Drawing over 1,000 educators, the second largest teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), recently hosted their TEACH Conference (“Together Educating America’s Children”) in Washington, DC. During the conference, teachers lobbied members of Congress, attended sessions, and heard from AFT President Randi Weingarten and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. 

Although the three-day conference was aimed towards professional development, the AFT used the opportunity to further its ideological agenda, as evident from the sessions and remarks. 

Weingarten claimed that the conference would focus on the essentials of literature and math, but instead, it included the following topics

  • Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities in and out of the Classroom
  • Strategies for Integrating Climate Change into Your Teaching
  • The Pedagogy of Educational Equity: Strategies to Interrupt Unconscious Bias in the Classroom
  • Cultural Appropriation: Yikes! I Didn’t Realize
  • Shaping Academic Minds Through Identity-Affirming Practices
  • The TGNCNB (transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary) Inclusive School and Classroom
  • Youth Justice in Practice: Moving from Restorative Circles to Restorative Systems

The AFT is clearly most concerned with activism that distracts from academic issues facing students like learning loss and historically low math and reading scores. 

Take the “Using Teachable Moments to Create Welcoming Classrooms” session for example. Led by gender activists associated with the Human Rights Campaign, this session included “responses to common questions about LGBTQIA+, gender, and family topics” so teachers “will feel prepared to address teachable moments throughout the school year.” This session was intended for Pre-K to 5th-grade teachers. 

Remarks from Weingarten and Cardona often attacked education freedom and what they considered “extremists.”

Cardona praised AFT President Randi Weingarten for her “fearless leadership” in his remarks, claiming, “No one fights harder for students and educators than you.”

He criticized state school choice programs, especially in Indiana and Arizona, falsely and hyperbolically claiming, “When you look closer, you find that it’s mainly wealthier families getting their private school tuition bills paid while schools in communities with the greatest needs have 95 degree classrooms, and substitute teachers in virtually every classroom.” 

What Cardona fails to recognize is that school choice helps all students and teachers, whether in public or private schools. It creates competition that incentivizes all schools to improve.   

The main culprit for extremism, bullying, and fear-mongering, according to Weingarten, is mothers who are expressing concerns about schools that prioritize activism over academics. 

She declared about concerned mothers, “Why do extremists demonize, distort, and demagogue public education, and why don‘t they offer a single idea to strengthen public schools? The answer, my friends, is pretty clear to me. Because they don’t want to improve public education. They want to end it.”

Early this year, the AFT along with the largest teachers’ union, National Education Association (NEA), endorsed President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the 2024 election. The AFT’s executive council also adopted resolutions to condemn “anti-LGBTQ+” policies and support healthcare workers and patients affected by abortion bans.     

During next summer’s convention, the AFT will vote on resolutions to determine its priorities. If this year’s conference and last year’s convention hold any precedence, the resolutions will continue to promote radical gender ideology, push a political agenda that diverts from education, and attack state school choice programs all in the name of “Educating America’s Children.”