|Back to August Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 187||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||AUGUST 2001|
NEA Survey Reveals Division|
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal (7-6-01) noted that, after NEA convention delegates gave "respectful attention" to Education Secretary Rod Paige, they "proceeded to consider the usual host of left-leaning proposals on the agenda." According to a member survey commissioned by the union last fall, however, these 9,000 delegates do not necessarily reflect the views of the 2.3 million rank-and-file members they purport to represent.
The issue of school vouchers, which the NEA has fought bitterly for years with rhetoric and millions of dues dollars, is a good example. The survey listed 10 issues for members to rank in order of importance, and vouchers came in last. Just 19% found vouchers "very important," while 39% thought the issue was "not at all important."
A report on the survey by the California-based Education Intelligence Agency (EIA) stated that, although a majority (59%) of respondents voted for Al Gore for president, only 48% identified themselves as Democrats, while 24% identified themselves as Republicans and 28% as Independents. Only 10% claimed to be "very liberal," while 31% said they were "moderate" and 22% "somewhat conservative." The survey also revealed that only 62% of Democrats, 25% of Republicans and 36% of Independents thought that NEA materials presented candidates and their positions in a fair and balanced way.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, these figures are at odds with the fact that state and national teachers unions "give more than 95% of their PAC contributions to Democrats." NEA convention delegates appear to have much more in common with union leadership than with many of their fellow members. They defeated by 80% a proposal known as Bylaw Amendment 4, which would have allowed "active NEA members to apply in writing to receive a refund of the portion of their dues allocated for 'political activity.'" (See Briefs.)