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|NUMBER 211||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||AUGUST 2003|
NEA's Bush Bashing: Sour Grapes Over 'Whine' Comment? |
Although the NEA did not originally oppose NCLB and has described the funding bill that followed as a "Legislative Victory," new union president Reg Weaver called the massive education law "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
During his first keynote speech before convention delegates, Weaver accused federal lawmakers of slashing education funding while pledging to "leave no child behind." He asked his audience of 9,000-plus: "Does it rile you that Washington's latest round of tax cuts will leave no millionaire behind but will actually leave millions of children behind?"
In fact, the NCLB Act of 2001 represents the largest education-spending bill ever passed and the union's own literature admits that the final education package "did include another significant increase for education." The $3.2 billion spending hike included increases of nearly $1.4 billion for both Title I and special education.
Some wonder whether Weaver's ire had less to do with the merits of NCLB than with U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige's recent characterization of the NEA as "a coalition of the whining." Paige noted that the union is "riled up" for political action against politicians who do not march in lockstep with its agenda.
Whatever the case, NEA convention delegates dutifully refused to allow reality to supersede rhetoric. To protest the law, they approved New Business Item (NBI) 11, which forbids NEA officials and publications to use the name "No Child Left Behind." The union will now be required to refer to NCLB as President Bush's reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Weaver also used his keynote address to announce that the NEA and its state affiliates in Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Utah, are planning to file a federal lawsuit "to challenge [NCLB's] unfunded mandates imposed on states and school districts . . . as contrary to the intent of Congress."
According to the Washington Times (7-4-03), this lawsuit "will be based on a provision that states: 'Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the federal government to . . . mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this act.' "
Weaver told convention delegates that the union has "launched a full-court legislative press to fix and fund the new federal law."
The bottom line, as the Education Intelligence Agency noted, is that "NCLB is a federal power grab. But it's the first federal power grab NEA has ever found reason to oppose."