Since part one was about money, the next lies will be about money but more about stated versus real priorities.
When an organization tells you their priorities, you assume that they will be concerned about those things FIRST and almost exclusively. For example, the NFL Player’s Association, according to its name, has as its priority the people who play in the NFL. They look out for them, negotiate for them, etc. There’s no mystery or deception there, although they have fallen down on the job occasionally. It is their stated priority.
Lie Number 3: Teacher’s Unions Care about Teachers and Students
Let’s take a long hard look at teacher’s unions. There are two large teacher’s unions in the U.S., the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. It’s interesting that the NEA, which used to be the National Teachers Association, changed it’s name in 1870 to the National Education Association. Who knows why they did it, branding, assumption of other organizations, etc.
I guess its a good thing they did that, because somewhere in the 20’s, the mission of the NEA began to change. Instead of being focused primarily on representing teachers, it pivoted to promoting social justice issues. Yes, social justice. If you view the NEA history timeline, you won’t see important dates where they accomplished improvements in teacher’s salaries and working conditions, you will see dates when they developed committees that focused on ethnic minorities, when they elected a Hispanic President, a Black President, all female leadership team, and, finally, in 2015, where they named “eradicating institutional racism” as a consuming issue on their agenda. That same year they acknowledged “the existence of White Supremacy as a primary root cause of institutional racism, structural racism, and White privilege.” So, I guess their White dues paying members are part of the problem?
Still waiting for the part where they care about teachers. We’ll get back to that.
The other union, the American Federation of Teachers, was created in 1916 as part of the AFL union. In their history, they do list things they have done for their member teachers, issues like academic freedom, raising salaries, and abolishing board required loyalty oaths that developed as part of the Red Scare. Progressing to the current years, they have continued to center themselves on improving conditions and salaries for teachers. Even their mission statement still includes “high quality public education” and “collective bargaining.” Except that is a smokescreen.
They can’t resist pivoting their attention to other issues including community organizing, polictical activism, and healthcare for students. And, unfortunately, if you go to the AFT Resolutions you’ll see a long list of resolutions addressing excessive force by police officers, Black Lives Matter at School Week, military spending, LGBTQ support, and on and on. And, don’t forget an endorsement for Joe Biden.
In four pages of resolutions, none are about teachers’ salaries or working conditions. NONE.
Maybe the AFT decided that they needed to compete with the NEA for the “Union Most Likely to Get Woke” Award. They certainly weren’t competing to be the most effective for teachers.
None of this actually surprises me. Aside from a span of approximately six months in my career when I must have been naive, I never saw the Teachers Union as useful. The only reason I paid the dues every month was because I was under the impression that they would fight for me only if I was a member. I didn’t realize it didn’t matter if I was a member or not because of state law.
When I went to a state convention and was bullied for six hours to donate to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s campaign for Governor, the union crossed a huge line in the sand. I saw what they cared about, and it wasn’t teachers.
Some may argue that the lack of focus at the national level doesn’t accurately portray what unions do locally. They would be completely wrong.
Let’s establish the cash cow of the union before I talk about the local chapter. It’s astounding how much money National Union Officials make. The Union has over 700 employees, and at least two thirds of them have compensation of over $100,000 dollars a year. The President makes $429,569; and the top 25 employees listed make over $200,000. Even a job listed as ” Senior Confidential Specialist” makes over $100,000. ( And what exactly does that person do? Make sure he stamps secret documents with “confidential”?
Here’s the best part. The NEA has close to three million members, and lists assets of $411,788,220. That’s more than some small countries.
Salaries at the AFT are very close, although they only have 1, 684,544 members and $135,106,119 in assets. Both organizations have top officials who make ten times more than the average teacher.
Where do they get income? Aside from member dues, the NEA gets money from donors, grants, and investments. What is more important is how do they spend that money?
One would think that the bulk of their funds should be spent on “representational activities” or activities that actually help their members, i.e. legal representation, negotiating contracts, improving working conditions and pay. These are the activities that are supposed to be the core purpose of NEA.
