NEW REPORT: The NEA’s and AFT’s Summer of Woke
WASHINGTON—As America’s students head back to school, the Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) is shedding light on the radical policy priorities of the nation’s two largest teacher unions and their impact on students, families, and teachers.
In its latest report, “The AFT’s and the NEA’s Summer of Woke”, DFI’s Robert S. Eitel and Paul Zimmerman examine the policy statements and resolutions adopted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) at their July 2022 conventions. The report cautions parents and teachers to take note of “how little [the unions] care for the average student or teacher and classroom learning.”
“Despite the catastrophic learning loss suffered by America’s school children during two years of union-driven lockdowns, the NEA and the AFT spent little to no time discussing how to improve academic achievement and make up for lost learning,” said Eitel, President and Co-Founder of DFI. “These assemblies focused instead on championing a radical social and cultural agenda and attacking their critics.”
For example, at its leadership conference July 14–17, the AFT unanimously passed a resolution committing the union to lobby for federal and state legislation to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization so that “all women, girls and others who can become pregnant” can obtain abortions. The AFT also adopted a resolution to destroy what it calls “mean-spirited” legislation that protects women’s and girls’ sports. The resolution called on states and schools to adopt “nondiscrimination policies” that would force women and girls to compete against biological men who identify as women.
The NEA followed a similar path at its assembly in Chicago on July 3–6. There, the assembly debated a policy statement asserting that schools must be made more racially “equitable” by banning metal detectors, ending random searches, and halting the general “policing of students on school campuses”—no matter the safety consequences for teachers and students.
The NEA also adopted a strategy to view every decision they make through the lens of how it can “help counteract dominant patterns of white supremacy” and voted to devote resources to repealing state laws that shield children younger than eight years old from sex-oriented classroom teaching and indoctrination in gender ideology.
The union activity also included efforts to condemn school choice policies that allow parents to decide where their children attend school.
“The NEA and AFT want you to believe that they defend the interests of the majority of classroom teachers and students, but their conventions instead reveal that union bosses are obsessed with what they deem ‘systemic’ racism, gender ideology, abortion rights, and fossil fuels issues,” Eitel and Zimmerman write. “They are not interested in fixing what is broken in America’s public schools for the sake of students.”
“Summer of Woke” is the latest product of DFI’s Teacher Union Accountability Project, launched in 2021 to shed light on how union leaders and their allies have used their political power to push aside parents, families, and classroom teachers to dominate public education in ways that harm students and limit their opportunities. DFI believes the unions’ embrace of ideological approaches to teaching, like Critical Race Theory and other pedagogical fads, have ignored the needs of classroom teachers, undercut sound academics, and distracted the public from the pressing need to prepare students for careers and higher education.