State of the Teachers Union

Good news from the NEA: It’s getting out of government.

 
 

Betsy DeVos speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Dec. 9, 2016.

 
Betsy DeVos speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Dec. 9, 2016. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The president of the National Education Association has had enough. On Sunday Lily Eskelsen Garcia told her delegates that though she knows “how to find common ground with people who will never agree with me,” she won’t make the effort with President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

This is a sign the Trump Administration must be doing something right. The NEA is America’s largest union with some three million members, and it represents the adults in education, not the children. As if to underscore the point, on July 4 of all days the union approved a new and harsher statement on charter schools, calling privately run charters “a failed and damaging experiment.”

What the NEA really objects to is that charters are public schools that prove children written off as uneducable can be taught in the right environment. A telling sign of NEA priorities is that while it was denouncing charters the union said it is still happy to unionize them. 

As for the Education Department, Jimmy Carter created it as payoff to the NEA for its support in the 1976 election. The department has neither the funds nor the authority to make much of a difference in schools, which are mostly a state and local matter. Where Mrs. DeVos can make an impact is by using her bully pulpit on behalf of parents who are desperate for more good schools for their children—whether they are traditional public schools, charter public schools, or private and religious schools.

Mrs. DeVos has apparently been effective enough to shock the NEA into disavowing federal control of education, which is like Fannie Mae rejecting taxpayer loan guarantees. We’ll know Mrs. DeVos has succeeded when Ms. Eskelsen Garcia calls for the Education Department to be abolished.

Appeared in the July 6, 2017, print edition.

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