While most Americans were enjoying nonpolitical fireworks and cookouts over the Fourth of July weekend, 8,923 delegates and 5,469 registered non-delegates to the annual National Education Association (NEA) convention were meeting in Atlanta to celebrate their political victories. This largest teachers union had so much to gloat about that some of the trendy T-shirts sported the slogan “We’re molding the future.”
Not only had they elected the presidential candidate whom 91 percent of their delegates had voted to endorse at last year’s convention (Bill Clinton, of course), but they were able to boast about remarkable victories in the two landmark Republican Congresses, both the 104th and the 105th.
NEA speakers and convention materials related how the NEA had been under fire from Congressional attacks and Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole, who had threatened to abolish the Department of Education. The NEA bragged that the Association had counterattacked with a “historic grassroots effort and legislative crisis campaign” that “paid off.”
Indeed it did. Congress reversed two years of record cuts to education and, in September 1996, passed the single, largest increase ever in federal education funding: $3.5 billion. Education spending for FY 1997 is surpassing even Clinton’s budget request.
The NEA’s political work is as much about ideology as harvesting increased tax dollars for public schools. The NEA took credit for defeating the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act, all voucher bills, all attempts to make English the official language of our public schools, and all efforts to curtail Goals 2000, School-to-Work, or affirmative action. The NEA is confident that Congress will pass the Kennedy-Hatch KidCare bill, a giant step toward the single-payer socialized medicine system that the NEA has endorsed for years.
Before they left Atlanta, the NEA delegates endorsed their usual tiresome roundup of non-academic, ultra-left political policies, including funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, public financing for public broadcasting, statehood for the District of Columbia, the education of children of illegal aliens, ratification of UN treaties on women and children, and a national holiday honoring Cesar Chavez.
A choir of young black singers sang four songs as part of the convention’s Fourth of July celebration, two secular and two religious, one of which was “What a Mighty God We Serve.” The choir’s outstanding performance received a thunderous standing ovation. The next day, NEA President Bob Chase apologized from the platform for the two religious songs and stated emphatically that they had not been cleared by the NEA.
NEA Launches Campaign for ERA. The NEA has embarked on a major drive to revive and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which officially died on June 30, 1982. In addition to the usual resolution supporting ERA, an expensively printed “Curriculum Guide” for use in the schools and elsewhere was distributed to convention delegates and discussed during a workshop held during the NEA convention in Atlanta this year.
NEA resolutions have included support of ERA every year since 1975 and, according to NEA materials, NEA members participated in “massive efforts to win state ratification within the time limitation — and to win an extension of that seven-year deadline to ten years.” After the deadline expired, the NEA continued its commitment to reintroducing and passing ERA. In 1991, a New Business Item directed the NEA to develop a curriculum guide.
This guide contains eleven lesson plans to cover 18 class periods for grades 9 to 12, spelling out teacher procedure, student activities, and homework. The content of the guide contains the usual false argument made by the pro-ERA advocates, i.e., that women were omitted from the U.S. Constitution, as well as the usual excuse for the failure of ERA, i.e., that the Stop ERA women were “well-financed . . by corporate institutions, such as the insurance industry.” The guide omits most of the substantive arguments against ERA, and all the resources listed in the guide (books, videos and organizations) are pro-ERA.
This year’s New Business Item 23 imposes a duty on the NEA to “collaborate with the ERA Summit in its effort to achieve ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Collaboration will include representation at ERA Summit meetings, establishing contacts in each state, and providing assistance in getting legislators to sponsor enabling legislation.”
ERA Summit is the group of feminists who are spearheading political activism for ERA. They have developed the extraordinary theory that ERA is not dead after all, that they can ignore the 1982 deadline, and that ERA can become part of the U.S. Constitution if three more states ratify it! They rely on “legal analysis” developed in 1995 by three third-year female law students at the T.C. Williams School of Law in Richmond, Virginia. The crux of their theory is that, since the Madison Amendment was ratified after 203 years (becoming the 27th Amendment), that makes ERA viable, too. The problem with that argument is that the Madison Amendment contained no time limit, while ERA did.
In an interesting sidelight to the NEA’s ERA campaign, the NEA’s “powers that be” deleted the questions about ERA and abortion from the NEA-PAC 1998 Candidate Questionnaire. Some NEA delegates were upset by this and introduced New Business Item 5 to require the NEA-PAC to put the questions on ERA and abortion back in the Questionnaire. The motion failed after delegates were assured from the platform that this omission is solely for tactical reasons, and that only pro-ERA and pro-abortion candidates will be supported by NEA-PAC. No further explanation was given, but some delegates commented that NEA-PAC officials apparently believe it is damaging to their candidates to put them on record in writing as pro-ERA and pro-abortion.
NEA-GLC Caucus Flaunts Its Power. Gay and lesbian activists may have become the most influential single group within the NEA convention. They distribute their action plans displaying the NEA logo, they advertise numerous caucuses and convention events, they flaunt their buttons and booths, and they have succeeded in weaving their agenda into about a dozen resolutions passed by the nearly 9,000 convention delegates.
For several years, “diversity” has been the code word for the gay/lesbian agenda. A one-word change in the Diversity resolution this year is significant and telling. Last year’s resolution said that “education should increase tolerance.” This year, “tolerance” was changed to “acceptance.” One of the handouts boasted: “Diversity is the word and acceptance is the order.”
