Consensus: Teachers Unions Spend Big on Election, Poor ROI


Despite tens of millions of dollars spent by teachers unions pushing their preferred people and policies in this year's election, they came away with little to show for their efforts.

The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association committed a combined amount of over $60 million in hopes to send a message to lawmakers with conservative education reform agendas, writes Sean Higgins for the Washington Examiner.

"The market-based reforms, the top-down reforms, the testing and sanctioning as opposed to supporting and improving has taken hold so much and has been so wrong-headed that you're seeing this fight back," Weingarten told the liberal magazine The Nation last month. AFT even created a Tumblr page called "You Got Schooled" to hit Republican candidates.

The spending went primarily to backing Democrats in six different states: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They lost in four out of the six states.

The only win for the unions in gubernatorial races was Pennsylvania Democrat Tom Wolf who won against his opponent incumbent Republican Tom Corbett by 10 points.

The unions fared better in Senate races where they also invested heavily. Democrat Gary Peters beat Republican Terri Lynn Land for Michigan's seat, 55 percent to 41 percent, and Minnesota's Al Franken was able to keep his seat against Mike McFadden, 53 percent to 43 percent.

In what was the unions' only high-profile education win, California's Tom Torlakson, who was backed by the unions, won in a close race against Marshall Tuck for the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, reports Phil Willon for the Los Angeles Times.

"We knew that when Californians look for direction on how to improve education – they don't look to Wall Street. They don't look to Silicon Valley,'' Torlakson said in a statement. "They look to the people who are in the schools in their neighborhood every day – the teachers, the school employees, the teacher's aides, the nurses, the counselors."

The gubernatorial races and Senate seat losses weren't the only ones felt by the unions. School chiefs who oppose Common Core won in Arizona and Georgia. In Nevada a ballot measure to raise money for public schools by raising corporate taxes lost. A proposal in Washington State to reduce class size and hire new educators failed despite promising results in pre-polling. In Seattle, people voted against raised wages for childcare workers and expanded access to pre-K, reports Catlin Emma and Stephanie Simon for Politico.

This shows the NEA's and AFT's influence may be on the decline. This is not breaking news, but it has become clearer with the passing election. Strong ties between the unions and the Democrats have loosened. The NEA and AFT have shown they will back Democratic candidates regardless so they have no motivation to comply with their demands, writes Rishawn Biddle for Dropout Nation.

Internally the unions are faltering as well. Young, reform-minded teachers, who make up the majority of the union membership, are less loyal than ever.

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