The National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), fresh off their Pandemic Era advocacy for school closures and masking small children, are pouring money into Maine’s local political races in a bid to keep their allies in the Maine Democratic Party in control of the State Legislature and the Blaine House.
The NEA and AFT are the two largest, most powerful teachers unions in the country, and they operate together according to a partnership agreement negotiated more than twenty years ago. According to that agreement, the two unions jointly fund activities and share in decision making.
NEA President Becky Pringle was an outspoken advocate of closing American schools beginning in 2020. At the same time, she made more than $500,000 in compensation, according to 2020 tax documents available online. According to those documents, the NEA raked in more than $606 million that year, most of that coming from union dues taken from public school teachers’ salaries.
For its part, the AFT collected more than $216 million in 2018, the most recent year for which the organization’s tax forms are available. Most of that revenue also came from dues extracted from teachers’ paychecks.
Randi Weingarten, head of the AFT, became the de facto face of COVID-19 Era school closures as she regularly lobbied to keep American schools closed on cable news and on social media. She was also a zealous proponent of masking school children until COVID-19 was no longer being transmitted in schools. According to tax documents, Weingarten worked 70 hours a week in 2018 and received more than $563,000 in compensation.
Now, the multimillionaire union bosses have their sights set on Maine. Both the AFT and the NEA are pouring cash into local Maine political races to ensure that the state’s political power — and the purse strings — continue to be dominated by officials who will serve the interests of the teachers’ unions regardless of what’s best for students.
One of the primary vehicles the teachers’ unions are using to influence local Maine politics is a committee called Citizens Who Support Maine Public Schools. Founded by the Maine Education Association, Maine’s largest teachers union, the committee has received more than $5.3 million, nearly all of that coming from the NEA and related committees. According to Maine campaign finance data, more than $1 million of that funding has gone to candidates and other committees, $145,070 has gone to campaign consultants, $1.8 million has gone to TV advertising, $525,345 to online ads, and $816,438 to direct mail.
The PAC has spent tens of thousands of dollars running attack ads online and in print against Republican office seekers. In September, the PAC filed reports for two independent expenditures — $103,377.81 and $102,544.11 — opposing former Gov. Paul LePage. The organization has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting nearly every Democratic candidate for state office, including Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and Gov. Janet Mills. In recent weeks, the PAC has also given to two other Democratic committees, $35,000 to Rebuild Maine and $25,000 to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.