The AFT and NEA don’t have students’ best interests at heart any more than the UAW has those of auto buyers.
It isn’t just college campuses. The nation’s K-12 schools are also turning into hotbeds of political activism. As students protest gun violence, teachers are demanding higher pay, better benefits and more education funding overall.
The news isn’t that school systems want additional resources—it was ever thus. But the hardball tactics of teachers unions, and the rate at which they have succeeded in recent weeks, is extraordinary. The latest example comes from Arizona, where teachers and support staff plan to walk off the job Thursday, even though Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has offered a 20% across-the-board wage bump over three years.
Arizona educators no doubt have been emboldened by the victories of their comrades across the country. A February strike in West Virginia shut down every public school in the state for nearly two weeks—and ended with pay increases. Teacher work stoppages in Kentucky and Oklahoma earlier this month also yielded favorable outcomes for the strikers. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have thousands of state and local affiliates. They are among the richest and best-organized pressure groups in the country. And they are on a roll.
That’s good news for their members but not necessarily for children, parents and taxpayers. The teachers unions have convinced much of the media that their interests align with those of students, which is why straightforward labor disputes tend to be covered as “education” stories when they happen to involve the AFT or NEA. Realize, however, that teachers-union leaders behave like other union leaders. They exist to represent the concerns of their dues-paying members. When negotiating collective-bargaining agreements or deciding whether to strike, the AFT and NEA don’t have students in mind any more than the United Automobile Workers has car buyers in mind.