NEA Convention Delegates Gather to Gloat
Nationís Largest Teachers Union Celebrates Its Victories
While most Americans were enjoying nonpolitical fireworks and cookouts over the Fourth of July weekend, 8,923 delegates and 5,469 registered non-delegates to the annual National Education Association (NEA) convention were meeting in Atlanta to celebrate their political victories. This largest teachers union had so much to gloat about that some of the trendy T-shirts sported the slogan "We're molding the future."
Not only had they elected the presidential candidate whom 91 percent of their delegates had voted to endorse at last year's convention (Bill Clinton, of course), but they were able to boast about remarkable victories in the two landmark Republican Congresses, both the 104th and the 105th.
NEA speakers and convention materials related how the NEA had been under fire from Congressional attacks and Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole, who had threatened to abolish the Department of Education. The NEA bragged that the Association had counterattacked with a "historic grassroots effort and legislative crisis campaign" that "paid off."
Indeed it did. Congress reversed two years of record cuts to education and, in September 1996, passed the single, largest increase ever in federal education funding: $3.5 billion. Education spending appropriated by Congress for FY 1997 is surpassing even Clinton's budget request.
The NEA's political work is as much about ideology as harvesting increased tax dollars for public schools. The NEA took credit for defeating the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, all voucher bills, all attempts to make English the official language of our public schools, and all efforts to curtail Goals 2000, School-to-Work, or affirmative action.
The NEA is predicting that, while Congress has not yet finalized the FY 1998 budget, Education Department programs have the potential to receive a second historic increase in federal spending from the Republican Congress. The NEA is also confident that Congress will pass the Kennedy-Hatch KidCare bill, a giant step toward the single-payer socialized medicine system that the NEA has endorsed for years.
Before they left Atlanta, the NEA delegates endorsed their usual roundup of non-academic, ultra-left political policies, including funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, public financing for public broadcasting, statehood for the District of Columbia, the education of children of illegal aliens, ratification of UN treaties on women and children, and a national holiday honoring Cesar Chavez.