If cognitive dissonance were a disease, Randi Weingarten had better hope her health insurance covers it as a preexisting condition. Last week, Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), led a protest against a pro-charter school conference in Lake Placid, New York. Her chief complaint: well-funded special interest groups are corrupting New York’s education system.
“Are you willing to fight for great neighborhood public schools?” implored Weingarten to a cheering crowd. One of the protesters lamented that public education is “being hijacked by special interests and money.”
We agree with the latter sentiment. While union bosses bemoan spending by pro-charter school interests, the New York State United Teachers, AFT’s New York affiliate, launched a $500,000 media campaign just six days before Buffalo’s school board election.
The goal? Elect three union-backed candidates to the board. And while pro-charter candidate Larry Quinn has raised $70,000, reportedly the most of any candidate in Buffalo school board history, the NYSUT-AFT expenditures blow it out of the water. Quinn’s “record” haul represents just 14 percent of the union “independent expenditure.”
Weingarten has a long history of hypocrisy when it comes to money in politics. At the federal level, AFT has funneled more than $1.9 million in campaign contributions this election cycle, in addition to $1.4 million spent on lobbying. In New York State in 2013, the NYSUT and New York City’s United Federation of Teachers spent nearly $5 million lobbying in Albany. Apparently you can put a price on protecting incompetent teachers at students’ expense, and it’s a very high one.