Teachers union has become an arm of the abortion-rights left. Conservatives should quit.

Jessica Anderson and Lindsey Burke, Opinion contributors

Remember when labor unions used to fight for higher wages and better working conditions? Today, they seem more interested in advancing a political agenda than their members’ interests. 

The latest in a series of leftward leaps by unions came last week with the National Education Association’s full-throated endorsement of abortion.

Delegates to the union’s annual conference passed a business item stating that “the NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade." The union also adopted an official stance on “white fragility” and announced that the current vice president, described in her biography as a “social justice warrior,” will run for president of the union.

Abortion is not an education issue

Polling from Heritage Action for America shows that Americans across the political spectrum reject such a radical stance. Our June survey of 1,200 registered voters found that 54% of voters agree that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases; only 18% thought that abortion should be permitted in all cases. A recent Gallup poll shows similar results: 60% of American adults responded that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or legal in only a few circumstances, while only a quarter believe abortion should be legal in all cases.

Clearly, the vast majority of Americans don’t support a “fundamental right to abortion.” But the largest education association in the nation has decided to oppose their views.

Prosecute abortionists: Alabama is showing the way to protect all human life from abortion

Why would the NEA go out of its way to stake out extreme stances on hot-button issues so far removed from the very real problems facing our nation’s schools? It appears as though the union is more concerned with promoting the political objectives of the left than serving the nation’s teachers and students.

How deeply politicized and partisan are today’s teachers’ organizations? To answer that question, one needs only to follow the money.

NEA ignores conservative members 

Since 1990, the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers have made over $140 million in direct political contributions. Over 97% of that went to liberals. That kind of political bias isn’t at all representative of the unions’ membership. According to the NEA’s own polling, there are nearly as many conservative teachers in the union as liberals. But the union’s bosses have decided conservatives’ views aren’t worth representing.

The unions abandoned teachers long ago. It’s a small wonder more and more teachers are abandoning them.

In Springfield, Ill., in 2015.

Until recently, the NEA forced teachers to pay agency fees, whether they joined the union or not. The Supreme Court put a stop to that practice with its Janus v. AFSCME decision. Since then, the NEA has lost 17,000 members and 87,000 non-member agency fee payers. That mass exodus could explain their decision to open membership  to non-teachers for the purpose of funding their political action committee.

And if the unions’ adoption of radical left-leaning resolutions were not enough, delegates defeated a resolution to “make student learning the priority of the Association.” With that vote, the mask fell. Left-wing activism rather than student learning is now clearly the union’s top priority. 

Teachers should quit radical unions

Of course, that’s no shocker. It was evident all last year, as union leaders and education employees across the country went on strike, leaving their students for days or weeks in order to demand pay raises and ban charter schools. 

They also worked against school choice programs, despite their proven benefits for low-income students. In a particularly nauseating example, they went on strike against a small school choice option for children with special needs in West Virginia. 

It's not one or the other: I'm pro-life. That means protecting the unborn from abortion and also caring for women.

While teachers were forced to pay union dues and fund political donations for decades, last year’s Janus decision freed teachers from these forced obligations. It’s time for teachers to leave these radical political groups for good and use their money however they like.

The NEA has long pretended to be nonideological while taking teachers’ hard-earned money to support liberal politicians and enforce a leftist agenda, inside and outside the classroom. Now that the union explicitly promotes abortion and dubious “social justice” ideology, it’s time for teachers, parents and policymakers to recognize the true nature of these deep-pocketed special interest groups and fight back.

Jessica Anderson is Vice President of Heritage Action for America, and Lindsey Burke is Director of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation. Follow them on Twitter: @JessAnderson2 and @lindseymburke.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Abortion is last straw, conservatives should quit NEA teachers union