NEA spent nearly $651 million in 2020. That’s about 1.8 million per day. They spent $35,759,179 dollars on representational activities. That equals about 5 cents per dollar. In 2019, they spent 10 cents per dollar on these activites. NEA’s income increased by nearly $230 million in 2020, but spending on representation went down by over $6.6 million.
But, good news for their top employees. Spending on salaries for them went up to $60,643,710, 69% more than it’s total spending on representational activities. They spent over $50 million on “political activities and lobbying” and $120 million on other “contributions, gifts and grants” which can be political in nature. These include funding their own political action committees, ballot initiatives ( that often have nothing to do with teachers or education) and at least $20 million to self proclaimed “progressive” organizations.
One example is a group called the “Democracy Alliance” a group of wealthy liberal donors that Politico calls ” the left’s secret club.”
Between 1990 and 2010, 93% of donations made by the NEA via political action committees and individual officers went to Democrats. However, only 41 % of the teacher members during that time were Democrats. So, while members are told their dues are being used to get better wages, benefits, and working conditions, that is nowhere near the truth.
Unions don’t care about teachers other than how they can use their numbers as a way to garner more money and power. As the Wall Street Journal said, “the union is a honey pot for left wing political causes that have nothing to do with teachers.”
What about the local affiliates?
It’s almost unfair in small counties to compare the local union to the National organization. With very few schools, a small population of teachers and students, it’s not a huge money making enterprise for anyone in office in these counties.
HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean they care any more about teachers.
In my teaching career, I knew four people who held the office of local union head. Of those four people, only one was someone who used their position for personal gain, and that was to keep administration from firing them. The other three did/do “care” about their fellow teachers.
But, we are seeing that this might be changing for a variety of reasons.
We are currently experiencing something in this country that I have never seen or heard of in the past. Aside from the pressures of Covid measures, we have teachers in counties which are normally fairly peaceful who are being assaulted by students, intimidated by Board Members/Administration in order to keep them silent about unethical and discriminatory actions by school based administration, and being told not to discipline certain students due to demographics.
When these teachers take these issues to the Board of Education and Superintendent, they are either shut down or ignored. Even the union, the ones who are supposed to help, are not responsive.
Why? Why are even the local union affiliates unwilling to help these teachers fight and expose what is going on?
In some cases it may be that in smaller systems the unions and the administrations are so friendly to each other that they form a mutual protection bubble. ” I won’t tell on you, you won’t hassle me.”
Maybe they have been intimidated into silence as well. After all, even being a local union head may not protect one from an undesirable assignment in the system. Or, maybe the reverse is in play. They get more favorable assignments if they keep the system out of the union ( and public) radar.
It could also be that the resources of the state and national union are not as available to the locals and they must be used on more politically useful causes.
Or, they are too lazy and just don’t care. Unlike national officers, locals don’t make money for this.
And like police, medical personnel, etc. the exodus of teachers is startling. In a system of 400 teachers, 12 open positions can be crippling.
Imagine how this is playing out in large cities and districts.
Think about this. The Rand Corporation reported some alarming results in 2021:
- Nearly one in four teachers reported they will leave the profession at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
- Seventy-eight percent of teachers reported significant job related stress due to hybrid learning, lack of support, etc.) roughly 50% higher than the general workforce.
- In 2021, teachers reported depression at a rate 2 1/2 times greater than the general population.
- Among the many additional stressors reported by teachers during the pandemic, lack of ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT was a major factor in creating difficult working conditions which resulted in increased stress, depression and burn out.
And, if you think this doesn’t impact our students think again. If these teachers aren’t replaced, class sizes increase and educational options decrease. If they are replaced and their replacements are either unqualified or underqualified, students pay the price. Think about all the stories you hear of teachers treating children abusively. Many times these are teachers who are unsuitable for the job but are hired out of desparation.
And if you are worried about indoctrination, remember that an unqualified, poorly trained teacher is more likely to jump on that bandwagon where a more experienced, skilled teacher may not.
So, the students suffer too.
Still think the unions represent and care about teachers? Think again.
Quite frankly, the teachers’ unions, like other unions in this country, have become something they were never intended to be or should be.
They are money laundering machines for the political elites and every socialist political cause in the country and a full participant in the destruction of our education system.
And that hurts EVERYONE.