Based in Washington, DC, the 3.1 million-member National Education Association (NEA) is the largest labor union in the United States.
The NEA’s stated mission is “to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.”
The NEA was founded in 1850 as the National Teachers Association, and adopted its present name in 1857. Promoting government-owned public schools and “modern” pedagogical ideas, this union permitted no private school teachers to join its ranks.
These government-owned-and-run schools were modeled on statist European education in Prussia, and attracted social activist teachers who saw public school students as perfect subjects for re-engineering society.
That remolding began with the anti-Catholic objectives of Horace Mann (1796-1859) and expanded to the anti-religious humanism of John Dewey (1859-1952).
John Dewey, an avowed humanist/ socialist, was made honorary president of the NEA in 1932. He traveled to Russia in the 1930s to help organize and implement the Marxist educational system there. Today he is known in America as the "Father of Progressive Education." In 1935, Dewey became the president of the League of Industrial Democracy, which was originally called the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.
In a 1935 report presented at the 72nd annual NEA convention, the union's future Executive Secretary Willard Givens wrote: “A dying laissez-faire must be completely destroyed and all of us … must be subjected to a large degree of social control…. The major function of the school is the social orientation of the individual. It must seek to give him understanding of the transition to a new social order.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, teachers were becoming unionized at a faster pace than ever before. Precisely at this time, student SAT scores, a popular and objective achievement barometer, deteriorated dramatically. Confronted by this embarrassing fact, the NEA responded by calling for the abolition of standardized testing of students.
In recent decades the NEA has been outspoken about its positions vis a vis a host of social and political topics, including abortion, sex education, teen pregnancy, school prayer, socialized medicine, affordable housing, drug testing, prisoner rights, and bilingual education. In July 1997 the union formally adopted a series of social justice programs.
Nine years later, at its 2006 national convention, the NEA proposed that all public schools should unequivocally support homosexual marriage and other forms of marriage (polygamy, etc.). In the NEA’s view, this perspective should be transmitted -- via classroom instruction and textbooks alike -- to all children at all age levels, without any requirement for the permission or knowledge of parents.
At its 2007 national convention in Philadelphia, the NEA passed a number of additional resolutions -- some founded on the axiom that American society is inherently discriminatory and unjust, and others advocating massive increases in taxpayer funding of school programs and extra-curricular activities.
In the NEA's estimation, America's alleged inequities are by no means limited to the domestic sphere but extend also to U.S. foreign policy. After 9/11, for instance, the union's position was that America had long mistreated and exploited the peoples of other nations, and thus essentially had sown the seeds of the rage that ultimately found its expression in the 9/11 attacks.
Immediately after 9/11, the NEA issued guidelines on how teachers should discuss the topic with their students. These guidelines stressed the need for children to be tolerant and respectful of all cultures -- and said virtually nothing about the fact that the U.S. was at war with an enemy that was aiming to annihilate it. The NEA came so close to blaming America for having provoked the 9/11 attacks, that a public outcry ensued and the union was forced to remove the teacher guidelines from its website.
In the summer of 2002, as the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks neared, the NEA again posted guidelines on its national website stating that classroom teachers should not “suggest any group [was] responsible” for the previous year's atrocities. Rather, the union advised teachers to have their students “discuss historical instances of American intolerance.”
The union adamantly opposes merit pay (or "performance contracting") for public school teachers -- characterizing such a system as “detrimental to public education." Delegates to the summer 2000 NEA convention openly declared their categorical opposition to “any … system of compensation based on an evaluation of an education employee’s performance.” In 2007 the union elaborated, “competency testing must not be used as a condition of employment, license retention, evaluation, placement, ranking, or promotion of licensed teachers”
Not only is the NEA opposed to merit pay, but for decades it has manifested a marked hostility toward outstanding teachers.
In 1971, the NEA publication, "Schools for the '70s and Beyond: A Call to Action," the NEA declares:
"Teachers who conform to the traditional institutional mode are out of place. They might find fulfillment as tap-dancers, or guards in maximum security prisons or proprietors of reducing salons, or agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – but they damage teaching, children and themselves by staying in the classroom. "
The example of world-famous math teacher Jaime Escalante is instructive. According to Escalante (the subject of the 1988 Hollywood movie Stand and Deliver), who developed the most successful inner-city math program in America, teacher union officials chastised him for attracting “too many” students to his calculus classes. When Escalante finally resigned from the high school which he and his students had made famous, local teacher union officials circulated a celebratory note that read: “We got him out!”
The NEA is similarly opposed to vouchers which would permit parents to divert a portion of their tax dollars away from the public school system, and to use those funds instead to help cover the tuition costs for private schools to which they might prefer to send their children.
In the NEA's calculus, such voucher programs "compromise the Association's commitment to free, equitable, universal, and quality public education for every student.
Specifically, the NEA's closest political ties are with the Democratic Party. In 1976 the union used its financial resources and manpower to help elect Jimmy Carter to the U.S. presidency. After the election, Carter in turn thanked the union by creating the Department of Education in 1979, prompting one NEA executive to boast that this was the only union in the United States with its own cabinet department.
Today the NEA is a member organization of the America Votes coalition of get-out-the-vote organizations. America Votes is itself a member of the so-called Shadow Party, a nationwide network of activist groups whose agendas are ideologically Left, and which are engaged in campaigning for the Democrats. NEA’s fellow America Votes coalition members include: ACORN, America Coming Together, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations); AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees); the American Federation of Teachers; the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (renamed the American Association for Justice); the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund; Democracy For America; EMILY's List; the League of Conservation Voters; the Media Fund; the MoveOn.org Voter Fund; the NAACP National Voter Fund; NARAL Pro-Choice America; People for the American Way; the Planned Parenthood Action Fund; the Service Employees International Union; the Sierra Club; USAction; and 21st Century Democrats.
