July 24, 2002
The National Education Association (NEA) adopted several new goals
at its annual convention held in Dallas over the long Fourth of July
weekend. No, they don't have anything to do with improving
schoolchildren's reading, writing or calculating skills.
The NEA's first and most important goal is to fight against any
voucher plan, such as the Cleveland plan which was recently upheld by
the U.S. Supreme Court, and which the NEA now forecasts will be
imitated in seven or eight other states. Criticizing the Court's
ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, NEA's outgoing president Bob Chase
proclaimed in his keynote address: Just because the Court said
vouchers are constitutional, "that does not make it right."
What's so bad about vouchers? Two reasons, according to Chase's
platform histrionics. First, "it is driven by ideologues . . . not by
teachers and other educators," and second, it rests on "the big lie . .
. that public education has failed."
Voucher advocates must confess to the accuracy of the first
charge: their movement is not driven by teachers but by parents and
taxpayers. But they are no more ideologues than NEA officials.
To support his claim that it's a "lie" to assert that public
schools have failed, Chase cited a Money magazine report that 10
percent of public schools are as academically outstanding as the most
prestigious private schools. For those who had fuzzy math and didn't
learn how to subtract, that means 90 percent of public schools are NOT
as good as private schools, which is why vouchers look attractive to so
It's clear that opposition to vouchers is the litmus test for
election as an NEA official. Delegates listened to 17 candidates who
were given a couple of minutes to make their case, and most of them
used their time allotment to denounce vouchers.
Chase's math is just as fuzzy when he talks about funding for
public schools. He shouted in indignation that the President and
Congress appropriated "trillions for tax cuts, overwhelmingly for the
rich," plus billions for the Pentagon, corporate bailouts and farmers,
leaving "no new money left for public education."
In fact, Congress authorized a record $26.3 billion for public
education in President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, plus "such sums
as may be necessary" for 10 specific programs. That's $8 billion more
than the last Clinton education bill.
The NEA carries on a vicious personal counterattack against
parents who oppose NEA policies or candidates. The Convention passed
New Business Item 5, which calls on the NEA "to provide ongoing
strategic information to members and affiliates that increase member
knowledge of the ongoing attacks designed to destroy NEA and its
affiliates, limit educators' freedom of speech and their right to
This information will include "identification and history of
individuals and organizations that support the attacks and sources of
funds that support these attack efforts," "status reports on tactics
used by attack groups at the local, state, and national levels," and
"status reports on responses by NEA and its affiliates to deal with the
attacks." All this sounds ominously like a database on parents who
object to NEA politicking or leftwing curricula.
In NEA newspeak, "attack groups" means groups of concerned
parents, and "attacks designed to destroy NEA" means support for
vouchers or tax credits. "Limit educators' freedom of speech" means
parental efforts to opt their children out of courses promoting
premarital sex, gay rights or anti-Christian multiculturalism, and
limiting "their right to political participation" means objecting to
teachers proselyting schoolchildren in behalf of the NEA's designated
candidates, school tax increases and bond issues.
The NEA convention delegates approved their usual dozen or more
resolutions promoting gay rights and feminist curricula, activities,
and employment policies. The NEA's board of directors adopted a new
plan to encourage school districts to develop materials for classroom
discussions on homosexuality.
The NEA's principal goal, of course, is to expand jobs that
produce dues to the teachers union. New Business Item 57 reveals that
one of the purposes of the push for early childhood education is to
"organize and represent early childhood employees" who can fill the
gaps in the union's declining membership.
Jobs are also behind New Business Item 67 ordering a new NEA push
for bilingual education. Experience since the passage of California's
Proposition 227 proves that the way to teach English to immigrant
children is to scrap bilingual education, but the NEA wants to
perpetuate the bilingual bureaucracy anyway.
NEA members who don't toe the officially mandated line of NEA
bosses never get recognized by the chair. There was no resolution, for
example, to criticize the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal's decision
declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional in public schools.
But some delegates had their moment of spontaneous rebellion.
When the Convention opened with the customary recitation of the Pledge
of Allegiance, a large number of delegates shouted "under God!" in
their loudest voice and were warmly applauded.