Teachers unions have risen to prominence in President Joe Biden's administration, exerting near-absolute control over school reopenings and mask demands. The epidemic revealed how powerful teachers unions are, and how children' best interests have taken a back seat to their own.
This year, the National Education Association, the country's biggest teacher organization with more than 3 million members, had the ear of Vice President Joe Biden, thanks to first lady Jill Biden, an educator and member of the National Education Association. Teachers unions were granted seats at the table during conversations at the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thanks to these and other connections.
They shouted tantrums, staged sickouts, and inflated their list of ridiculous must-do ultimatums when they didn't get what they wanted, holding the education of millions of youngsters hostage.
The public's patience began to run thin as their pranks became more outrageous.
The pandemic began with parents cheering teachers for pivoting and adapting quickly to remote learning, David Labaree, a professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, told Education Week. But soon the mood changed, and teachers (and their unions) who had once been hailed as heroes were viewed "not as the first responders, but more the people blocking the path to the classroom door," Labaree said.
Unions have not only opposed reopenings, but they have also rejected scientific evidence and bulldozed their way to their desired outcome.
Dr. Vinay Prasad, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, tweeted this year that teachers unions "will be held responsible for their irrational demands and stonewalling, and I am not sure they will survive the public reckoning."
The damage to upward mobility will fall along class and racial lines, and this country will be more feudal— Vinay Prasad, MD MPH 🎙️📷 (@VPrasadMDMPH) January 18, 2021
For example, United Staff Los Angeles has requested that schools stay closed until the district can secure enough supply of protective gear for kids and teachers. That's all right. However, the 35,000-member union sneaked in a condition that sought a freeze on new charter schools in Los Angeles, despite the fact that COVID-19 and school reopenings had nothing to do with it. Indeed, the epidemic may have shown the need for additional educational alternatives, which charter schools may supply.
Teachers unions in Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul joined forces with the Democratic Socialists of America to argue that traditional public schools couldn't survive without reforms such as a national ban on evictions, the elimination of voucher programs, and the elimination of standardized testing.
Despite criticisms that their unprecedented power grab had gotten out of hand, the unions didn't appear afraid to lean into the limelight.
During an East Room event in September, the NEA's proximity to power was even transformed into a cringeworthy effort at humor.
"By the way, of course, I sleep with an NEA member every night," Biden told a group of labor leaders who responded in applause.
Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, who was elected to a three-year term in September 2020, has stated that Biden has used her union's playbook to dictate legislative goals including prioritizing teachers for vaccines.
She also played a key role in securing unprecedented school financing in the COVID-19 relief packages. Congress enacted three stimulus packages in 2020 and 2021, totaling almost $279 billion in relief funding through the Education Stabilization Fund.
The Biden administration contacted Randi Weingarten, the president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, for "language" that the CDC might use in developing recommendations for school reopenings. The strong teachers union reportedly affected the administration's choice on when and how to restart schools, according to the New York Post, and the union's language was practically verbatim incorporated in the final recommendations.
"Randi Weingarten exercises more real practical political power than any senator or cabinet secretary, and her power is exercised exclusively in the interest of public-sector workers and the Democratic Party, which they effectively control," an opinion column in National Review read. "Perhaps it is time for Americans to take back some of that power."
The political strength of the country's two main teachers unions has also been revealed as a result of financial disclosures.
According to Fox News, the NEA gave more than $8 million to leftist dark-money organizations including the State Innovation Exchange, Strategic Victory Fund, and State Engagement Fund between 2020 and 2021. The State Engagement Fund got more than $6.5 million and is run by Democracy Alliance, dubbed "the Left's Secret Club" by Politico.