Of the $341 million the NEA received from September 2004 to August 2005, some $295 million came from member dues. In turn, many of those revenues were used to promote political agendas and candidates -- almost all of them Democrats. For several decades the NEA has been among the largest contributors of money and personnel to the Democratic Party and its candidates. Between 1990 and 2008, 93 percent of the union's political donations went to Democrats.
Studies have shown that as few as 40 percent of NEA members are Democrats, the remaining 60 percent splitting evenly between Republicans and independents. According to the NEA’s own internal polling, half of the union's members identify themselves as conservative. Yet the NEA, like other unions, claims an absolute right to spend dues as it sees fit, regardless of the viewpoints of the teachers it nominally represents.
Because the NEA is a tax-exempt organization, the federal government places certain restrictions on how the union may use its immense revenues. Specifically, the government requires that whatever funds a union earmarks for political activities designed to influence an election, must be disclosed on IRS Forms 990 and 1120-POL. The latter of these must be filed by any tax-exempt group whose political expenditures exceed $100 in a single calendar year, and requires some disclosure about the details of those donations.
Yet from 1994-96 the NEA reported that it spent no money at all on politics. This is because an honest disclosure of its political expenditures would have entitled union members, if they objected to having their mandatory dues used to finance Democrat causes, to recover the portion of those dues that had been so earmarked. Also, union revenues used for partisan political purposes were taxable in certain cases.
Beginning in 2005, new federal rules required large labor unions like the NEA to report in greater detail (to the U.S. Department of Labor) how they spent their money. Under these new disclosure regulations, it was confirmed that an immense amount of NEA money was being spent for purposes having nothing to do with the union's purported priorities (i.e., better wages, benefits, and working conditions for teachers and school staff).
For example, the NEA reported that during the 2004-05 fiscal year, it had spent $56.8 million on "union administration," $25 million on "political activities and lobbying," and $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts, and grants." In other words, it is possible that up to $90.5 million (the sum of the latter two categories of expenditures) was earmarked for leftist political candidates, organizations, and causes.
As of 2006, the NEA's $58 million payroll included over 600 employees and officers, more than half of whom earned salaries exceeding $100,000 per year. NEA President Reg Weaver's salary was $439,000. As of 2004-05, NEA Vice President Dennis Van Roekel earned $273,000, and Secretary-Treasurer Lily Eskelsen earned $272,000. By contrast, the average classroom teacher earned $48,000.
According to its 2007 financial report, the NEA’s total assets were $188,710,730. Its total receipts for the year were $352,958,087. Moreover, the NEA's aggressive lobbying of Congress has enabled it to benefit from an archaic law freeing it from having to pay its $1.6 million in annual property taxes. No other labor union in America has been able to negotiate such an arrangement.
Back in the 1970s, it was saying, "We are the biggest potential striking force in the country. We are determined to control the direction of education. We will become the foremost political force in the country." Since then, it thoroughly has infiltrated the U.S. Department of Education. It runs thousands of its members through "political-action workshops," sometimes giving graduate-study credit to attendees. In one election year alone, its political-action committees threw some $250 million into Democratic campaigns.
The NEA's openly avowed goal today: "To tap the legal, political and economic powers of the U.S. Congress. We want ... sufficient clout [to] roam the halls of Congress and collect votes to reorder the priorities of the United States of America."
Teachers who join the union usually belong to one of two groups. The first group joins for access to specific union benefits. One is liability insurance. Lawsuits for sexual harassment, physical abuse, and racial discrimination have grown steadily in the last few decades and can threaten a teacher's job and reputation. Another benefit is protection against hostile board members with petty grievances through the local collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately, both are necessities in today's education business. These teachers also feel that the NEA is their best hope for obtaining higher salaries and a voice in the administration of their schools.
The other group joins because they have to, their school districts and states have agreed to allow a closed shop to exist, where all teachers must pay some level of union dues. Few teachers join because they wholeheartedly believe in the political and social agenda of the NEA.
The uniqueness of the National Education Association is found in the fact that it is a near monopoly supplier of teachers to a government enforced monopoly consumer, the public schools. As the NEA has grown in power politically, it has also been able to govern the destiny of this public school monopoly to its own benefit.
The NEA has publicly boasted of its plan to seize control of the agencies and boards that decide who is allowed to teach and what is to be taught. The NEA has become the most powerful special-interest group in the United States. Their lobbying has brought about a 17-fold increase in federal education spending in the last 20 years.
In the January 1946 NEA Journal, editor Joy Elmer Morgan wrote an editorial titled, "The Teacher and World Government," which stated:
"In the struggle to establish an adequate world government, the teacher ... can do much to prepare the hearts and minds of children for global understanding and cooperation ... At the very top of all the agencies which will assure the coming of world government must stand the school, the teacher and the organized profession. "
Bob Chanin, General Counsel to the National Education Association, recently retired after 41 years of service. In his farewell address to the NEA convention earlier this summer,
Mr. Chanin said the following:
“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.
And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of million of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them; the union that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees."
|One ring to rule them all...|
The current budget of the NEA is more than $355 million and it spends more on campaign contributions than do ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the AFL-CIO combined.