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Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

Brown has called for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.

By Jesse Valentine - May 09, 2024
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Sam Brown
Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Brown speaks to media at Reno High School in Reno, Nevada, June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sam Brown has repeatedly criticized and attacked Nevada’s teacher unions, putting himself at odds with nearly 40,000 educators in the state.

Brown, an Afghanistan War veteran, is currently leading in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen. He was endorsed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee last year. 

According to data from the Learning Policy Institute, Nevada has one of the worst teacher shortages in the country. The state’s teacher unions have fought to rectify this issue in recent years by advocating for higher pay and increased resources for schools and students. The unions have faced opposition from many conservative groups and lawmakers who have sought to divert public funds to charter schools and more tightly control classroom curriculums.

In a July 2023 interview with KLAS News in Las Vegas, Brown said the unions should not have any say in education policy.

“Right now we have too many D.C. bureaucrats that are dictating what happens in our classrooms,” Brown said. “Our stakeholders should be parents, students, and teachers. Not bureaucrats and teachers unions.”

Brown made similar remarks a few days later in a sit down with Newsmax.

“We’ve got to get parents back and engaged and in control of our education instead of D.C. bureaucrats and teachers unions,” Brown said.

Around the same time, Brown held a campaign event in Sparks where he blamed teachers unions and Rosen for the poor performance of Nevada’s public schools.

“Unfortunately, as almost all of us know here, our education system in Nevada ranks at the lowest across the country,” Brown said. “It ranks so low because Jacky Rosen is for the teachers unions and the bureaucrats in the Department of Education dictating to us how things ought to be.”

Brown did not provide evidence to support this claim. A Brown spokesperson did not respond to questions requesting clarification on the remark.

Brown first ran for senate in 2022 but failed to advance past the Republican primary. He made similar attacks on teachers and teacher unions during that campaign.

“Unions, special interest groups, even school boards, they want to gaslight us as parents and grandparents, and tell us, ‘oh, yeah, we’re the professionals. We’ve gotten this all figured out, you just go be a good taxpayer and give us more money, because the results are going to be better for your children if you’re not involved.’” Brown said in February 2022.

Nevada’s teacher unions, like most unions across the country, do not receive tax funding from the state.

Brown’s attacks on the unions could be a political liability. Many of the unions provide financial support to their preferred candidates and encourage their members to vote for those candidates. A Nevada Independent poll from 2022 found that a plurality of Nevada voters support the union goal of raising teacher pay as a means of improving education outcomes.

Katharine Kurz, a spokesperson for the Nevada State Democratic Party, provided the following statement: “While Sam Brown is focused on dividing our communities and tearing down teachers for political gain, Jacky Rosen is working to see that our educators have the tools and support they need to help all of our kids succeed in the classroom.”

Brown has also called for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, which would slash critical funding for Pell Grants, special education, career and technical education.


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