School & District Management

Do Teachers’ Political Views Align With Their Unions?

By Alyson Klein — December 12, 2017 2 min read

Last summer, Laurie Villani picked up her monthly issue of the National Education Association’s magazine, NEA Today—which she likes to skim for teaching tips—and was disturbed by what she saw.

On the cover: an article referring to the heartache that President Donald Trump’s moves on immigration has created for the children of undocumented immigrants.

Villani, a Republican who voted for the president, was not amused. The magazine, she said, was “supposed to be about helping my career, helping me teach better.” She did not think the union “should be trying to sway me one way or the other.” Villani, who teaches kindergarten in Virginia’s Prince William County, sent the NEA a “rebuttal” to its piece.

Villani isn’t the only teacher who doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with her union. About 60 percent of the educators who responded to a survey by the Education Week Research Center belong to a teachers’ union. But more than 30 percent say the union doesn’t represent their political views, or only represents them a little. The survey found that 40 percent said they have “some” political views in common with their union. And 28 percent think agree with the union on “a lot” of issues.

Political-Survey-Teachers-Unions

Some teachers see the union as a big-money special interest group.

“I feel like the NEA spends a lot of money on left-wing candidates and not a lot on third-party candidates,” said Tim Erickson, a special education teacher at Detroit Lakes High School in northwestern Minnesota, and a political independent. “They toe the Democratic Party line. They are an example of a corporate lobbying group. .. I’m throwing my money to the far left when I want it to go to the common sense middle.”

About This Survey

The Education Week Research Center surveyed a nationally representative sample of teachers, school-based leaders, and district leaders about their politics and views on a wide range of K-12 issues. The 38-question survey was administered in September and October to 1,122 educators including 555 teachers, 266 school leaders, 202 district leaders, and 99 other school or district employees. The margin of error for the survey overall was plus or minus 5 percent. Followup interviews involved survey respondents who agreed to be contacted after the survey and were willing to be quoted on a range of subjects.

More Survey Findings:

  • Survey Paints Political Portrait of America’s K-12 Educators
  • Many Educators Skeptical of School Choice, Including Conservatives, Survey Shows
  • Educators Conflicted on LGBT Issues, Survey Shows
  • Survey Shows Educators Struggle With Impact of Immigration

Read the full report.

To be sure, plenty of teachers view the union and their politics in a positive light.

Laura Hansen, a Democrat who voted for Clinton and reading specialist in New Hampshire’s Hampstead School District, says she’s seen the union stand up for teachers who get into difficult situations. And she thinks they come down on the right side, more often than not, in making endorsements.

“I feel like my teachers’ union is a very protective blanket,” she said. She agrees with “about 90 percent” of their recommendations on political candidates and issues.

Jason Tackett teaches at Herald Whitaker Middle School in Kentucky’s Magoffin County. He is a Republican who voted for Trump. He also supports the Kentucky Education Association. “I think they are great,” he said of the union. Though he hasn’t had to call on the union for professional help at this point, from what he’s seen “they usually back you up.”

And when it comes to politics, he thinks his state affiliate is “pretty neutral. …. They want what’s best for teachers.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Video Education Week Leadership Symposium: Resource Center
Resource Center for K-12 education’s premier leadership event.
1 min read
School & District Management Cash for Shots? Districts Take New Tacks to Boost Teacher Vaccinations
In order to get more school staff vaccinated, some district leaders are tempting them with raffles, jeans passes, and cash.
8 min read
Illustration of syringe tied to stick
Getty
School & District Management National Teachers' Union President: Schools Must Reopen 5 Days a Week This Fall
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wants five days a week of in-person school next fall.
4 min read
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Mark Lennihan/AP
School & District Management Principals and Stress: Strategies for Coping in Difficult Times
Running schools in the pandemic has strained leaders in unprecedented ways. Principals share their ideas for how to manage the stress.
6 min read
Illustration of calm woman working at desk
Getty