The nation’s two largest teachers unions contributed at least $2.25 million to re-elect Michigan’s Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as unions and school choice activists continue to pour money into the race.
The massive donations coming from the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are going to the pro-Whitmer group “Put Michigan First.” That organization is a federal 527 organization that is aligned with the Democratic Governors Association.
The National Education Association Advocacy Fund donated $1 million to Put Michigan First in July. AFT Solidarity, a group affiliated with AFT, donated a total of $1.25 million to that same group this year.
The most recent contribution from AFT Solidarity came on Oct. 13 for $250,000. It donated $1 million to Put Michigan First in late April.
“There’s no organization that has done more to destroy the future of children than the NEA, and no bigger rubber stamp for their anti-child agenda than Gretchen Whitmer,” Taylor Budowich, the head of the Trump-connected MAGA Inc. PAC, said of the teacher union backing for Whitmer.
MAGA Inc. is spending $1 million to support Whitmer’s GOP opponent, Tudor Dixon. Whitmer is in a relatively close race with Dixon, who is attacking Whitmer over her aggressive COVID-19 measures. Teachers unions often pushed back hard against school reopening during the pandemic.
“Gretchen Whitmer continues to take cues directly from her union bosses who shut schools down, kept our kids locked down at home longer than necessary, and created an education crisis in our state. She stood on the debate stage and blatantly lied that Michigan schools were only closed down for 3 months,” Dixon said in a comment to Fox News Digital.
“Her running-mate Garlin Gilchrist even had the audacity to say we must first take care of the adults in our education system – total disregard for kids and parents,” Dixon also said. “Gretchen is gaslighting the people of Michigan and is attempting to rewrite history to save face for her disastrous lockdown policies. I will put students over systems and will empower parents every step of the way.”
Dixon is backed by some of the most prominent school choice activists in the country, including former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos and at least six other members of her family gave a combined $2.9 million to the Michigan Families United super PAC that’s backing Dixon.
Education has been a major issue in the race for Michigan governor. Whitmer was among the most hard-line state leaders in implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures, and many schools in the state were not back to even partial in-person learning well into 2021, according to Michigan State.
Whitmer ordered all high schools fully closed between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2020, and the state did not lift its recommended school mask mandate until February 2022.
Whitmer defended her record on education during a recent debate with Dixon.
“I worked closely with my Republican and Democratic governors, and kids were out for three months,” the governor said. “The fact of the matter is education is what levels the playing field for people, and we’ve under-invested in it for decades.”
“Perhaps she wasn’t paying attention to what was actually happening,” Dixon shot back. “Maybe she thinks she can convince you that schools were only closed for three months, but you know better because your students are the ones that are desperately behind.”
The donations to Put Michigan First were disclosed in public forms reported to the IRS. The donations to Michigan Families United were publicly disclosed in a database available through the Michigan secretary of state. Crain’s Detroit Business previously reported on donations from the DeVos family and the NEA. The numbers in this story only include donations to Put Michigan First and Michigan Families United, meaning the donors could have spent even more money backing their preferred candidates in other ways.
Other donors to the pro-Whitmer Put Michigan First include the progressive Sixteen Thirty Fund with $100,000, the Democratic Governors Association with $10.7 million, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with $2 million.
“Their flashy ads won’t give children years of their lives and education back, it won’t make Michigan families forget about their draconian lockdowns and closures, and it won’t stop voters from electing Tudor Dixon on Nov. 8th,” Budowich said, referring to the teacher union support for Whitmer.
Whitmer’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this report.
Fox News’ Haris Alic contributed to this report.