This week, the American Federation of Teachers convened in Boston for its annual meeting. The union, led by Randi Weingarten, uses this meeting each year to set its priorities for the school year ahead by voting on resolutions.
This year’s batch of proposals is equally notable for what it includes as for what it doesn’t. The resolutions are chock full of progressive politics, and lack anything that addresses the failure of so many public schools to actually educate their students.
The resolutions are submitted by local union chapters, and they illuminate the group’s real priorities: Enacting leftist policies at the highest levels of government. For example, some resolutions would declare solidarity with Ukraine and condemn U.S. sanctions against Cuba. The teachers union is so emboldened by the Biden administration that it feels entitled to dictate foreign policy. It will also vote on resolutions about climate change, including divesting from fossil fuels.
Even the education-related proposals have little to do with learning. One proposal would urge the administration to cancel all student debt prior to the expiration of the student loan freeze on August 1st. Another supports allowing biological boys in girls’ sports; another would call for universal free school lunches. None of this touches what happens in classrooms.
The few classroom-related resolutions are also politically motivated: One opposes school choice; the union enjoys its pseudo-monopoly, sponsored by your tax dollars. Other resolutions call for teaching the histories of specific affinity groups, including the labor movement. The union will perpetuate itself by indoctrinating the next generation to believe that it is a benevolent entity, looking out for their best interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Parents know this, and that’s why the AFT is poised to resolve itself into irrelevance. According to a new Gallup survey, fewer than half of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in the public school system. The survey revealed that 43% of Democrats have such confidence, compared to only 14% of Republicans. Any way you slice it, the public schools and the teachers union that controls them get a failing grade.
The skeptical citizens are right. According to the latest Nation’s Report Card results, only 36% of public high school seniors are proficient in reading. An abysmal 24% have reached proficiency in math, and an embarrassing 22% in science and 11% in U.S. history. This is a national scandal and an embarrassment. ( And note, this is pre-COVID data; we can only imagine how horrific the scores are after the prolonged school shutdowns driven by the unions.)
In one of the few classroom-related resolutions, the AFT proposes concealing its own failures from parents by eliminating federal testing requirements in grades 3-8. A union that is proud of its work would have no compulsion to hide its results.
Parents see right through this. If the AFT is concerned for its own survival, it should vote down these resolutions and consider advocating for something—anything—that would improve educational quality.