The National Education Association (NEA), America’s second largest teachers’ union, set off a firestorm over the weekend with a tweet that said unionized teachers at government-run schools are the best and final authority on what’s best for children.
The tweet may be an innocent quip from some social media intern, but it points to a broader divide between supporters of government-run schools and parents who are increasingly concerned with what’s being taught in the classroom.
The teachers unions are a powerful political force in Maine and across the nation. Every election cycle, the teachers’ unions spend tens of millions of dollars — money taken from teachers paychecks — to help elect politicians. So the message emanating from the top has serious consequences for both government-run schools and politics generally.
Although the teachers unions regularly maintain that they lobby in the interests of students, that claim is hardly supported by recent experience. During the pandemic, the NEA and its partner the American Federation of Teachers played a lead role in closing down government-run schools. Those school closures were aimed at protecting school teachers, but the cost for doing so has been paid in student learning loss, rising youth mental illness, and higher rates of suicide.