The Albert Shanker Institute is a left-of-center think tank founded and operated by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s second largest teacher’s union.
The institute was formed in honor of Al Shanker, a labor union official who is credited with the founding and growth of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York City’s public schoolteachers’ union. Shanker later served as president of the UFT and the AFT.
The Shanker Institute is focused on developing tools that support AFT positions to influence the political community and the public. It has supported Common Core, the growth of public career and technical schools, greater federal and local funding of schools, and teaching materials supporting the role of unions and opposed charter schools and vouchers.
The Albert Shanker Institute (ASI), a left-of-center think tank, was founded by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to honor the memory of Albert Shanker, the union’s former president. 1
Albert Shanker was instrumental in the founding and growth of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York City’s local teacher’s union (and the nation’s largest). He worked as its president from 1964 until his death. After UFT affiliated with the AFT in 1974, Shanker served as president of both unions until his death in 1997. 2
ASI engages the political community and teachers via conferences, forums, papers, books, lesson plans, teaching material development, and publicity to shape debate surrounding AFT and ASI’s policies and programs. 3
Policies and Programs
The Shanker Institute supports the “Common Core” curriculum, the provision of textbooks and teaching materials that are common in all schools, and increased federal funding for schools to ensure equality in resources. ASI is a supporter of career and technical public education. While Albert Shanker was in favor of charter schools, ASI is now opposed to them along with vouchers due to the threat they perceive to public school funding and union membership. 4
On September 17, 2019 ASI was joined by Onward Together, a left-of-center lobbying and political funding group founded by Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, in sponsoring a conversation titled “In Defense of American Democracy.” 5
The Shanker Institute espouses the importance of government worker labor unions like its parent the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) leveraging the claim of the importance of a strong union voice and defends public-sector unions against arguments that they harm state budgets. 6 Core to ASI’s efforts are ensuring that textbooks contain a favorable description of unions in history. It offers a study guide and materials in support of a re-write of American history curricula that emphasizes the role of unions and the treatment of Native and African Americans. 7
The Shanker Institute is active in adapting to globalization and its impact on unions and extending it to the rest of the world via Democracy Web. 8
Democracy Web is a sub site of ASI that provides information on a global and country basis of comparative freedom. Tools provided include a study guide and a map of freedom that provides rankings on political rights and civil liberties. In its current rankings the United States is scored a “1” (the best rating) on civil liberties but a “2” on political rights. 9 10
On July 23rd, 2019 ASI presented at “New Faces of Fascism: Teacher Unions in the Global Fight Against Authoritarian Populisms of the Far Right” at an education congress in Bangkok, Thailand. The panel description included the statement: “The emergence of Trumpism in the United States, with its racist and authoritarian brand of far right populism, is not a unique political development.” It listed other examples including Russia, the Philippines, and Brazil and wrote: “All wage political war against unions, civil society, and democratic political movements.” 11
The Shanker Institute has a staff of six overseen by a board of 28 people from the education, union, and non-profit fields. 12 13
Randi Weingarten, is a left-of-center activist and president of ASI and the AFT. She previously served as president of the United Federation of Teachers, the New York City teachers union and part of the AFT. 14 As head of AFT, she espouses positions in opposition to charter schools, school vouchers, firing failed teachers, and merit pay for teachers and in support of federal financing of schools. 15
Loretta Johnson is secretary-treasurer of AFT and a member of the board of ASI. She chaired AFT’s Racial Equity Task Force and is a life-long Democrat. 16
Leo Casey is executive director of ASI. He is a life-long union organizer and former UFT executive and was national field director of Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the United States. 17
The Shanker Institute was initially funded by an endowment from AFT and receives 96% ($898,016) of its contributions and grants from AFT annually. ASI and AFT share the same management and staff, with AFT providing their salary and benefits in addition to the annual grant. 18 19
In 2017 income of $2,013,962, including $934,762 from contributions and grants and $1,062,700 in investment income, was reported. 20 Expenses totaled $1,276,248 with $7,000 in grants and contributions and other expense of $1,269,248. 21 Travel expense was $99,522 and administrative and programing expense (events, publications etc.) was $1,051,273. 22
Assets at the close of the year were $6,747,570 23
- “Mission Statement.” Shanker Institute, October 1, 2014. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/mission-statement.
- “Albert Shanker.” Welcome to the new UFT.org! Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.uft.org/your-union/about-uft/our-history/albert-shanker.
- “Shanker Institute.” Shanker Institute. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Albert Shanker.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., February 18, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Albert-Shanker.
- Prescott, Patrick. “Albert Shanker Institute.” Facebook. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/pg/Albert-Shanker-Institute-180653901981574/posts/.
- Shanker Institute. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/labor.
- “American Labor in U.S. History Textbooks.” Shanker Institute, January 4, 2015. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/resource/american-labor-us-history-textbooks.
- Shanker Institute. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/democracy.
- “Welcome to Democracy Web!” Welcome to Democracy Web | Democracy Web. Accessed April 27, 2020. http://democracyweb.org/.
- “Map of Freedom: Democracy Web.” Map of Freedom | Democracy Web. Accessed April 27, 2020. http://democracyweb.org/map-of-freedom.
- “New Faces of Fascism: Teacher Unions in the Global Fight Against Authoritarian Populisms of the Far Right.” Shanker Institute, November 6, 2019. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/event/new-faces-fascism.
- “ASI Staff.” Shanker Institute, September 24, 2019. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/asi-staff.
- “Board of Directors.” Shanker Institute, March 20, 2020. https://www.shankerinstitute.org/board-directors.
- Aftunion. “Randi Weingarten.” American Federation of Teachers, July 17, 2019. https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/randi-weingarten.
- “Randi Weingarten.” AFT Facts. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://aftfacts.com/randi-weingarten/.
- Aftunion. “Lorretta Johnson.” American Federation of Teachers, April 3, 2019. https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/lorretta-johnson.
- April 14, 2020, 2020 April 12, 2020 April 9, 2020 April 22, 2020 April 10, and 2020 April 6. “Working towards a Better Future for All.” Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Accessed April 27, 2020. https://www.dsausa.org/.
- “Albert Shanker Institute”. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. 2017. Schedule A ,Part I, Line g (A).
- “Albert Shanker Institute”. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. 2017. Part VII.
- “Albert Shanker Institute”. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. 2017. Part I, Lines 12, 8, 10.
- “Albert Shanker Institute”. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. 2017. Part I, Lines 18, 13, 17.
- “Albert Shanker Institute”. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. 2017. Part IX Lines 17, 25.
- “Albert Shanker Institute”. Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. 2017. Part I, Line 20.