Recently, The Washington Times published an op-ed that I authored where I describe how the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, to use the newspaper’s headline, “Careen Left.” But the reality is that the political landscape and momentum of teacher unions across the country is actually trending even further left than the actions of the national unions.
In my Washington Times piece I point out that the NEA approved resolutions on a whole host of liberal social-justice non-education issues, which indicated that the union was “moving in a more openly progressive direction,” according to Education Week.
For her part, AFT boss Randi Weingarten openly advocates building up union political power in order to enact a liberal agenda ranging from universal healthcare to climate change.
Yet, the liberal stances of the national teacher unions pale in comparison to the socialist activity of local teacher unions.
In Chicago, the city’s teachers union sent a delegation to—I’m not making this up—Venezuela. Why would the Chicago Teachers Union send a delegation of its members to one of the most brutal socialist dictatorships on the planet, which has been a primer on socialism’s failures?
According to the left-wing publication Fight Back, the union delegation sought “to learn what they could from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, exchange views on effective education and to show solidarity with the students, teachers and social movements of Venezuela.”
Lest one think that the delegation was a rogue group of socialists within the union, Fight Back reported: “The trip falls on the heels of a union resolution that was passed by the CTU Executive Board and House of Delegates. The resolution calls for an end to U.S. intervention in Venezuela.”
Indeed, the delegation included CTU leadership.
Fight Back quoted delegation member and CTU Area Vice President Sarah Chambers, who praised Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro saying, “Through major economic hardships, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro never closed a single public school or a single health clinic.”
Such rolling-eyeball statements remind one of the glowing comments about the Soviet Union made by gullible Western intellectuals.
The publication said that one of the most important meetings that the delegation had was with Venezuelan director of international affairs Vladimir Castillo, who explained the history of deceased former president Hugo Chavez’s socialist vision.
Evidently, the Chicago delegation readily accepted the message of Maduro’s minions.
According to Fight Back: “The Venezuelan government has transformed their state budget to where 75% of the nation’s budget goes to social programs. ‘What country in the world does that?’ asked CTU Math Teacher Valeria Vargas. ‘In the USA, 50% of our budget goes to war. Imagine if that money was put into education or health care? We had to strike for three days to get our charter school bosses to start to spend money on our students.’”
So, in the bizarre ideological world of the Chicago unionists, charter schools are worse than the Venezuelan socialist dictatorship and its oppressive policies.
A Venezuelan socialist activist told the Chicago delegation, “The U.S. wanted to remove the idea of socialism from our hearts, but it only grew stronger.” One can imagine delegation members nodding vigorously in approval.
The Chicago union is not an anomaly.
Last year, in a piece I wrote for Education Week, I noted that leaders of the union-supported teachers movement in Arizona were leftist radicals.
Red for Ed leader Noah Karvelis wrote, “leftist revolutionary ideology has consistently placed a particular emphasis on the importance of an empowered working class.” Thus, he concluded, “We must continue our fight and bolster the working class as we strive towards a progressive political revolution.”
The far-left march of the teacher unions is shocking and appalling. The thousands of ordinary classroom teachers who do not share the political extremism of their unions need to consider their newfound rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus decision and opt out of unions that are placing radical politics over the interests, concerns and viewpoints of their members.
Lance Izumi is the senior director of PRI’s Center for Education.