American Federation of Teachers President: 'We're Becoming More Political'

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Posted: Aug 06, 2018 6:30 PM
American Federation of Teachers President: 'We're Becoming More Political'

Teachers’ unions in America have long been notorious for their liberal political policies and positions.

Now, it appears the unions may somehow be skewing even farther to the left.

According to a recent article in National Review, both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) appear to be pursuing increasingly progressive political agendas. Universal health care, free college tuition for everyone attending state schools, and the provision of universal daycare are just a few of the positions outlined by the unions this past summer. 

The AFT’s biennial convention, held last month in Pittsburgh, honored Hillary Clinton with their Women’s Rights award. Ms. Clinton delivered a speech to the over 3,000 people in attendance, in which she sharply criticized a number of President Donald Trump’s policies and encouraged union members to get out and vote in November.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were also featured as keynote speakers.

Education Week reports that at the convention, AFT delegates unanimously passed a resolution declaring that, going forward, AFT-endorsed candidates must “support priorities defined by members--including universal healthcare, free tuition at public colleges and university, free childcare, and more school funding at low-income school districts.” Candidates will be presented with a questionnaire intended to determine their commitment to AFT’s positions.

The Minneapolis NEA convention, also held in July, adopted an ambitious 122 New Business Items

The union committed itself, among other things, to promoting the Black Lives Matter Week of Action, which is said to include “mandating that ethnic studies be taught in preK-12 schools.” The NEA outlined plans to encourage teachers to assign texts that deconstruct white privilege, and pledged to respond in “solidarity with immigrant families who are separated, incarcerated, or refused their legal right to request asylum due to the heartless, racist, and discriminatory zero-tolerance policies of the Trump administration.”

Perhaps the most controversial agenda item to be adopted at the convention, however, was the NEA’s promise to:

“post a list of known individuals with businesses who are committed to refusing services to same-sex couples and/or LGBTQ individuals. NEA can access a list of these individuals and their businesses from organizations such as THINKPROGRESS (thinkprogress.org), Southern Poverty Law Center, and Human Rights Campaign, and share it with all state and local affiliates on nea.org.”  

The impetus for the shift towards an increasingly liberal platform appears to be related to the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME. In what was ultimately a win for the First Amendment, the court decided that public employees cannot be required by states to pay “agency fees” to unions. Prior to the ruling, public employees not belonging to unions could still be forced to pay for union services in 22 states.

As a result of Janus, both unions are projected to lose hundreds of thousands of members.

If there were any doubt as to whether or not the teachers’ unions were becoming more aggressively liberal in their approach to politics and education, AFT president Randi Weingarten put that matter to rest.

“We’re becoming more political, not less political”, she told reporters last month.

How this shift will actually play out remains to be seen. But if the NEA and AFT have anything to say about it, parents can expect to see an increasingly liberal agenda being fed to students in America’s public schools.