The Enemies We Make

I am proud of the friends we at Power Line have made over the years, but I am also proud that we have made enemies of some truly hateful individuals and organizations. For me, Exhibit A is Education Minnesota, the National Education Association’s affiliate in my state.

Education Minnesota is by far the number one political force in Minnesota. The teachers’ union dominates our state legislature and gets pretty much whatever it wants. Its influence is malign: for decades, it has opposed every effort to reform and improve Minnesota’s public schools, almost always successfully.

Historically, Education Minnesota used the force of law to require teachers to pay up, whether they agreed with the union’s left-wing views or not. New teachers were told that they had little choice, if they wanted to teach in a Minnesota public school, but to join Education Minnesota and pay something like $1,000 a year in union dues. If they didn’t want to join the union, in the alternative they were legally required to pay “fees” to Education Minnesota that were almost equal to dues. So if you wanted to teach in Minnesota, you were legally required to support the state’s most partisan interest group. Education Minnesota took that money and used it to support far-left Democratic Party politicians who kept the corrupt bargain going. That was a scandal, in Minnesota and a number of other states, that went on for decades.

It finally came to an end with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The Janus opinion held that it violates the First Amendment to force public employees to support a union against their will. Is that a radical proposition, or what? But to corrupt unions like Education Minnesota, Janus was a potential death sentence. Would teachers continue to spend enormous amounts of money to fund left-wing political spending, now that they had a choice?

This is where the organization I lead, Center of the American Experiment, came in. For the last several years, we have mounted an informational campaign directed at teachers and prospective teachers in Minnesota. We have informed them of their rights, i.e., you are not required to join or to support Education Minnesota. Not only that, you have alternative sources for the benefits the union provides, like liability insurance, at a better price since many of your dollars won’t go to Democratic political candidates.

This came as a revelation to many Minnesota teachers, who have chosen to opt out of membership in Education Minnesota. Nevertheless, the corrupt bargain between Education Minnesota and Minnesota’s units of government continues. Union dues continue to be deducted from teachers’ paychecks unless they take steps to opt out of the union during a 30-day period in September. In my opinion, this is plainly illegal under the Janus decision, which requires that public employees affirmatively indicate their desire to join a union, not be required to opt out. (Incidentally, it would be hard to find a Minnesota teacher who has ever voted to be in a union. Education Minnesota is a “legacy” union, inflicted on new teachers for decades without a vote ever being taken.) Sadly, this sort of political corruption is no stranger to the State of Minnesota.

Because American Experiment is alerting teachers to their constitutional rights, Education Minnesota hates us. They have recently produced multiple documents and at least one video attacking our organization. This one, directed specifically against us, is a howler. For the sake of brevity, I will only highlight a few points:

Don’t be fooled. The Center of the American Experiment, its secretive funders and its allies don’t care about workers, public education or advancing equity in our communities.

CAE disguises itself as a think tank, but in reality is part of a well-coordinated, corporate-funded, multi-state attack on unions and working families.

First, our funders are “secretive” because we are a 501(c)(3) organization, but more than 90% of our revenue comes from donations by thousands of individual Minnesotans. The median gift is $60. Unlike Education Minnesota, our contributions are entirely voluntary. We don’t deduct money from anyone’s paycheck, we don’t bully anyone, and we don’t falsely claim that people are obligated by law to support us.

Second, note the reference to our being “corporate-funded,” which we are not to any material degree. This theme recurs throughout Education Minnesota’s screeds: “Corporate interests and the lawmakers and promoters who do their bidding have a different agenda,” “corporate interests won a politically motivated case in the U.S. Supreme Court,” “The center and its subsidiaries deliberately distract us with fearmongering to protect the richest few who write the rules against us.”

What on God’s green Earth are they talking about? We see here the reflexive Marxism of Education Minnesota’s ill-educated leaders. What was the movie where a character couldn’t stop himself from giving “Heil Hitler” salutes? Similarly, Education Minnesota can’t help genuflecting toward Karl Marx.

Finally, I want to thank Education Minnesota for its comments about me:

When asked by conservative radio host Michael Patrick Leahy on Jan. 19 about what’s happening to public education in Minnesota, Center of the American Experiment President John Hinderaker said this:

“In Minnesota, there’s been I think some delusional thinking about the quality of our public schools,” Hinderaker said on the Tennessee Star Report. He went on, surmising school shutdowns caused by COVID-19 will hopefully drive Minnesotans out of public schools into charter and private schools and have them understand “the baleful role of the teachers union, which is the main driver of lousy public education.”

That is an excellent quote, and I appreciate Education Minnesota’s re-publishing it. I am also pleased and surprised to see that leaders of Education Minnesota are reading the Tennessee Star. For those who may want the full story, this is what I said in response to a question from Mike Leahy:

It’s really interesting, Michael, because in Minnesota, I think this is true in most states, if you ask people in the abstract about the public schools, most people say they are good but not great. But if they are asked about the schools that their kids go to they’ll say, oh, yeah, they’re terrific. And in Minnesota there’s been I think some delusional thinking about the quality of our public schools.

They’ve generally enjoyed very, very high approval ratings and so on. Now one of the interesting things about the COVID shutdowns, is that they started a new road, because Minnesotans who have kids in the public schools have had real problems with the school shut downs and with remote learning working very poorly for most students and not working at all for maybe a third. More and more parents have had to look at alternatives.

And so we’re seeing a real upsurge in charter schools and private schools and homeschooling. And my organization, the Center of the American Experiment, does polling. And for the first time, we’re seeing a lot of Minnesotans unhappy with the public schools and also understanding the baleful role of the teachers’ union, which is the main driver of lousy public education.

Thanks again to Education Minnesota. Since you are the inveterate opponent of any reform to Minnesota’s public schools, and the main source of Critical Race Theory’s infiltration of our schools, I couldn’t be prouder to have you as an enemy.

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