There’s been a lot of debate over education policy and, more recently, teacher pay raises, retirement security for teachers and other government works, and transparency in how our education dollars are spent here in Louisiana.

You know the Pelican Institute’s positions well: pay good teachers more (a lot more!), bring transparency to ensure more money is spent the classroom achieving educational outcomes for our kids, and let dollars follow the child to ensure every child has access to a school that fits!

But, at every step of the way, there’s a powerful and well-funded obstacle to achieving all of these goals: the state and national teachers unions.

So, are unions really looking out for kids or teachers? Do they represent their members’ views and work to develop the best and most professional, effective teachers… or are they organizations aimed at protecting their political power?

Let’s take a look at the facts:

At the recent National Education Association (NEA) – the nation’s largest teachers union –  Representative Assembly representatives from local NEA chapters from across the country gathered to decide NEA policy.

Almost unbelievably, union leaders rejected a resolution asserting the NEA should “re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America.”  Surely that’s something on which all teachers – and all of us! – can agree? Apparently not.

Instead, they had other issues apparently much more important. Frankly, a review of some of the recent resolutions adopted at their 2019 conference tell us a lot about the NEA’s priorities:

  • New Business Item 119 calls on “the U.S. government to accept responsibility for the destabilization of Central American Countries…and that this destabilization is a root cause of the recent increase of asylum seekers in America.”
  • Item 29 calls for all school districts to “recommend incorporating into their science curriculum causes, effects, and solutions to climate change and pollution…and include human’s involvement in climate change.”
  • Item 56 states “the NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.”
  • Item 20 mandates that name badges and various application forms allow space for an individual’s preferred pronoun.

Now, regardless of your opinion on any of these issues, one wonders why these issues are primarily the prevue of a professional organization and union focused on teachers and education. It’s a safe assumption that a large swath of union members in Louisiana have a diversity of views on those issues.

Also of note, their 2019 convention agenda was conspicuously absent of sessions focused on curriculum and instruction or increased student outcomes.

At a time when outcomes for Louisiana students remain some of the worst in the nation, Louisiana needs teachers, and the unions that represent them, to be focused on better educating students. Yet, unions both at the state and national levels clearly seem more interested in playing politics and protecting their power than improving student outcomes.

So, the next time you here unions speak about important policy issues, ask yourself, are they speaking to help students? Or to protect their political interests?