This summer, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President, Randi Weingarten addressed the AFT TEACH Conference. Her speech attacked school choice programs, urged more public education funding, and discussed mitigating the effects of the pandemic school closures her union demanded. She criticized what she called “extremists” that “try to divide Americans from one another” and “wage culture wars.” Weingarten went on to say, 

“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.”
Randi Weingarten

False. Completely make believe.

Some of the main culprits for extremism, according to Weingarten, are family members and groups who emphasize the importance of education freedom, express concerns about schools that prioritize political activism over academics, and advocate for parents. 

Weingarten’s false claim comes from a misunderstanding of public education. Public education should not mean a one-size-fits-all monopoly that restricts families to a residentially-assigned school. If that is what it means, then, yes, these family members do want to end that. But that is not the intended purpose of public education.

Public education exists to educate children. Because of this, public funding of education belongs to children and their families, not government-assigned schools. This funding empowers families to decide what school works best for their children. For some, that may be a government-assigned school, but for others that may be a charter school, magnet school, home school, microschool, or private school. 

Rather than ending public education, school choice and the result of competition encourages every school to improve. In fact, 26 of the 29 studies that have examined the effects of private school choice programs found benefits of private school choice competition on the outcomes in public schools.

By increasing competition, families can also better hold schools accountable when they do not perform their main objective of educating children. Kids actually perform better when their parents are involved in their education; just look at these studies, or these, or this one, or this one

In her speech, Weingarten further asserted, “{Most parents} want public schools strengthened, not privatized.”

While it is true that parents want K-12 education strengthened, they are also increasingly supporting school choice.  Polling from August 2023 discovered that 76% of parents support school choice policies in the form of education savings accounts (ESAs). Another recent survey found that 71% of voters support school choice with only 13% opposed. High majorities exist across political parties, races, and ethnicities.    

Concerned family members strive to be more involved in their kids’ academic life. This may mean criticizing schools when needed or choosing a different school for their child. This is not an effort to end public education. Rather, they want to make sure that every child has the opportunity to attend the school that meets his or her needs. They want to make sure schools are held accountable when they prioritize political agendas over the education of children. They show that parents should be the ones in charge of their children’s education; schools, students, and teachers perform better when this is the case.      

Over the course of this back-to-school season, Independent Women’s Forum will be exposing misleading and inaccurate quotes from teachers unions and their advocates through a series of Unicorn Fact Checks. This is the seventh and final Unicorn Fact Check in the series.