School & District Management

Do Teachers’ Political Views Align With Their Unions?

By Alyson Klein — December 12, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
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
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

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 What the Research Says 5 Things Schools Can Do This Summer to Improve Student Attendance Next Year
Schools can get a jump on student attendance during the school year by using data, leveraging summer programs, and connecting with families.
6 min read
Julian Gresham, 12, left, works in a group to program a Bee-Bot while in their fifth grade summer school class Monday, June 14, 2021, at Goliad Elementary School. Bee-bots and are new to Ector County Independent School District and help to teach students basic programming skills like sequencing, estimation and problem-solving.
Julian Gresham, 12, left, works on a robotics programming activity in a 5th-grade summer school class June 14, 2021, at Goliad Elementary School in Ector County, Texas. Active summer programs may improve students' attendance during the school year.
Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP
School & District Management Grad Rates Soared at a School Few Wanted to Attend. How It Happened
Leaders at this Florida high school have "learned to be flexible" to improve graduation rates.
8 min read
Student hanging on a tearing graduate cap tassel
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Don’t Just Listen to the Loudest Voices: Resources for Ed. Leaders
These resources can help school and district leaders communicate with their communities.
Jennifer Perry Cheatham & Jenny Portillo-Nacu
5 min read
A pair of hands type on a blank slate of keys that are either falling apart or coming together on a bed of sharpened pencils.  Leadership resources.
Raul Arias for Education Week
School & District Management The Harm of School Closures Can Last a Lifetime, New Research Shows
The short-term effects on students when their schools close have been well documented. New research examines the long-term impact.
5 min read
Desks and chairs are stacked in an empty classroom after the permanent closure of Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy in Brooklyn borough of New York on Aug. 6, 2020.
Desks and chairs are stacked in an empty classroom after the permanent closure of Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy in Brooklyn borough of New York on Aug. 6, 2020. A new study examines the long-term effects on students whose schools close.
Jessie Wardarski/AP