Sen. Blackburn: Students Should Be Put First, Not Union Bullies

This past year, schools transformed into political battlegrounds. The goal of providing a great education was pushed aside by partisan agendas and school board meeting debates. As a new semester begins, an already cracked system is slowly crumbling under pressure from political activists.

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Most recently, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) demanded a stop to in-person learning, despite receiving $2.8 billion in federal COVID funding to keep their classrooms open. The American Federation of Teachers quickly defended CTU’s actions, and schools in Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Newark readily followed their lead. As a result, union leaders are celebrating, but working parents and children are suffering.

Power-hungry unions aren’t satisfied with closing schools. They are now unapologetically lobbying for woke policies that go against student wellbeing. Nationwide campaigns are underway to promote Critical Race Theory, and the safety of female athletes is at risk under union-backed policies allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports. The unions even pushed the CDC to model their COVID safety guidance after union orders instead of following the science.

There are thousands of motivational, selfless teachers who have dedicated their lives to empowering the next generation. These educators build up our children and help them grow into the best versions of themselves. But, for unions, it has never been about our kids. These groups abuse their lobbying power to demand more funding for their partisan games, and in a system where the cash is tied to the school instead of the student, this means children ultimately lose. In contrast to the dysfunction of our current system, school choice policies put students first by letting funding follow the child. This more flexible approach offers children individualized programs and access to schools with higher graduation rates.

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I have long championed giving parents and students more choice in education. Last year, I worked to overhaul the Head Start program to provide lower-income families access to private preschools and supported legislation to make school choice scholarship donations tax-deductible. Most recently, I introduced a resolution to formally designate this week, January 23 through January 29, 2022, as National School Choice Week. Instead of enabling teachers’ unions’ abuse of power, the Biden administration needs to use this week as an opportunity to do what is best for our children and grandchildren – starting with expanding school choice.

As long as unions embrace their role as a schoolyard bully, student wellbeing will never be a priority. Just as parents advocate for their children in school board meetings, I will continue to fight for our students on Capitol Hill. This National School Choice Week, the administration needs to do the same.