Teacher unions have long been involved in public education. Their track record, though, shows just how far these once well-intentioned organizations have strayed from their original purpose of focusing on negotiating better wages and working conditions. They have been highly politicized for decades, and they leave no oneguessing what they prioritize.
And they are why public education is failing in America, according to a new short documentary by PragerU. “…[T]oday’s teachers’ unions…are hurting — not helping — the public education system in America” and “have become the biggest bully in school.”
Teacher unions had seriousinfluence on school reopening guidance, pushing for students to stay out of the classrooms despite the wide range of studies that quickly began emerging on the detrimental impacts this would have. They also pushed for a lot of unreasonable demands before they would consider supporting schools reopening, including calling for defunding the police, a moratorium on charter schools and private school choice, and a moratorium on standardized testing.
Dues money for politics
Teacher union dues fund politics. In the last 20 years, the National Education Association (the nation’s largest teachers’ union) has spent over $200 million on politics, according to the documentary’s citation from OpenSecrets. And that doesn’t include the funding they send to left organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Clinton Foundation. It’s a slap in the face to the educators they represent who disagree with teacher unions’ political preferences — or political involvement altogether.
Tenure & merit-based pay
Teacher unions don’t like merit-based pay. Merit pay rewards teachers for how well they prepare students to move on to the next stage of their K-12 journey. The best teachers get paid more. According to a 2020 meta-analysis of 37 studies (26 conducted in the U.S.), teacher merit pay has a positive effect on student test scores.
Teacher unions instead prioritize tenure. While “teachers have a legitimate interest in due process,” according to a Thomas Fordham Institute report on tenure, “they shouldn’t be entitled to undue processes that make them impossible to fire if the established process has been followed and they have been evaluated as ineffective in the classroom.” Very rarely will teachers with tenure be dismissed over poor performance. Plus, the process to fire an ineffective tenured teacher remains complicated. Even if a district does decide to pursue a performance-based dismissal, red tape can impede the process, and the union is likely to intervene and file a grievance against these grounds for dismissal.
PragerU’s documentary adds to ever-growing reports of teacher union bullying over the years and unions prioritizing political activism. Tens of thousands of educators have left teacher unions nationwide — including thousands in Minnesota — because of this.
In the words of the National Education Association’s former General Counsel Bob Chanin back in 2009: “Despite what some of us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas” that the national teacher union and its affiliates are “effective advocates.” “It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.”