NEW REPORT: DFI Exposes How Unions Use Collective Bargaining Agreements to Force Woke Ideology on Teachers and Students

January 18, 2023

WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) released a new report today revealing how teacher union bosses use collective bargaining agreement negotiations to embed their leftist ideology in school district policies and impose woke curricula on public school students and teachers. 

The report, titled “The Corrupt Bargain,” highlights in detail how unions have negotiated, without any public debate or scrutiny, collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the nation’s largest school districts to infuse curricula with leftist ideology, segregate teachers for benefits based on the color of their skin, and treat students differently based on race in the name of “equity.”

The report reads, “Rather than encourage teachers to exercise their professional judgment in deciding how to approach individual students in instruction and discipline, such provisions impose the unions’ preferred, one-size-fits-all dogma to constrain what teachers can teach and how they teach it. Far from zealously asserting the interests of their members, public school unions are using these provisions to rob teachers of their autonomy.”

The following is a list of some of the most egregious terms found in the CBAs cited in the report:  

  • The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers insisted on “Protections for Educators of Color” in a deal to end a teacher strike. These provisions illegally and unconstitutionally require the school district, when engaged in layoffs, to fire other teachers before it fires any “member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers in the District.” The agreement also requires the school district to grant minority educators access to resources and trainings as “additional supports” not granted to white teachers.
  • The Detroit Federation of Teachers negotiated with Detroit Public Schools to create a “School Equity Lead Supplemental Position.” The qualifications for this position include completion of a summer “anti-racism” course, to train educators how to teach students in a “culturally responsive” manner—meaning that every teacher must tailor their lesson plans to the perceived ethnicity of each of their students.
  • The Montgomery County Education Association contract with the Montgomery County, Md., school district requires schools seeking to discipline their students to engage in so-called “restorative practices”—translating the excessively lenient approach of progressive city prosecutors to the classroom in a way that encourages more misbehavior and classroom disruption to the detriment of student learning.

The report cites three major motivating factors for including woke policies in CBAs—ideological, political, and financial. These factors reflect the ambitions of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers (the largest national teacher unions) and their affiliates, which march to the same progressive drumbeat and ignore the political diversity of rank-and-file teachers.  

  • Ideology. Unions have a stranglehold on public schools in most states, and they use this leverage to negotiate CBAs that require schools to indoctrinate students. The goal is to reshape the country along “anti-racist” and “equitable” lines.
  • Politics. Through CBA provisions that regulate school districts’ hiring and firing decisions, teacher unions increase their membership and provide jobs for people who see the world through the unions’ ideological lens. In doing so, they increase their political power at all levels of government.
  • Finances. By increasing their membership through these hiring and firing decisions, the unions draw more dues from more paychecks. These dues, in turn, allow them to pursue their ideological goals while consolidating their political power.

As the report by DFI’s Paul Zimmerman states, “Teacher unions no longer resemble the teachers that they supposedly represent but are now political creatures that perpetuate themselves by feeding on teacher salaries and special privileges from states and school systems. Teachers stand to lose, and lose big, from union-imposed straitjackets dictating their teaching style, narrowing the permissible approaches to classroom discipline, and requiring their attendance at tedious trainings that aim to turn them and their students into ‘anti-racist’ social justice warriors.”

Added DFI President and Co-founder Bob Eitel, “This report is a stark warning to all Americans who believe in the right of students, teachers, and school employees to learn and work free from race discrimination. There’s a reason why parents throughout the United States keep encountering Critical Race Theory and so-called ‘anti-racist’ equity curricula, policies, and teaching methods in K-12 classrooms: union contracts often require it. If your child attends school in a unionized school district, you need to understand what is in the collective bargaining agreement with the union because it plays a significant role in what’s taught in the classroom.”

DFI is committed to holding teacher unions accountable for their actions and released this latest report as part of its Teacher Union Accountability Project. To learn more, click here.