The leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers union recently proclaimed that she is “doing everything (she) can to safeguard democracy against the gravest threat since the Civil War.” Rather than address the crucial challenges facing American students and educators, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten focused her final New York Times column of the year on former President Donald Trump. Instead of honoring educators, Randi pontificated about the presidential election.

The Times generously grants Randi a monthly column. She uses the column to brag about her union’s political power (“AFT-supported candidates won over 80 percent of the time”), attack parents as “extremists” and “opponents,” fan the flames of the intentionally deceptive book ban narrative (“school libraries in Florida with every book removed and classroom bookshelves covered by tarps”), and pretend that education freedom advocates are “ideologues”’ determined to destroy schools. 

“We are at a crossroads: Fear and division, or hope and opportunity,” Randi (or her ghostwriter) declared in April. Randi and her teachers union members are more than welcome to join education freedom advocates in our efforts to offer families hope by expanding K-12 education opportunities. She likely will continue using her platform to whip up fear and division instead.

“As 2023 closes, I would have loved to devote this column to looking back on the year,” Randi lamented. She likely was not coerced into writing about the former president. She just couldn’t help herself because, by design, teachers unions are political entities. Randi needed to reassure her New York Times readers that her union will use its considerable political power and financial influence to elect their preferred candidates in 2024. The AFT may claim it will “safeguard democracy,” but instead the union will pour millions into electing politicians who will implement union-sanctioned policies.

At the Independent Women’s Forum’s Education Freedom Center, we are very concerned about the pernicious influence of both the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA). Our country must address the alarming learning loss and pervasive discipline issues that were exacerbated by union-mandated school closures during the Covid era. Teachers unions are compounding those challenges by closing schools with prolonged strikes. Students in Youngstown, Ohio, missed the first month of school and Portland, Oregon’s students were shut out of school in November due to teachers union strikes. 

IWF exposes teachers unions’ strikes and shenanigans through our weekly Teachers Union Report Card. The report cards reveal the state and local union leaders’ staggering salaries and lavish travel expenses, as well as the political agenda embedded in unions’ annual meetings and professional development. While Randi Weingarten is somewhat of a supervillain for her over-the-top theatrics and ludicrous social media posts, local union leaders must also be exposed and held accountable for their radical agendas and selfish actions.

Back in January, Randi’s column included a wish that students would “thrive academically, socially and emotionally.” In 2024, parents, policymakers, and educators eager to be free of union shackles should support efforts to help students thrive by defunding teachers unions, outlawing union strikes, and expanding education freedom. We look forward to working with parents and partners to ensure that our country is prioritizing students over systems.