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UCOMM

Andrew Yang Goes After Teachers Union

Yang has a long history of attacking teachers unions and supporting charter schools

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 29, 2021

After a failed bid to become President of the United States, Andrew Yang has set his sights on becoming Mayor of New York City. While Yang has no experience running a government, he believes that his experience as a mildly successful entrepreneur has prepared him to run the largest city in the nation.

Like another “celebrity” candidate, Yang thinks that the way to win is to bash unions. His latest attack on the hard-working teachers of New York came when Yang accused the City’s teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), of being the reason why his kids weren’t back in school. “I will confess to being a parent that has been frustrated by how slow our schools have been too open, and I do believe that the UFT has been a significant reason why our schools have been slow to open,” Yang said.

In September, New York City began opening schools for Elementary students, of which Yang’s 5-year-old son would be included. Last week, the last part of the City’s reopening plan was put into place with high school students returning to in-person classes. While teachers in New York City put themselves at risk to reopen schools, Yang admitted in January that he had joined many privileged Manhattanites in fleeing the city and said that he was instead spending more time upstate than in the city.

“We’ve spent more time upstate than in the city over the last number of months, but I also spent time in Georgia, as you know, I spent time in Pennsylvania campaigning for Joe and Kamala,” Yang said to the New York Times.

This isn’t the first time that Yang has gone after teachers' unions. In the past, he has labeled himself as “pro-charter.” As part of his argument for universal basic income, the issue that Yang is perhaps best known for, he argued that it was needed because of the failures of poorly funded public schools, which he blamed on teachers' unions for restricting principals in hiring decisions. In 2019, Yang went on The Rubin Report, which is hosted by Dave Rubin a controversial libertarian podcast host. On the show Yang called for a smaller federal government, a higher bar for teacher tenure, and a pathway for more charter schools saying:

“There are excellent charter schools and terrible charter schools. We should just be pro-excellent school, and [stop] saying that this entire category of school is somehow problematic. “I think it’s ridiculous that we’re tenuring teachers at like the two-year mark or something, and make it so you can’t be paid or you can’t be disciplined or fired.”

Yang went on to blast teachers’ unions as a hindrance to school choice and attacked politicians for bending to their will.  

In response to Yang’s claim that the UFT is holding up schools reopening, UFT President Mike Mulgrew said “The UFT was the leading force in New York City public schools opening and opening safely, protecting students and staff. Mr. Yang needs to do his homework.”

As UCOMM previously reported the UFT has played an important role in ensuring that schools opened safely in September, even going so far as to delay the opening of school so that a return to in-person learning could be done the correct way and done safely. The UFT has also worked with the City and State to roll out a vaccination program that has protected tens of thousands of members and allowed those teachers to safely return to in-person learning. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has even heralded the reopening of schools in New York City as a model that should have been followed in major cities around the country.

Yang’s decision to attack the teachers union and support charter schools is the failed neoliberal policy of the mid-2000’s to privatize public education and destroy teachers’ unions. Unfortunately, recent polls have shown Yang leading. New York City will be holding the Democratic primary on June 22nd.

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