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FACT SHEET: The GOP Has Always Been Anti-Education, Anti-Teacher and Anti-Union

Feb 7, 2023

It’s no secret that the MAGA House GOP is anti-education, anti-teacher and anti-union. Just a few weeks ago, Education & Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx called the president of the largest teachers union in the country “the most dangerous person in the world.” Foxx is holding her first hearing attacking public educators and public schools tomorrow.

The GOP has for decades been hostile to public schools, school teachers, public school curriculum and the unions who represent teachers. Before right-wing conspiracy theories about Critical Race Theory, Republicans stoked resentment by demanding private school vouchers. Before faux outrage over Drag Queen Story Hour, and even before the existence of COVID-19 or Randi Weingarten’s tenure at AFT, Republicans were pining for the elimination of the Department of Education dating back to Reagan. Attacks on teachers unions and the public health community’s pandemic response are only the latest efforts by Republicans to use public school as a political football. Make no mistake: for years, Republicans have been incredibly hostile to educators and teachers unions — well predating the pandemic and well predating Randi Weingarten.

Chair Virginia Foxx: Teachers Union President Is The “Most Dangerous Person In the World.” The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the largest teachers’ union in the country, has been a personal target of the Education and Workforce Committee. During a Newsmax interview on Jan. 14, Chair Virginia Foxx has referred to Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, as the most dangerous person in the world: “The teachers’ unions have almost destroyed the public schools.”

Trump and His Allies Have Always Been Openly Hostile To Public Educators. President Donald Trump has always led a blatantly anti-education MAGA movement. In 2016, education wasn’t even listed on Trump’s campaign website as one of his priorities. His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was one of the top proponents of defunding the federal education system. AFT president Weingarten said DeVos was the “most anti-public-education” education secretary ever confirmed, and has noted that DeVos promoted the largest per-student spending cuts since Reagan. Congressional Republicans confirmed her to the position in spite of her confirmation hearing performance, which involved plagiarized responses and the suggestion that teachers should all be armed in order to ward-off bear attacks.

State-Level Republicans Have Been Chipping Away At Public Education For Years — At Students & Teachers’ Expense. In GOP-led states, Republican policies have led to a decline in education outcomes. In Ohio for example, GOP operatives have been siphoning off public school funding and directing it toward politically connected charter schools for just over a decade, causing the state to drop from 5th in education rankings to 31st.

In 2018, Republican Lawmakers Faced Teacher Strikes and Walkouts After Refusing to Raise Pay with Cost of Living. Republican leaders across the country have long championed anti-education policies opposed by teachers unions, aggravating educators to the point of striking. In West Virginia, hundreds of teachers went on strike in 2018 after the GOP governor refused to sign agreed-upon pay raises for some of the most underpaid educators in the country. Several months later in Arizona, the governor denounced teachers as “political operatives” for protesting inadequate pay raises.

Dating Back To Reagan, The Republican Party Has Long Worked to Abolish the Education Department. The modern Republican party has its roots in Reaganism, and the Department of Education was a key target under Ronald Reagan’s presidency. In the 1980s, Reagan promised to abolish the department and appointed a hostile figure as his first education secretary. The Reagan administration ended up significantly reducing the agency’s regulatory authority and budget by the end of his tenure. Republicans have maintained Reagan’s anti-teacher legacy. The 1996 Republican platform declared, “we will abolish the Department of Education,” and most Republican presidential candidates in 2012 and 2016 heavily favored abolishing the Department during their debates.

Public Schools Have Always Been A Target of the GOP. Historically, the Republican coalition has been tethered by opposition to public schooling. School desegregation drove white evangelicals to become the strongest Republican demographic by the 1980s. The conservative movement has since been working to defund public education through “school vouchers,” at the opposition of most teachers unions. The anti-teacher “voucher” movement gained traction in the 1990s and has since spread to nearly a third of all states in the country.