the powerful teachers unions pressed a national
campaign to stake out positions on these same controversial issues. The actions taken
by the unions go far beyond their traditional mission of bargaining for better pay,
benefits, and improved working conditions for teachers.
For example, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) passed resolutions that
supported Democratic presidential candidates and advocated for liberal positions
on politically divisive issues. The leader of the National Education Association (NEA)
admitted that the union’s mission had been expanded to include social activism.
Expenditures by both unions reflected these priorities, going exclusively to support
progressive causes and candidates.
To understand the effects of this expanded role of teachers unions, GAI analyzed
almost two years of resolutions by the AFT. We also researched the backgrounds and
the public statements made by the influential leaders of both the AFT and the NEA.
This is what we found:
- Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
since 2008, dramatically increased the union’s political spending since taking
office.1 According to the Government Accountability Institute’s analysis of
campaign finance records, AFT campaign contributions spiked from $3.7 million
in 2008 to $20 million during the 2020 election cycle.
- Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the leader 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.
- Eskelsen Garcia stated that leadership changes at her union have allowed it to
focus on broader social issues like immigration policy and racial justice. She
justifies this expansion of union activism because it reflects the leadership’s
deeply held personal and political beliefs.
- The Union Dues of Teachers Now Fund Radical Social Justice Groups
that Don’t Reflect Mainstream American Values.
- Data from the US Department of Labor reveal that between 2006 and 2020, AFT
and NEA donated approximately $726,200 to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight
Education Network). GSLEN bills itself as a “leading national organization
working to guarantee LGBTQ+ students safe and affirming education.”
- Research indicates that over the last three years, the AFT and NEA have donated
approximately $3 million to passthrough groups that then fund Black Lives
GAI Analysis Reveals Union Leadership Focuses on Electing Democrats and Advocating for Left-Wing Issues
- GAI’s analysis of AFT resolutions shows the most frequent topics discussed in AFT resolutions in 2020 and 2021 were COVID-19, elections, race, violence, and criminal justice, followed by education.
- In 2020 alone, there were 227 separate mentions of “elections” contained in
fourteen different resolutions that were published on the AFT website. Likewise,
there were 165 separate mentions of “COVID-19” in twenty-one different
resolutions; 111 mentions of “violence” in fourteen different resolutions; 93
mentions of “race” (excluding discussions of racial discrimination, which add
a further 32 separate mentions) in 16 different resolutions; and 49 separate
mentions of “police” and “criminal justice” across eight different resolutions. In
2020, a total of thirty-four resolutions were published by the AFT.
- When COVID-19 is mentioned in AFT resolutions, it is often mentioned in
advocacy for policies that expand the role of the federal government in public
education and implement broad reforms in US education.
During the Covid Pandemic, Teachers Unions Seized an Opportunity to Change Education
America’s two largest teachers unions used the Covid-19 pandemic as the pretext
to push for radical changes to public education and exploited the crisis to
financially benefit powerful elites with close ties to their leadership.
- • AFT and NEA both adopted the leftist trope of “Reimagining Education” to frame
their wide-ranging demands for school transformation. According to internal
union leadership communication, unions began advocating for global pandemic
solutions that require harvesting and sharing vast amounts of personal data on
students and increasing the number of “wrap-around services” provided through
- AFT President Randi Weingarten wasted a million dollars of union funds on
counterfeit Covid supplies from China, and funneled loads of cash to her cronies
in New York.
Unions Now Direct Schools to Promote and Advocate Controversial Issues
Teachers unions disseminate radical curricula to teachers and schools, creating
new professional standards that encourage controversy among teachers and
families. Union initiatives encouraging activism in the classroom tie the hands of
those teachers who wish to remain neutral and objective among their colleagues,
their students, and their community.
- Despite the persistent argument that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not taught
in schools below the college level, many of the educational programs addressing
racial equity and racial justice in public schools push such narratives. Primarily,
students are being taught that the United States is inherently racist and that skin
color determines the institutional hierarchy of oppressed and oppressor in which
people are placed.
- Teachers unions encouraged teachers to intervene in the sexual and gender
identities of students, especially during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These interventions include establishing private online communications with
students, then concealing these communications from parents and other family
members in the home. For many teachers, this could expose them to conflict with
parents, a betrayal of the family’s trust, and even legal liability.
- Advancing radical gender politics in the classroom has harmed teachers, raising
tension between teachers and their communities that spills over into lawsuits and
public shouting matches. Teachers unions continue to push for the expansion of
teacher responsibility in the life of the child, alienating parents and making the
real work of education more difficult.
Unions Want to Expand the Influence of Liberal Policies Through “Community School” Programs
- The idea of Community Schools has been around for over three decades in the
US, but under the Biden Administration financial support for this alternative
schooling model has increased nearly fourteen-fold, from $30 million to more
than $400 million per year. A bill called the Full-Service Community School
Expansion Act of 2021 in Congress seeks to spend $3.65 billion over the next five
years on community schools.
- The major reason for this expansion is the teachers unions, which advocate for
community schools using three primary tactics: 1) lobbying federal and local
governments, 2) partnering with union insiders to provide wraparound services,
and 3) “bargaining for the common good.”
- The most dangerous component 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 wraparound services. For example,
Kneomedia Limited is a digital edutainment company that partners with New
York City schools. One of Kneomedia’s crucial features is data capture and
analysis, which provides immediate measurable results for schools, teachers, and
parents to track students’ progress. This data harvesting also produces highly
detailed biometric data on students that was not previously available.