|Back to Aug. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 223||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||AUGUST 2004|
|Political Activism Takes Center Stage with the NEA|
The head of the NEA, Reg Weaver, opened the annual convention in July in Washington, DC with a call for public school teachers and employees to mobilize to defeat President Bush this fall. He said the union's political activism "takes center stage," and he predicted that "our 2.7 million members can be the X-factor in this election."
For the 2004 political campaign, the NEA will "partner" with the leftwing organizations MoveOn.org, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), and the pro-Democratic Campaign for America's Future in order to achieve "the largest mobilization for education ever." Through a nationwide political strategy called "house parties" to be held on September 22, these activists will plan political rallies, register voters, meet with congressional candidates, and organize a get-out-the-vote program to cover teachers and parents. Two thousand delegates to the NEA convention signed up to be house party hosts.
During the convention, delegates contributed more than $1.25 million toward the NEA's political war chest. That is only a small part of the direct political expenditures the NEA will make this year. In the last two-year election cycle, NEA PAC took in $7.2 million that was used for direct contributions to candidates' campaigns.
John Kerry was to have been the convention's headline speaker, but he stood them up, choosing that very day to announce his choice of John Edwards as his running mate. The delegates were more than pleased with his replacement, Hillary Clinton, who was introduced as "one of our closest allies; she's so close, in fact, that she needs no further introduction."
Hillary brought the delegates to their feet with what the NEA's official newspaper called her "sharp wit," such as, "We are one day closer to the end of the Bush-Cheney Administration." Actually, she was just a warmup for a showing of Michael Moore's anti-Bush movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," right after her speech.
The NEA's lobbying goals for next year's Congress include federal funding for public school child care, early childhood programs that are school-based, before- and after-school programs, big spending for school counselors, and school-based health care for children.
The NEA's non-education-related lobbying goals include funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, a national universal health care system, reparations to African Americans, statehood for the District of Columbia, taxpayer funding of federal elections, and a national holiday for Cesar Chavez. The NEA's foreign policy goals include ratification of the United Nations treaties on the Rights of the Child and on Discrimination against Women.
The NEA's feminist lobbying goals include "reproductive freedom without governmental intervention" (but, of course, with tax funding), affirmative action, assigning women to military combat, and the Equal Rights Amendment. The NEA's gay goals include a federal statute prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, income tax benefits for domestic partners, and hate crimes legislation.
The NEA opposes all varieties of school choice, tuition tax credits, vouchers, parental option or "choice" in education programs, designating English as our official language, and any possible action that might impinge on the secularists' notion of "separation of church and state."
The convention opened with an invocation by the president of the National Council of Urban Education Associations. A few delegates complained that his message sounded suspiciously like a reading from the Democratic Party platform.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams was not on hand to welcome the delegates to the nation's capital because he supports school vouchers, a politically incorrect position for NEA speakers. The delegates were welcomed instead by U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who used her time at the podium to pitch for her legislation to give congressional representation to the District of Columbia.
The speakers voiced the usual complaints about a stingy Congress not appropriating enough money for education. In fact, federal spending on Title I has increased 51 percent since Bush took office. Title I spending (for low-income schools) has increased from $8.8 billion in the Clinton administration to $13.3 billion this year.