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Debunking the Myth That Teachers' Unions Put Kids First

Debunking the Myth That Teachers' Unions Put Kids First

Unions moments of candor reveal the truth.

Glenn Beck and Kyle Olson’s new book, “Conform,” is about Common Core specifically, the state of public education in America more generally, and how to improve our system going forward with a set of practical, market-based reforms. In Chapter 4, Glenn and Kyle address the notion that "teachers' unions put kids first."

In case you missed Parts III or III of Kyle's series on Common Core and public education, be sure to check them out too. 


Go to any school employee union protest and you’re sure to find they’ve shrouded themselves in the protective shields of warm and cuddly children.

forsale Students pictured at a rally for public education funding at the Colorado capitol in April 2012. (Image Source: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

"Students are OUR Priority," read the signs at a Michigan Education Association capitol protest. They wanted more money for raises and benefits – you know, because those are good for kids.

But in moments of candor, when the progressive activists stray from the carefully crafted talking points, the true union positions slip out.

"Conform" tells of four such instances.

Perhaps the most egregious has been virtually wiped from the annals of history, and the American Federation of Teachers even tries to dispute it. Albert Shanker, the late president of the AFT, was quoted in 1985 by the Meridian (Miss.) Star newspaper as saying, "When schoolchildren start paying dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren."

Whoops! In TV and documentary filmmaking, that’s what you call a "money quote." No wonder the union does its best to marginalize it.

In 2009, National Education Association lawyer Bob Chanin was going to retire. The NEA wanted to play it up nice and gave him a plum speaking position at its annual convention. Instead of a gold watch, the NEA gave Chanin a soap box. He let ‘er rip.

Chanin stated:

"NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees."

"Willing" might be a bit of a stretch. When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gave his state's teachers the choice about whether or not to join the union – which had previously been a job requirement – the NEA lost an estimated 40,000 of those so-called "willing" members.

Or consider this from the California Teachers Association:

"[A]s we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason—and one reason only—and that was to engage in politics."

Wow. Teacher quality? Nope. Having more highly-educated students? Nah. More graduates can read? Who has time to waste on that – there’s politicking to be done!

Another damning admission came from Mary Hatwood Futrell in 1982, when she was president of the NEA:

"The major purpose of our organization is not the education of children. It is or ought to be the extension and/or preservation of our members' rights. We earnestly care about the kids learning but that is secondary to the other goals."

It’s incredible we as a society have given these people so much control over public schools. What have they done with that trust?

They have – for the first time ever – produced a generation of graduates less learned than their parents.

It is shameful and the blame lies at the feet of the people more interested in power, politics and money than they’ve historically been in educating children.

But is it reasonable to expect them to see the error of their ways and take corrective action?

Likely not – looking out for themselves is the very nature and purpose of Big Labor. While they'll do their best to position themselves to appear otherwise, their primary motivations are to gain power and control.

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