By Ben Velderman

WASHINGTON – The nation’s teacher union leaders practically tripped over their own feet Saturday morning, as they raced to their keyboards to pound out press releases denouncing Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers both issued press statements panning the decision. But in their haste, the Big Labor bosses inadvertently confirmed what their critics have long believed: The NEA and the AFT are far more concerned about promoting a left-wing political and economic agenda than they are about improving public education.

Need proof?

Consider the following.

Only one sentence of AFT President Randi Weingarten’s 11-sentence press release made any mention of Paul Ryan’s education policies – and that line contained only tired union clichés, not specific examples of policy differences.

“(Ryan) would reduce, not expand, real opportunities for all students to have access to high-quality public education,” Weingarten asserted, without offering any evidence.

Weingarten used twice as much space (two sentences) to attack Ryan’s views of the new health care law and Medicare, and spent four sentences to claim that Ryan favors the wealthy over the middle class.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel fared only slightly better. He referenced “education,” “students” or “teachers” in four lines of his 11-sentence release – though only one of those sentences mentioned any specific differences the union has with Ryan, namely on class sizes and early childhood education.

Like Weingarten, Van Roekel spent most of his release engaging in class warfare (five sentences) and attacking Ryan’s Medicare plans (one sentence).

Our favorite Van Roekel line: “… Governor Romney’s VP selection indicates that once again he chose the corporate fat cats and Wall Street barons over students, teachers, bus drivers, nurses and secretaries.” That’s an ironic criticism, considering that “fat cat” Van Roekel makes a combined $397,721 in salary and benefits – far more than the average classroom teacher he supposedly represents.

For those playing along at home, here are the final totals: 22 percent of the union leaders’ press releases discussed Paul Ryan’s views on public education; 13.6 percent criticized Ryan’s views about Medicare and the new health care overhaul; 40.9 percent on Ryan’s perceived treatment of the middle class.

Seems to us that’s a pretty clear indication of where the teacher unions’ real priorities lie.

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