Union bosses love to complain about conservatives and business groups spending money to influence politics. But when left-wing funding behemoth Democracy Alliance recently tapped a high-ranking National Education Association (NEA) official to chair its board, that principled opposition to money in politics—if it ever existed—went right out the window.
John Stocks, the NEA’s current Executive Director, will chair the Democracy Alliance board, and he joins fellow union honcho and sell-out Randi Weingarten, who recently signed on as an Alliance “partner.” When it comes to money in politics, the issue for Big Labor clearly isn’t the money, but whether they’re the ones spending it.
This confirms that the Alliance, a key funder of liberal groups that support the Democratic Party’s ideological infrastructure, is now a full-fledged supporter of the country’s indefensible status on public education. That saddens former New York Times reporter Matt Bai, who hoped to see liberals continue President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s openness to education reform:
[I]f you were going to sit down and make a list of political powerhouses that have been intransigent and blindly doctrinaire in the face of change, you’d have a hard time finding a better example than the country’s largest teachers union. […] Just last week, a California judge, in ruling against the union, condemned its age-old protections of incompetent teachers, saying the union’s position not only was unconstitutional but also “shocks the conscience.”
Between them, the NEA and AFT are committed to obstructing education reform wherever it appears. To Bai,the Alliance getting in bed with these organizations is the last insult in the group’s slow departure from its founding principles of positive liberal change:
Eventually, the alliance became, essentially, a convener and funder of the [Democratic] party establishment. It welcomed several big unions to the table and took up side collections for candidates. And now it’s [sic] formalized that role by electing Stocks as its chairman.
In the end, it shouldn’t be surprising that institutional Democrats and the professional left are rejecting their experiments in education reform. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1990 the NEA and AFT together have pumped over $67 million into Democratic federal campaigns. When progressive principles meet big labor money, big labor money wins at the Democracy Alliance.