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Teachers Unions about to Bolt from Democratic Party?

The high-profile teacher fight in Chicago and other smaller union conflicts elsehwere in the country have pitted teachers’ unions against their longstanding allies in the Democratic Party. But while the rift between Democratic pols and their union backers has been a long time in the making, few expected things to go this far: The New York Times reports that teachers’ unions are now donating money to Republicans.

Fed up with a Democratic Party that seems to be taking them for granted, teachers’ unions in a number of states have donated more than $1 million to Republican candidates—not a hefty sum, to be sure, but far more than in years past. And in Illinois, a Tea Party candidate and his Republican colleague are the main recipients of funds from the state education association. The Times has more:

But now, as they grapple with a reform agenda backed by hedge funds and large philanthropic donors and championed by the Obama administration as well as some conservative Republicans, the teachers’ unions are navigating a delicate political landscape where they increasingly pursue friends in unlikely places.

“Instead of reaching across the aisle to find support for increased funding for public education,” said Richard W. Hurd, a professor of labor studies at Cornell University, “they are reaching across the aisle for people who are not sold on the idea that charter schools are good, or that testing should be used for all teacher evaluations, or that teachers should lose job security.”

As the Times notes, this shift has been relatively small; Democrats still rake in far more union cash than the GOP. It also seems unlikely that the broader Republican Party of Scott Walker and Paul Ryan is about to let teachers’ unions start influencing policy decisions.

But the fact that unions would even consider reaching across the aisle at all is a clear sign of just how much things have changed in the past few years.

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