Whether it’s the product of design or willful neglect, America’s student achievement scores are declining in inverse proportion to the explosion in union bombast and bullying.
From 2019 to 2020, public schools experienced the largest decrease in enrollment since 1943, losing more than a million students and erasing a decade of steady growth.
As standardized testing continues to reveal worsening reading and math scores, it’s no surprise that in 2023, 68 percent of Americans are at least somewhat dissatisfied with the quality of public education in the United States.
A significant increase in the popularity of homeschooling and private school enrollment since 2020 reflects parent dissatisfaction with poor curriculum and political agendas in the classroom. Even teachers agree. A survey by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) suggests that 81 percent of teachers believe that education has become too politicized.
With more than 1.7 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates, AFT is the second-largest teachers’ union in the United States, and each year AFT hosts a virtual conference highlighting Share My Lesson, the union’s virtual database for free lesson plans and curriculum.
This year’s Share My Lesson conference, held March 21-23, provided AFT with an excellent opportunity to address issues within the failing public school system. Instead, most sessions offered during the conference focused on promotion of left-wing ideology in the classroom — the union’s unstated but much more important objective.
During sessions on the environment, for example, scientists from MIT insisted “climate change touches all parts of human life” and, therefore, should be taught in every school subject.
Likewise, sessions on the importance of “identity safety” demanded that teachers ensure their students can use the bathroom that matches “their affirmed gender.” During the same session, teachers were challenged to consider how they handle microaggressions and whether their students have “been made aware of using preferred pronouns.”
As if bringing politics into young classrooms wasn’t bad enough, one presenter took it a step further, telling teachers, “We want students to take this information out of the classroom and share it with their communities.”
In her keynote speech, AFT President Randi Weingarten doubled down on the union’s prioritization of politics over education. “Our country is in a race between hope and fear,” she said. “Between aspiration and anger. And educators at every level, we stand on the side of hope, of aspiration, of humanity.”
Those on the other side of the divide, Weingarten said, are “extremists.”
To her point, Weingarten argued the “Parents Bill of Rights” approved by House Republicans earlier this month “basically says they can ban books — they can do things that hurt children and hurt you.”
In reality, the Parents Bill of Rights advocates for more transparency and parent involvement in public schools, making curricula public, mandating a standard number of parent-teacher meetings and ensuring parents are aware of what’s going on at school.
Citing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’recent legislation expanding Florida’s voucher system to help parents pay for children to attend private schools, Weingarten argued that Republicans are attempting to “destabilize and defund the public schools that serve 90 percent of America’s kids” with vouchers that “have a negative effect on student achievement.”
Again, the facts prove otherwise. In 2022, 49 percent of Americans supported voucher systems; only 29 percent opposed them. In addition, standardized tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress show private school students consistently outperform their public school peers in all subject areas.
Weingarten blundered on, calling DeSantis an “autocrat who does not care about people.”
The AFT president concluded by asserting that conservatives advocating for school reforms are a “well-organized, well-funded extremist minority.”
“Parents,” Weingarten said, “overwhelmingly support their local public schools,” ignoring studies which show that 61 percent of parents believe public schools are headed in the wrong direction.
In fact, only 32 percent of parents are completely satisfied with their child’s public education. Weingarten’s solution to the public education problem? In her own words, “There’s lots of action we’re doing … but ultimately it needs to be join your union, be involved, be engaged and know we’ve got your back.”
In lieu of informational sessions sharing strategies for combating falling test scores and growing public dissatisfaction, AFT’s Share My Lesson conference focused on gender identity, microaggressions and other left-wing priorities.
This, combined with Weingarten’s characterization of “the other side,” confirms status as a political operative with little interest in the workplace concerns of its members and none at all for giving students the sort of education parents expect their taxes to pay for.
Nearly a third of Americans agree that teachers’ unions have a negative effect on schools. That number would climb toward 100 percent if more knew what they were really up to.