Teachers Unions: Enemies of Education?
The National Education Association (NEA), the largest public teachers union in the U.S., has shrunk in membership during the past six years, but that hasn’t stopped it from taking increasingly radical positions, most of which have everything to do with far-left politics and little to do with education. Despite their limited virtual conventions this year, both the NEA and the much smaller AFT (American Federation of Teachers), managed to further muddy the waters surrounding the start of the 2020-2021 school year, with talk of rising community COVID-19 infection rates, the challenges of student social distancing, and even floating the notion of “safety” strikes. These strikes would presumably be authorized in school districts that dare to reopen if the unions decide for political reasons that it’s not “safe” to do so.
Is it really the coronavirus the unions are worried about or is it a red state vs. blue state issue? For example, the Florida NEA affiliate filed suit against Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and other state officials to shut down the 28 districts that have reopened for in-person learning, and prevent others from opening until it can be done “safely,” whatever the union determines that to mean. According to local news reports, some teachers say they don’t have the protective equipment they need, but the state counters that all school districts received sufficient funds to acquire the necessary protective devices. Cited specifically was Florida’s largest school district, Orange County, which reportedly received $55 million in CARES Act dollars to help with reopening expenses.
A History of Leftwing Policies
That the teachers unions are overwhelmingly liberal has been obvious for decades. Phyllis Schlafly Eagles founder and national pro-family leader Phyllis Schlafly began reporting on the liberal policies and positions of the NEA and AFT in 1990. Since then, the unions have consistently moved leftward, and the NEA’s annual bevy of resolutions reflect a radical social agenda that provides indoctrination rather than education. As Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency reported on June 24, the NEA lost nearly 33,000 members in 2019, yet the union managed to increase its budget. Antonucci’s well-researched report states: “The National Education Association may have suffered a loss of members in 2019, but that doesn’t mean the national union will have to do much belt-tightening. NEA’s 2020-21 budget calls for $357.8 million in tax-exempt revenue, an increase of $7.4 million over last year.” Of course, the reduced number of members will take up the financial slack, with a $4.00 increase in annual dues for teachers, and a $2.00 increase for support personnel.
New Officers, Same Radical Politics
During its brief virtual conference in July, NEA members overwhelmingly endorsed Joe Biden for president. When the votes were all counted, he received 89.6 percent, more than any Democratic candidate except Bill Clinton, who received 91.5 percent in 1996. The NEA always votes overwhelmingly for the Democrat no matter who is nominated.
The union also elected new officers in its top three positions. Chalkbeat.org noted that incoming NEA president Becky Pringle is a self-described “social justice warrior.” Pringle is the former NEA vice president with a long history in the union. Chalkbeat said that “Pringle set the tone for her presidency with a tweet that ended like this: ‘We are ready to turn up that heat,’” a reference to pushing back on the reopening of schools, and essentially on anything the Trump administration and the DeVos Education Department has tried to do to improve access to education, especially support for private schools.
In an NEAToday online video (8-6-20), Pringle ranted against school districts that “are following the Trump playbook, callously disregarding the expert guidance of healthcare professionals.” She failed to mention that CDC guidelines say schools can reopen if a community registers less than 5% of positive COVID-19 tests. In a sobering – and some might even say threatening – manner, Pringle then reminded her audience that “one in every 100 Americans is an NEA member,” adding: “NEA, we have the power, we can do this!” Her words are a stark reminder that, despite its recent declines in membership, the NEA (and its companion AFT), is a formidable force against all forms of education that allow children to escape any part of its comprehensive left-wing agenda, which today may even include the facilitation of student abortions and sex altering hormones without parental knowledge or consent.
As a footnote, the position of NEA vice president went to Princess Moss of Virginia, and Noel Candelaria was elected secretary-treasurer, a post formerly held by Moss. These individuals are doubtless committed to Pringle’s extreme agenda.
Union Attack On Private Schools
Always in the crosshairs of the teachers union juggernaut, private and religious schools pose an even more formidable threat today as they reopen while the unions impede the reopening of public schools. The unions know that private schools are attracting public school students whose parents believe their children’s return to the classroom is more important than any threat posed by COVID-19. (See the Education Reporter email, July 2020.)
Ground zero for the latest assault is Montgomery County, Maryland, where local government officials have prevented private and religious schools from opening at the behest of the teachers unions. The Washington Examiner reported on August 7 that when Republican Governor Larry Hogan nullified the first order barring private schools from “meeting in person,” county officials cried “racism” and hastily created a second order. The Examiner observed that the second order “appears to be lawless” and is already facing legal challenges.
Although officials say the order is based on science, it is clearly a cave-in to the unions’ attempt to grab power by shutting down private schools. According to the Examiner, “in the days between the county’s two orders, the three-day positive test rate fell from 3.1% to 2.6%,” just over half the 5% figure mentioned above. “County officials clearly acted based not on science, but on politics, specifically doing the bidding of the teachers unions.”
Nonetheless, other counties around the country are poised to follow Maryland’s lead by shutting down private and religious schools, all while they allow daycare centers to remain open and some public school buildings to also be used for all-day care. In many cases, these facilities are complete with public school teachers who provide tutoring for a fee. Observers wonder how this is any different than teaching students in traditional classrooms.
If the closures are allowed to stand and spread, the real losers will be private school parents and students, many of whom are middle-class families who sacrifice all to provide their children with a better education. We need more, not less, competition in education to limit the power of the teachers unions.
