Leftward Leaning Teacher Donations Play Large Role in School Choice & Curriculum Transparency Debate

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) released its newest policy report, “Chalkboards and Campaign Checks: Political Contributions of Wisconsin Teachers and Education Reform.” By examining the state’s campaign finance system, we found that the vast majority of donors who identified themselves as teachers have contributed to Democratic candidates and Democratic-affiliated organizations.

The Quote: WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, PhD, said “Teachers have aligned strongly with one political party, and conservatives should place less concern about the public school sector’s political opinions when doing what is best for Wisconsin’s kids. Conservative candidates tip-toeing around school choice should consider the organized effort underway to sway their opinion.” 

Why It Matters: Politicians at every level must listen to their voters; but to get reelected, elected leaders think that they must make trade-offs between the desires of parents and wants of educators in their community. Political donations are an important measure of political engagement, ideology, and interest. The donations under study here are considered to be a reasonable proxy for the political opinions of teachers more widely in Wisconsin.

The Bottom Line: WILL argues that policymakers considering complex issues such as expanding school choice and public school funding formulas must not ignore the opinions of teachers in their community. However, they should not vote against education reform solely in fear of losing the phantom support from this set of the voter base; nor should they spend more time and money trying to sway the teacher vote.

Key Findings:

  • During key 2020 and 2022 election reporting cycles, here are the percentages of donations from teachers:
    • 94% of teacher donations went to Democratic candidates or organizations. Only 5.2% of donations went to others, including non-conservative-aligned entities such as the Green Party.
    • Of Wisconsin-based teachers, 88.5% of donations went to Democratic candidates or organizations. Even when considering only those who list a Wisconsin address, donations still disproportionally favor Democrats.
    • 100% of donations from the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) Conduit went to Democrats. This is via the donation pass-through organization of state teachers’ unions. Those who give to the intermediary organization “WEAC We Can Do It” have donations earmarked to specific candidates that are “pro-public education.”
  • WILL has created a map of donations from teachers on our website. This will allow policymakers to take a more granular look at teacher ideology in their own communities.
  • The position of teachers’ unions on issues like school choice is at odds with the general public. As of February 2022, a School Choice Wisconsin survey found that 77% of Republicans expressed support for school choice, as did 53% of Independents and 36% of Democrats.
  • This paper also serves to highlight further potential evidence of the leftward leanings of Wisconsin classrooms. With public school teachers overwhelmingly giving donations to Democrat candidates, it is highly likely that their ideology flows into the teaching they provide to students across the state, at least to some extent. WILL has previously highlighted this.


Dig Deeper:

Will Flanders, PHD

Will Flanders, PHD

Research Director

Cori Petersen

Cori Petersen

Writer and Research Analyst

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