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|NUMBER 163||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||AUGUST 1999|
Many of the 86 New Business Items (NBI) introduced at this year's NEA Representative Assembly had little or nothing to do with education. For example, NBI 16, submitted by 50 delegates, would have pledged the NEA to join with the Congressional Black Caucus, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Amnesty International, Maya Angelou, and others "in calling for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal," a man accused of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. The sponsoring delegates failed to mention that Mr. Jamal's appeals process has been exhausted.
According to Charlene Haar, President of the Education Policy Institute, another hotly debated item was NBI 20, which called for the NEA to support the closing of the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA). "Delegates were told that the school trains attendees in how to torture opponents, and that it supports brutal, corrupt regimes, especially in Latin America," Mrs. Haar reports. "Fortunately, one of the delegates was a former army officer who had been trained at SOA, and his refutation led to the defeat of the resolution."
In keeping with the convention's theme of opposition to school choice, NBI 25 was adopted as follows: "That the NEA develop membership training in the issues of vouchers and charter schools, especially targeting ethnic minority communities, so that NEA members can inform all community members of the threat to public education that vouchers and some charter schools present." The rationale was: "Ethnic minority communities are being told that vouchers are best for their children. We must provide them with the truth."