President Trump wants education dollars to “follow the student” if public schools fail to open in the fall.
Speaking at a press conference in July, Trump indicated that federal money for education should allow parents to make choices for their children that enable them to attend a physically open school. This would include private, religious, charter, or homeschools. “We’d like the money to go to the parents of the student,” the president said. “This way, they can make the decision that’s best for them.” Trump’s remarks were made in conjunction with his administration’s priorities for another coronavirus stimulus package, and it’s not the first time the Trump administration has advocated for school choice. What remains to be seen is how this would work since “the federal government is only responsible for 8.5 percent of K-12 education spending,” and education remains essentially the purview of states and local school districts. President Trump, Senator Rand Paul and many others have repeatedly cited data that indicates going back to school to be safer for children, who transmit the coronavirus less easily than adults, than keeping them at home. But undoubtedly the Trump administration’s push to expand school choice, in whatever form it takes, is further fueling the public school unions’ vitriol toward all alternative forms of education, including the unions’ efforts to force the shutdown of private schools. Washington Examiner, 8-21-20
Some teachers fear that online learning will shine an unwelcome spotlight on what is actually being taught in public schools, especially with regard to sex education. The teachers unions’ push to keep public schools closed and virtual learning in place may be putting some of their members in a quandary. As LifeSiteNews reported, such is the case for a Philadelphia teacher whose Twitter feed recently became public. The teacher, Matthew R. Kay of the Philadelphia Science Leadership Academy, lamented on Twitter: “So, this fall, virtual class discussions will have many potential spectators — parents, siblings, etc. — in the same room. We’ll never be quite sure who is overhearing the discourse. What does this do for our equity/inclusion work?” Another tweet questioned “How much have students depended on the (somewhat) secure barriers of our physical classrooms to encourage vulnerability? How many of us have installed some version of ‘what happens here stays here’ to help this?” While Kay’s tweets acknowledge that his chief concern is “conservative parents,” he bemoaned liberal parents as well, stating: “The damage can come from the left too.” He further admitted: “If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids [sic] racism or homophobia or transphobia — how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?” As if further proof is required, this frightening admission should prove the long-held contention of conservatives that parents are often unaware of how far teachers exceed the proper limits of their authority, as well as the extremely inappropriate propaganda being taught in the classroom. Even if some parents choose to opt their children out of a particular lesson or class, “it won’t necessarily protect them from sex propaganda elsewhere in school.” LifeSiteNews, 8-11-20; Sex Education in Public Schools
You Carried Me: A Daughter’s Memoir
Melissa Ohden, Plough Publishing House, 2017
Melissa Ohden’s remarkable story takes the reader on a roller coaster ride from heartbreak to joy, from incalculable pain and grief to peace and forgiveness. Although as a young child she knew she was adopted, she only learned at the age of fourteen that she was the survivor of a botched abortion. This knowledge sent Ohden into a tailspin of despair and confusion, and launched a two-decade struggle to decipher the enormity of what had happened to her.
Despite the love and support of her adoptive family, Ohden was devastated by the belief that she had been unwanted by her biological parents. Her sense of self-worth plummeted, and she began making poor choices that lasted throughout her teenage years; among them bulimia, experimentation with alcohol, and sexual activity.
Haunted by notions of the parents she had not known and whose motives she could not fathom, Ohden searched for information about her birth parents and the circumstances surrounding her miraculous survival. Her straightforward writing style is both engaging and absorbing; her journey an amazing testimony to God’s will in unveiling the lie of women’s so-called “freedom to choose.”
While feminist lore has always claimed that abortion “empowers” women and frees them from the “burden” of child rearing, Ohden’s birth mother faced a very different situation in October of 1977. After years of detective work to uncover the events surrounding the abortion attempt, Ohden discovered that her mother was not given a “choice” by the more powerful and controlling people in her life. A nurse and professor, Ohden’s grandmother insisted her daughter have an abortion, and even left her own granddaughter to die following the botched procedure. Unbeknownst to Ohden’s mother, another nurse rushed her tiny baby to the NICU, where she experienced complications that were eventually overcome, aided by the medical advances of the day and the care of the loving couple who adopted her.
When she entered college, Ohden began to share her unbearable secret by writing and speaking about being an abortion survivor. But her story was generally received with resentment and even hostility given that, as Ohden describes, “[A]bortion on demand was the holy grail of the feminist ideology my classmates adhered to; anything that challenged its essential rightness must be suppressed.” A self-described “ardent supporter of women’s rights,” Ohden nonetheless learned that “there was no place in the feminist fold for women who object to the procedure that had nearly ended my life before it began.”
Ohden’s long quest for her identity resulted in a deepening of her Christian faith, a happy marriage that produced two daughters, and her eventual discovery of her birth parents. Although her father passed away before she could meet him, she was able to establish a relationship with her paternal grandfather, and came to know and embrace her half-sisters, a cousin, and other family members. At long last, she was united with her biological mother, who had believed her first baby perished in the abortion attempt until Ohden’s initial outreach to both her birth parents.
During the long, arduous process of discovery and by the grace of God, Ohden was able to forgive those who contributed to her abortion, including even her maternal grandmother, which she admits was the most difficult step of all.
Now a successful speaker and pro-life champion, Melissa Ohden is finally at peace. One of a small but elite group of people, she perhaps understands better than any of us the remarkable, God-given gift that is life.