Teachers, I Love You. But Sometimes Your Unions Are Full of It.

Ironically, I spent part of my Labor Day arguing with unionized teachers on social media. Yep, I sure did.


Because every time I make an argument against teachers union foolery, traditional public schools’ failures or an argument in support of parent choice, here comes a unionized teacher taking it personally. 

'Rando Teacher' was one who got in their feelings. They spent days going back and forth with me and a few others on Twitter on a piece I wrote last week calling on anti-choice people to be as diligent in holding traditional public schools accountable as they are with charter schools.


And I don’t even think they read the piece. They must’ve just saw the caption, “Your time would be better spent working your fingers to the bone to improve traditional options for all students" and assumed it was an attack on teachers. SMH.


Then on Facebook, a fellow Chicago activist made a statement about the Black community’s frustration with and opposition to the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike threats every school year. 

When I joined the conversation to voice my support for the opposition and opinion on the CTU putting politics before students, Jackson Potter—CTU member and founder of The Caucus of Rank and File Educators—jumped in to defend the union by talking about his individual efforts to support Black and Latinx students.

I told Mr. Potter that I applaud his individual efforts and those of any teacher who goes above and beyond to prioritize student needs—but those efforts are not reflected in union leadership and decision-making. 

They put power and politics before students—that’s what I’m not here for and am calling out. And if you think they’re innocent in this business of education, you’re crazy.


I was never great at math but I’ve always been able to put two and two together. In this equation, if the teachers unions grow their membership, they grow their power, influence and bank accounts through collecting membership dues. If they lose members, their power and influence wane—and that’ll ultimately leave your wealthy leaders jobless. Poor Randy Weingarten, President of the AFT, will lose her salary of close to half a million dollars.

Unions will do anything to protect their pockets. Oops, I mean their rights. 

Their policies protect ineffective teachers from being fired—teachers that get to sit in classrooms every day, do nothing to better education for our students and still get paid. All for the sake of collecting those dues.

My friend and colleague Erika Sanzi shocked the country when she reported on Rhode Island’s teachers unions’ resistance to passing legislation that would make it illegal for teachers and other school employees to have sex with students once they turn 16. Outrageous!


So basically, singer R. Kelly should rot in jail for having sex with underaged girls, but teachers unions wanted us to look the other way when one of their members was feeling a little horny or amorous towards a student? 

Is this putting students first?

And as we speak, the Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to strike again, turning down a 16% pay raise for all teachers over the next five years and a promise to increase support staff.


That would put some Chicago teachers—who are some of the highest paid in the country—in the six-figure salary range while continuing to pinch the paychecks of families who are already contributing significant tax dollars to salaries and pension costs. 


Oh, and let’s not forget how hard the CTU advocated against charter schools during their strike back in 2012 and when they lost teachers to the notorious 50 school closures.

But fast forward to today and much of that anti-charter noise has died down since they figured out a way to recoup that membership loss by unionizing charter school teachers.

So keep being greedy and irresponsible with money, ignoring the voices of parents and attacking your “public enemy” who—behind closed doors—is really your strange bedfellow. And while doing all of that, watch how many more families will be pushed out of Chicago, leaving your teachers with no students to teach and your unions with no members.

These are just a few examples of why I look at unions sideways. But let me repeat for the thousandth time—I support good teachers 100%.

So if we’re all asking for accountability, we must first call out and hold the law-makers, political players and administrative decision-makers responsible for the failures and agendas that got us here in the first place. We have to be brave enough to separate ourselves from those groups when they do not represent our needs or the greater interests of our diverse communities. Finally and most importantly, we must own the responsibility and collectively take action to push agendas that promote educational excellence and not political power. 

Tanesha Peeples
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...

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