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Big Education

February 27, 2009

Teachers unions spread their wealth in the DC area:

Public school teachers, for the most part, are not well paid. Theirs is a noble undertaking, and in places like D.C. they do dangerous and difficult work with inadequate support. But the image of the hard-working self-sacrificing teacher is not the proper symbol for the teachers unions in this country. They are more like huge corporations with high-powered lobbying arms and cozy connections with important politicians.

Beltway bandits, defense contractors, influential industries—most of them pale in their influence efforts compared to the teachers unions, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Take defense contractors. Lockheed Martin, the top recipient of military contracts most years, spent more on politics than any other defense firm in the 2008 elections. They still spent less than the American Federation of Teachers, which shelled out $2.8 million in the last cycle—with nearly every AFT dime going to Democrats.

The top two teachers unions—AFT and the National Education Association—spent more combined, $5.27 million, than the top two defense contractors.

The top five lobbying firms, combined, didn’t equal the AFT and the NEA in federal contributions in the 2008 cycle. Both of the teachers unions gave more than any oil company, and the NEA and AFT combined gave more than the top four oil companies combined.

Of course, since public schools are dependent on Washington, contrary to private firms that are not funded with tax payers’ money, the concentration of lobbying efforts by the teachers unions makes sense. This doesn’t make their influence on lawmakers any more wholesome for the quality of public education, though.

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