Education

Texas Teachers Unions Spend Big In Republican Primaries For State Legislature

(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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The political action committees of three major Texas teachers unions have given thousands of dollars to Republicans running in competitive primaries for the state legislature during the 2022 election cycle.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), Texas Classroom Teachers Association (ATCTA), and the National Education Association affiliate Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) have given a total of $83,500 in the 2022 primary cycle to 23 Republican candidates for the state legislature and state school board, a Daily Caller analysis of Texas campaign finance reports found. Twenty-two of those candidates are running in contested primaries, and 17 are incumbents.

The unions’ increased involvement in Republican Party politics follows the state legislature’s ban on approaches to teaching that suggest that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” That bill, passed in June 2021, was similar to bans on Critical Race Theory passed in several other states. All Republicans in both the state House and Senate supported the legislation.

All three unions issued statements criticizing the ban, with TSTA describing it as a “sinister” attempt to “intimidate teachers into whitewashing the racism that has plagued our nation’s history and downplaying the results of racism today.”

Public officials have also spoken out against alleged pornographic material in public school libraries, with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott directing the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), and the Texas State Board of Education to conduct an investigation. Texas state law prohibits the furnishing of pornography to minors. (RELATED: Texas School District Requires Parents To Sign NDA Form To Challenge ‘Pornographic’ Books)

The Texas Association of School Boards also criticized a letter submitted by the National School Boards Association that encouraged federal law enforcement officials to open investigations into parents who protested at school board meetings, although it did not sever ties with the national organization.

Several candidates who received the most combined money from the union PACs have backgrounds in public education. State Rep. Ken King, who received a combined $7,000 from ATPE and TCTA, served on a local school board for five years. Former New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel, who is running in the 73rd House District, was initially endorsed by the Texas affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, although the Texas AFT has since removed his endorsement from its primary list of candidates.

The Texas AFT could not be reached for comment on the matter. The union has endorsed nine Republican candidates at the state level, but it has only given money to Democrats.

The Casteel campaign did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment on the matter.

Texas does not have contribution limits for elections to the state legislature. The average Republican running for state legislature in 2020 raised nearly $153,000, with an average donation of $886, according to Ballotpedia.

ATPE and its PAC, ATPE-PAC, gave $60,500 to 17 Republican candidates, the most of any union. It gave $10,000 to state Rep. and former local school board trustee David Spiller, the most of any candidate in the cycle, and $5,000 to nine other candidates.

The Spiller campaign did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment on the matter.

The American Federation of Teachers was in contact with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the agency developed reopening guidelines for schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. AFT President Randi Weingarten emailed with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky shortly before Walensky released guidelines, and an agency deputy gave Weingarten and National Education Association President Becki Pringle a copy of the guidelines before they were announced so that the two bosses would have “time to digest” them.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 28: Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers, speaks during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2020 in Washington. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images)

Weingarten, a prominent surrogate for Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 presidential election, has also denied that critical race theory is taught in schools. Those statements contradict the public stance of AFT, which has promoted the theory. (RELATED: Teachers Union With 2.3 Million Members Vows To Support Critical Race Theory Education Across The Country)

At the national level, campaign donations from teachers unions are sent overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates. The NEA spent $48 million in the 2020 election cycle, 94% of which went to Democrats. In addition, “teacher” was the most common occupation for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign donors in the fourth quarter of 2019, as well as the Democratic National Convention in 2021.

A majority of AFT donations during the 2020 election cycle were to Democratic groups, such as House Majority PAC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The group’s aligned PAC, the AFT Committee on Political Education, gave $1 million to the Democrat-aligned Senate Majority PAC in May, two months after Democrats unanimously voted against a Republican-sponsored amendment that would tie American Rescue Plan education funds to school reopenings. American Federation of Teachers Solidarity, the union’s 527 advocacy organization, gave $1 million to Senate Majority PAC in December 2021, four months after Senate Democrats blocked another amendment requiring schools to reopen.