Former National Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker once famously conceded that, “When schoolchildren start paying dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.” (“Teacher unions made their bed, must sleep in it,” Meridian Star, Aug. 13, 1985).
Union advocates, ever wary of having their cover blown, deny the quote. They say Shanker actually said something more like, “I don’t represent children. I represent teachers.” (“Quote, Unquote,” Albert Shanker Institute, May 13, 2011).
Whichever version is true, it’s undeniable that the teachers’ unions business model sees the students’ best interests as a lower priority.
Any observer of our system of education sees much evidence that unions get paid to improve the self-interest of the bargaining unit. Unfilled bus driver vacancies and resources for programs to help students who fall behind are not their problem; the union is concerned first, last and always with increasing teacher pay, lightening workloads and strengthening job security.
To illustrate the point, one need look no further than at how unions have wrecked many school districts’ finances within the past year. Despite astounding increases in funding, districts continue to cut services. To union officials, fiscal solvency and other priorities are the responsibility of the school board, and not of the union bargaining team.
And in that sense at least, they’re absolutely right.
National Education Association conference proves students aren’t the priority.
In early July 6,000 of the most ardent union activists of the NEA assembled to vote on the business of the organization. Delegates agreed to commit NEA resources to causes like advocating for abortion, advancing the theory of “white fragility,” lobbying/protesting on behalf of immigrant justice — including decriminalizing border crossing, training educators to be advisors to help create student Gender Sexuality Alliance clubs, and lobbying to permit civil rights complaints based upon gender identity.
In addition, the assembly considered New Business Item 2:
The National Education Association will re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America by putting a renewed emphasis on quality education. NEA will make student learning the priority of the association. NEA will not waiver in its commitment to student learning by adopting the following lens through which we will assess every NEA program and initiative: How does the proposed action promote the development of students as lifelong reflective learners
The motion was defeated.
Never mind the rhetoric unions put out for public consumption. If you want to discern their true priorities, just look at their actions.