Most school board members in New York’s largest school districts were elected with support from teachers’ unions, with some candidates getting as much as 100 percent of their campaign expenses paid for by the union, a first-of-its-kind review by the Empire Center has revealed. 

In Boarded: The Teachers Union Takeover of NY School Districts, Empire Center research director Ken Girardin examined the membership of New York’s 45 largest school districts with elected boards, which together educate about one-third of the public school students outside New York City. Girardin found at least 187 of the 343 members had been elected with support from the local teachers’ union. 

“The interests of teachers’ unions often don’t line up with the interests of students or the public,” said Girardin. “School board members make important and far-reaching decisions. This report is a wake-up call for everyone from state lawmakers to parents.”  

The report also reveals: 

  • Teachers’ union officials have been staging photo ops in classrooms during school hours, possibly without parents’ knowledge.
  • A number of school board members have significant conflicts of interest, voting on contracts affecting their spouses or their own healthcare. 
  • New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the statewide teachers’ union, has gone beyond endorsing candidates and focused on installing its own members on not only school boards but also in local governments and the state Legislature. 
  • The campaign finance system meant to police school board elections is “broken beyond repair,” with candidates filing incomplete or false statements and local school officials having no mechanism to verify those filings. 

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