Rebecca Friedrichs is the fearless California public school teacher best known for being lead plaintiff in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the high-profile lawsuit that – until the unexpected death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 – was destined to end the union practice of forcibly collecting “agency fees” from non-union members. (Subsequently, last June, Janus v. AFSCME did end the practice.)
But what people may not know about Friedrichs is how much her support for educational choice fueled that crusade.
In her just-released autobiography, “Standing Up To Goliath,” Friedrichs details her rise from rank-and-file teacher to anti-union activist, including the role that choice played. In an interview with redefinED, she offers more insight into the teachers-and-choice piece, including why more teachers aren’t clamoring to expand options that, she says, would benefit them as much as students and parents.
“We will see widespread school choice when we can educate teachers on the truth,” Friedrichs said in the interview. Once teachers see “that these choice schools really are not bad, that charter schools really do have to close down within a few years if they don’t get the job done, that public schools go on and on and on and on for years even though they’re failing … once teachers know the truth, they’ll be on our side.”
Friedrichs describes herself as conservative. But “school choice” isn’t conservative, she said, no matter how often it’s often portrayed that way by critics and the press.
“That’s just another lie promoted by the unions,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re apolitical, you’re a Democrat, you’re a Republican, you’re a libertarian, you don’t vote. Everybody I know, once they understand school choice, and they realize it’s just what’s best for the child, they’re all for school choice.”
Friedrichs’s support is personal. At different points in her life, she said, she needed educational options for each of her sons. For Ben, her youngest, no option materialized, which left Ben in vulnerable situations and Friedrichs, then a single mom, crying all the way to work. For Kyle, an option did come through, just as drugs and other issues had him spiraling down.
Said Friedrichs, “School. Choice. Saved. His. Life.”
Friedrichs shares more details in the podcast, with a bonus for Major League Baseball fans. Kyle, now thriving as a pitcher in the minor leagues (in the Oakland A’s system), recently got a chance to face future Hall of Famer Mike Trout …
You’ll either have to buy Friedrichs’ book or listen to the podcast to find out what happened. 😊