(The Center Square) — Public school unions receive “concierge-like service” from President Joe Biden’s Department of Education while parents get “vastly inequitable treatment,” according to a federal watchdog group.
Protect The Public’s Trust released a report Tuesday on the U.S. Department of Education and their “constant contact” with the two largest teachers unions in the country — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
The report included documents received in a Freedom of Information Act request that detailed the relationship between union officials and high-level Department of Education administrators. The emails revealed that Department of Education administrators talked with union officials as much as twice per week.
“These documents reveal what everyone already knew, that the teachers’ unions are driving the Department of Education bus,” Michael Chamberlain, director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said in a news release. “While the unions could not have received better access had they had an office in the building, the Department completely botched an attempt to create a parent advisory group. The sad reality is that parents may be spending more time discussing education policy with FBI agents monitoring their discussions at school board meetings than with the Department of Education.”
In June 2022, the U.S. Department of Education formed the National Parents and Families Engagement Council to help with recovering from the pandemic. However, the U.S. Department of Education disbanded the parents’ council after organizations filed a lawsuit claiming the National Parents and Families Engagement Council was not “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view.”
The NEA and AFT and the U.S. Department of Education did not respond to emails seeking comment.
The Protect The Public’s Trust report produced emails that highlighted the access the unions received from a top U.S. Department of Education official.
Acting Assistant Deputy Secretary Montserrat Garibay, who was the secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO before joining the U.S. Department of Education, sent an April 2021 email to two NEA employees thanking them for meeting with her twice a week. At the time, Garibay was the senior advisor for Labor Relations with the U.S. Department of Education.
In a July 2021 email, Garibay reached out to the AFT to schedule a “monthly” meeting with AFT president Randi Weingarten.
AFT administrator Shital Shal sent Garibay a March 2021 email containing the National Labor Management Partnership’s policy recommendations with the subject line “thank you!”
“Finally, thank you so much for listening to my ramblings about lifting up youth voice and strategic partnerships around various issues,” Shal told Garibay in the email.
The role of parents in education has become a national issue.
In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden comparing “acts of malice, violence and threats” by parents during school board meetings to domestic terrorism.
In 2021, then Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
In 2022, the Michigan Democratic Party questioned the role of parents in education in a Facebook post.
“Not sure where this ‘parents-should-control-what-is-taught-in-schools-because-they-are-our-kids’ is originating, but parents do have the option to choose to send their kids to a hand-selected private school at their own expense if this is what they desire,” read the post. “The purpose of a public education in a public schools is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know. The client of the public schools is not the parent, but the entire community, the public.”
The Michigan Democratic Party removed that post.
“We have deleted a post that ignored the important role parents play — and should play — in Michigan public schools,” the Michigan Dems wrote. “Parents need to have a say in their children’s education, end of story. The post does not reflect the views of Michigan Democrats and should not be misinterpreted as a statement of support from our elected officials or candidates.”