The Child Abuse of Teacher Union Politics

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Last year, when children around the country came home from school, their backpacks contained a note from the teacher—urging the students’ parents to vote Democratic.

“Political material supporting Democratic candidates was sent home from school with third grade students in Missoula, Montana,” according to veteran educator Cheri Pierson Yecke [pictured]. “Officials stated that the material ‘was intended for teachers, not students.'”

Nor is this the first time members of teachers’ unions could not tell the difference between a colleague’s mail slot and a child’s backpack. In Minnesota, Dr. Yecke writes, “In October 2004, a teacher at Weaver Elementary School (in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district, ISD 622) sent a political fundraising flier home in the backpacks of twenty-six students.”

“A spokesman for the district explained that it was union mail that was intended for teachers, not students, and was given to the students inadvertently.”

As Dr. Yecke points out, the use of teacher mailboxes and e-mails for campaign purposes is also questionable. Such correspondence also has little to do with lesson plans and homework assignments.

Dr. Yecke served eventfully as Minnesota’s Secretary of Education for 18 months. Appointed by the governor but not confirmed by the state assembly, Yecke, a Republican appointee, was forced out of office on a straight party line vote by the Democratic majority in Minnesota’s legislature.

As Dr. Yecke shows in her study, “Kids, Schools, and Politics: Protecting the Integrity of Taxpayer Resources,” teacher-union politicking does not begin when the school day ends. From elsewhere around the country, Dr. Yecke reveals:

  • “A local citizen’s group in the San Diego area sued the Ramona school district charging that “district employees illegally spent work hours and used district resources to campaign for a $25 million bond measure,” Dr. Yecke notes. “The allegations included use of district funds to purchase thousands of fliers promoting the measure and circulating petitions among students during the day.”
  • “The official website for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland notified students that they could ‘earn two hours of community service’ by attending a pro-tax rally,” Dr. Yecke found. “It went on to tell students that they could contact the local teachers’ union and other groups if they needed transportation.”
  • “A high school in Texas showed Michael Moore’s controversial film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ during an English class,” Dr. Yecke recounts. “The school’s principal previewed the film and said, ‘I didn’t hear anything that was offensive to me.'”

Dr. Yecke is a distinguished senior fellow for Education and Social Policy at the Center of the American Experiment, which published her study. The Center is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The study includes appendices that show the laws of most states on school day political activity. Interestingly, Dr. Yecke discovered, only two states ban the use of children as political couriers—Arizona and Virginia.

The author of The War Against Excellence, Dr. Yecke holds a Ph. D. in Education and has worked not only as a teacher but as an adminstrator in the educational system. Dr. Yecke served in both the Virginia Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education.

While serving in the Virginia Department of Education, Dr. Yecke helped craft and implement the state’s Standards of Learning exams taken by grade and high school students. At the federal level, while working with outgoing Secretary of Education Roderick Paige, Dr. Yecke worked on the President’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Dr. Yecke’s work on NCLB won her the enmity of Minnesota’s teachers’ unions when she returned to her home state. Her well-documented critique of the middle school movement in The War Against Excellence did not help to improve her relations with the state’s educational establishment either.