Analysis: The NEA’s 5 Financially Shakiest States

Bradford: Teachers Unions Exploited Ed Reform Split Over DeVos While Never Losing Focus

Essay: Running for Change, South Dakota High Schooler Protests Pipeline, Meets the President (Twice)

Allen: Advice to Secretary DeVos — Lean In, Be Bold, Talk About Power, and Rethink Twitter

Opinion: Why I’m Taking My Child Out of Our Renewal School

Analysis: Was Hillary’s Union Support Limited to (Some of) the Public Sector?

Barber: Transformation — The Time Is Now

KIPP Leaders: 4 Critical Areas Secretary DeVos Should Focus on to Ensure All Students Succeed

Opinion: Now More Than Ever, Diverse Charter Schools Are Essential

Whitmire: Dear Secretary DeVos, If You Want to Grow Great Charter Schools, Do This, Not That

Sahm: Found in Yonkers

Hernandez: DeVos Should Tell Her Critics All Kids Deserve School Choice — Just Like Theirs Have

Marnie Kaplan: Sometimes Government IS the Solution — Reauthorizing Head Start, 10 Years Later

Analysis: The One Senator Teachers Unions Might Have Swayed on DeVos Is the One Who Couldn’t Vote ‘No’

Analysis: Facing Threats, Can Public-Sector Unions Learn From the Demise of Industrial Workers?

Bradford: Dangerous for Charter Advocates to Embrace Elizabeth Warren and Trash School Vouchers

Eden: When the New York Times’s Reporting on DeVos and Detroit Charters Looks Like ‘Alternative Facts’

Open Letter: What the NAACP Should Know About Florida’s Charter Schools Ahead of Tonight’s Orlando Hearing

Analysis: The Strange Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members

Ashley Berner and Charles L. Glenn: America’s Muslim Schools and the Common Good

Campbell Brown and Kevin P. Chavous: Teachers Unions Strong-Arm Democrats, Kill Iowa Education Summit

October 8, 2015

Kevin P. Chavous
Kevin  P. Chavous

Kevin P. Chavous is a founding board member for the American Federation for Children. He is a former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and a former chairman of D.C.’s Education Committee. Chavous was responsible for enacting numerous education reforms in D.C. Chavous is chair emeritus of the Democrats for Education Reform and a former chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Kevin P. Chavous is a founding board member for the American Federation for Children. He is a former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and a former chairman of D.C.’s Education Committee. Chavous was responsible for enacting numerous education reforms in D.C. Chavous is chair emeritus of the Democrats for Education Reform and a former chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

This post originally appeared in The Daily Beast
Recently, while speaking at a public high school in Des Moines, IowaPresident Barack Obama criticized political correctness and those who not only refuse to hear opposing views, but go so far as to silence opposing points of view:
“I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative, or they don’t want to read a book if it had language that is offensive to African Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either—that you when you become students at colleges, you have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”

While his message was directed at college students, the message is really universal. While the protection of speech is at the bedrock of our democracy, it’s critical as a nation that we exercise our right every day—and that includes embracing and engaging with those we may not agree with.

Incidentally, while President Obama’s message may have resonated with the high school students sitting in the gymnasium, it falls on deaf ears with the nation’s largest teachers union.

Recently, The Seventy Four and the American Federation for Children teamed up to hold forums focused on our nation’s education system. The first forum was held in New Hampshire and featured six of the leading Republican presidential candidates—all of whom sat for 45 minutes to speak in depth on education issues facing our nation. The events were unscripted, live, open to the public and forced candidates to talk policy specifics and not in soundbites.

A second forum was to be held in Iowa and feature Democratic candidates for president. In addition to The Seventy Four and the American Federation for Children, the two organizations teamed up with The Des Moines Register, one of the nation’s most-respected newspapers.

Unfortunately, this event will not take place, as POLITICO reported, the nation’s two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation for Teachers (AFT), worked aggressively behind the scenes to kill the event.

Rather than risk having Democratic candidates speak about education reform, perhaps celebrate the teachers unions' positions or perhaps break with the teachers unions (both the NEA and AFT have endorsed Secretary Clinton), the unions maneuvered behind the scenes to actively discourage candidates from participating.

This form of bullying is anti-democratic. It diminishes the free engagement of ideas—just as the President said, with those you agree with but perhaps equally important, with those you disagree with.

The teachers unions active attempt to undercut an event sponsored by two organizations dedicated to education reform and a highly respected newspaper perhaps says more about the AFT’s and NEA’s weakness than their strength.

Voters have demonstrated time and again that candidates who buck the teachers union are rewarded. The NEA and AFT oppose empowering parents, they oppose charter schools, oppose common sense tenure reform that would protect good teachers and remove ineffective teachers, and they sue to stop parents from accessing school choice programs.  Meanwhile, voters strongly support all of these issues which is why in 2014, despite spending an estimated $100 million, the NEA and AFT were largely seen as the biggest losers of the election cycle. In nearly all parts of the country, voters rebuked the teachers unions’ message and backed reform-minded candidates.

The evidence is more than anecdotal. In a national poll conducted by Beck Research, a Democratic pollster who has previously done work for the NEA, 60 percent of Democrats favored the concept of school choice. Furthermore, 63 percent of voters supported private school choice, when they were specifically asked if they support or oppose “opportunity scholarships, also known as school vouchers.”

Perhaps there is no greater evidence that the teachers union has swung too far out of the mainstream that they both have been a target of near-constant criticism from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In the end, while the NEA and AFT may claim a momentary victory by silencing discussion and debate on education reform, ultimately they will continue to lose the battle with public opinion. More and more parents and voters have rejected the teachers union antiquated, top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education, and continue to elect candidates who embrace reform that celebrates students and empowers parents.