Teaching Profession

Union Boycotts Teacher Award Ceremony, Citing Tea Party Ties

By Liana Loewus — October 07, 2010 1 min read

A science and math coach in Brooklyn, N.Y., won $25,000 for teaching excellence--but the awarding foundation’s connection to the Tea Party has since stirred up some controversy, according to the New York Daily News.

The Milken Family Foundation, a private organization focused on education and medical research that gives out 50 Milken Educator Awards a year, surprised 15-year veteran teacher Natasha Cooke-Nieves with the hefty check. However, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew refused to attend an event for Cooke-Nieves, citing the Milken foundation’s "$10,000 donation to FreedomWorks, a right wing group that features conservative television host Glenn Beck on its website,” the Daily News reports.

Lowell Milken, co-founder and chairman of the foundation, has also donated to other conservative political action committees, according to the Daily News. Opensecrets.org, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog run by the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that Milken gave $5,000 to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s PAC, Freedom First. Pawlenty has voiced support for several Tea Party candidates and praised the movement.

There’s even more hubbub around the Milken award ceremony than that: Three teachers are claiming they were “banished from the building for the day because the principal didn’t want anyone speaking poorly about the school to the education bigs who attended,” the paper says. One of the teachers told the Daily News, the principal “would have risked my telling them that classrooms don’t have enough supplies, some kids didn’t have text books until this week and the school has problems.” The principal said the teachers were sent to other campuses for professional development.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.