Democrat presidential candidates (at least those left in the field) are still angling for the endorsement of the two most massive unions in the country, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Bitten by several situations in the last few elections, this year officials of both unions are taking their time to decide who will get their billions of dollars and millions donated in-kind contributions. Larry Sand has the story on the California Policy Center. He also looks at the repercussions of teacher union endorsements. Look for Part 2 next week, when Larry focuses on the repercussions for Democrat presidential candidates if they DO receive the teacher unions’ nod and millions.
As I wrote in May, several of the Democratic presidential hopefuls were tripping over each other in an effort to secure the endorsement of the teachers unions. These candidates were most pointed in criticizing any form of school choice. Bernie Sanders assured us that charter schools “are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.” Elizabeth Warren, also ignoring the fact that charters are public schools, exclaimed, “Money for public schools should stay in public schools; it should not go anywhere else.” Cory Booker, while still mildly pro-charter insisted that he had turned against vouchers when he became mayor of Newark in 2006.
But minorities, the greatest beneficiaries of school choice are fighting back. Most recently, while talking about racism at a stump speech in Atlanta, Elizabeth Warren was thrown for a loop when a group wearing t-shirts reading “Powerful Parent Network” stood up in the bleachers and chanted “Our children, our choice,” to protest her plan to end federal funding for charter schools. Apparently rattled, the senator from Massachusetts veered off into a pro-reparation pitch in an attempt to placate the crowd. Additionally, unable to dance away when later confronted by charter school parent-activist Sarah Carpenter over her plans to defund charters, Warren sniffed that her plan “may need improvement.”
Warren should have known better. While she is busy trying to secure the endorsement from the teachers unions, she is alienating many who might normally vote for her. A recent Democrats for Education Reform poll revealed that 58 percent of black Democratic voters view charters favorably, while just 31 percent oppose, and 52 percent of Hispanics are in favor with just 30 percent against. An Education Next poll came up with similar numbers.
In addition to Warren’s flip-flopping, her serial lying is not helping her. After being outed as a Caucasian, (not the Cherokee she swore she was), she was recently caught fibbing about where she sent her kids to school. She maintained that both went to public schools, which is a half-truth at best. They did go to public schools…except when they didn’t. A recent exposé by Cato Institute scholar Corey D’Angelis showed that Warren sent her son Alex to an expensive private school in the 1980s. Warren also used to be ardently pro-school choice. “Fully funded vouchers would relieve parents from the terrible choice of leaving their kids in lousy schools or bankrupting themselves to escape those schools,” Warren wrote in her 2004 book, “The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke.”
Cory Booker is no better. As a sop to the unions, he began hedging on charters in May, and railed against vouchers in an interview with The Washington Post in September. In fact, as Newark mayor Booker was famously pro-charter. Moreover, but he once served with union bête noire Betsy DeVos on the board of her pro-voucher group, the American Federation for Children, which he deemed an “incredible organization.”
So maybe he evolved, right? Well, not exactly. He is currently a co-sponsor of a Senate bill to reauthorize Washington D.C.’s school voucher program, legislation he signed onto in February after announcing his bid for president. Are you dizzy yet?
The unions could, of course, turn to Bernie Sanders, whose stand on parental choice hasn’t wavered and his Medicare for All scheme has been a union favorite, but there is an issue with the latter. In August, Sanders was asked if his Medicare plan would take away workers’ rights to bargain for medical benefits. Sanders shot back, “Yeah absolutely it would!” and added “It’s not a bad thing.”
In fact, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten certainly thinks it’s a bad thing. She maintains that there still should be a private option, but Sanders ain’t budging. A game changer? Maybe not. It didn’t stop the socialist leaders in the L.A. teachers union from endorsing Comrade Bernie a few weeks ago.