For Education secretary, Joe Biden is reportedly considering both Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Lily Garcia, who headed the National Education Association (NEA) for six years until she left her post on September 1. This is, according to Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post, because he wants “someone with experience in primary or secondary education.” What it actually tells us is that under Biden, the Department of Education will see its mission not as improving conditions and outcomes for students, but as appeasing the country’s two largest teachers’ unions, a key Democratic constituency.
What would a Weingarten or Garcia agenda look like? Let’s examine their respective records at the AFT and NEA. Weingarten endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) in the Democratic primary. Warren’s education plan called for a “great public school education for every student” while decrying “extreme accountability measures” for educators and pledging to “stop the privatization and corruption of our public education system.” Expect a Weingarten-led department to be similarly single-minded in targeting private schools and allocating resources such that they benefit the only constituency Weingarten has any real interest in bettering: public-school teachers.
Under Garcia’s leadership, the NEA has responded to the coronavirus crisis by arguing against school reopening and demanding that the Senate pass and president sign the HEROES Act, the relief package passed by the Nancy Pelosi–led House. That bill provides for checks for illegal immigrants, the reinstatement of the state and local federal tax deduction, $25 billion for the Post Office, student-loan forgiveness, and billions of dollars in unrestricted cash that would be used to bail out states and localities that find themselves in dire financial straits not because of the virus, but because of chronic mismanagement and overspending. Kevin Williamson has rightly observed that it is “a jumble of ordinary, naked political opportunism, with Pelosi et al. looking for a good opportunity to maximize the transfer of wealth to their constituents and do their allies in Springfield and Sacramento a solid, along with the usual assortment of public-sector union bosses and other special-interest groups.”
That Biden would float these two guild guardians as potential picks to run the Department of Education is telling: A Biden administration sees its duty pursuant to education as holding together a voting bloc, not securing a better future for American students.
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