Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), is set to deliver a speech in Washington, D.C. on Thursday comparing private school vouchers and tax credits to state-sponsored segregation.
Weingarten's speech at AFT's annual summer conference will charge President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with being in denial about the good that public schools do, USA Today reports.
Weingarten will mostly focus on the school choice reforms DeVos has long supported. The AFT president believes taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and similar policies are "only slightly more polite cousins of segregation."
Tying school choice to segregation has gained currency on the left, especially among teachers' unions, despite studies suggesting that they do not cause segregation.
Comparing DeVos to climate-change deniers, Weingarten says the education secretary must recognize "the good in our public schools and their foundational place in our democracy." Weingarten adds that vouchers, tax credits, and some charter schools "hide a dangerous ideological agenda" to destabilize public schools.
Weingarten's AFT and other teachers' unions hold that school choice will drain funding from public schools over time, hurting teachers. Weingarten also argues that private schools and certain charters should not be eligible for government funds because they are selective and public schools are not.
"And when a family chooses a private school, in reality it is the school and not the family that makes the choice," she says.
Teachers' unions have overwhelmingly supported Democrats in recent years as they have turned against school choice. In 2016, AFT's independent expenditures supporting Democrats totaled $5.5 million, with zero going to Republicans.
When DeVos was nominated for secretary of education, Weingarten immediately issued a statement in fierce opposition.
"In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding, and destroying public education in America," her statement read.
Democratic senators voted unanimously against the confirmation of DeVos to be secretary of education, despite some such as Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) previously supporting school choice. DeVos was confirmed by Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence's tie-breaking vote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) also spoke at an AFT event Wednesday, where she said the GOP was fostering violence. She argued that they needed to put more money toward education and health care, among other things.