The NEA Gay Lesbian Caucus (NEA-GLC) celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Prior to 1987, the handful of gays who attended the NEA convention caucused under the name “Ichabod Crane Debating Society.” One of the delegates in Atlanta commented, “In the ’70s you couldn’t even mention the words ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ without getting booed off the [convention] floor.”
They’ve come a long way since then. The NEA-GLC newsletter boasted: “NEA Board hosts GLC leaders.” The NEA-GLC’s headline attraction in Atlanta was Candace Gingrich, lesbian sister of Newt. She spoke at the caucus dinner on July 5 and was one of the personalities featured in a video shown at noon on the Fourth of July.
At another lesbian caucus, the big feature was a 90-minute video entitled “It’s Elementary: Teaching About Gay Issues in School.” This video shows how psychological manipulation in the classroom can be used to change children’s home-taught attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality.
The NEA-GLC was not the only gay/lesbian caucus at the Atlanta convention. The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Teachers Network (GLSTN) advertised book and video lists and internet resources, and the NEA Peace & Justice Caucus promoted the video “It’s Elementary,” calling it “masterful.”
The NEA-GLC newsletters are informative. One article, entitled “Bill Clinton deserves our support for President,” listed many examples of his “genuine commitment on our issues,” such as, “Appointed gay/lesbian friendly Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Another article showed a picture of a New York City protest with demonstrators carrying signs stating “Fact: 74% of NYC school kids don’t have ‘traditional’ families.”
The NEA’s Human & Civil Rights Action Sheet (marked with the NEA logo) sets forth the NEA’s gay/lesbian agenda, including the plans to change classroom instruction, counseling programs, libraries, school-wide events, in-service training, and attitudes. Its blunt recommendations to teachers are:
Work with the school district, the parent-teacher organization, and community groups to provide information to other members, parents, and counselors about the developmental and health needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.
Provide training to enable selected staff to become resources to members on gay, lesbian, and bisexual student issues.
Recommend to the school district that in-service programs address gay, lesbian, and bisexual concerns; and that the library include positive learning materials about gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
Encourage the establishment and maintenance of peer support and community self-help programs for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.
Work with the school district to develop or expand school policy and curricula, including accurate portrayals of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals throughout history, and to ensure respect for diversity, including gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
Participate in coalitions to improve support and services for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.
NEA Defeats Pro-Lifers Again. At every convention, the pro-lifers make an effort to move the NEA to a position of neutrality on abortion, believing that the giant teachers union should not lobby on one side of this vital issue.
This year, they proposed Amendment 8 to the NEA Constitution which read: “To create a new section in Bylaw 11 (General Finance) entitled Budget Restrictions requiring the Secretary-Treasurer to ensure to the NEA membership that no General Fund monies are expended for abortion lobbying activities.”
It failed by a vote of 2,408 to 5,748, which was 30% to 70%. Prolifers were encouraged that their percentage of support is increasing every year. In most previous years, pro-life motions were subjected to various shenanigans that denied them a fair vote.
NEA Declares War on “Radical Right.” The NEA convention adopted New Business Item 18, which requires the NEA to “survey all state and local affiliates requesting information they may have concerning the funding of radical [right] groups by various corporate and family foundations . . . and disseminate a list of such organizations for information and possible boycott.” The word “right” was deleted during the floor debate, but there is no doubt about the purpose of this directive.
Its stated rationale was that “corporate and foundation funding has been key to the success of the radical right.” In response to a delegate who asked for a definition of the term “radical,” the chair responded, “Radicals are those who are historically operating in our community to destroy our school system and turn it over to individuals.”
At a workshop on the “Radical Right” held during the convention, a packet of materials was distributed giving detailed information on 30 conservative, pro-family organizations which the NEA labeled “radical right.” This packet also confirmed the close working relationship for this strategy between the NEA and People for the American Way.
The NEA’s Lobbying Program. The NEA boasts in its convention materials that the NEA “launched a historic grassroots effort and legislative crisis campaign, designed to rally member and public support for the cause of education and the nation’s children. The campaign, which included television advertisements, editorial coverage, radio actualities, and member telephone contact, delivered the necessary public support to safeguard public education and prevent proposed education cuts.”
The NEA attributes its impressive legislative successes to “the effectiveness of the Association’s grassroots network.” The NEA states that, “over the coming months, NEA and state affiliates will be working collaboratively to identify grassroots coordinators and member activists.” NEA members are encouraged “to volunteer to serve as grassroots activists.”
The wealthy NEA provides plenty of organizational back up for this grassroots activity. The NEA maintains Government Relations field teams in Washington, D.C. and in Denver, Colorado to work directly with state affiliates and NEA members “to enhance their effectiveness in political activities and legislative advocacy.”
NEA-financed Field Teams engage in “training, strategic planning, and consultation with state and local affiliates to increase their effective participation in federal and state elections, ballot initiatives affecting public education, and lobbying Congress and state legislatures.” During the past year, NEA staff have worked on state legislative and ballot initiative issues, as well as on training and organizing members to elect NEA candidates in school board elections.
The NEA’s “Information Resources and Advocacy” program provides “a diverse range of information services — including political polling, message development, policy development, and professional writing — to help advance the legislative and political advocacy objectives of the Association.” This Information Resources program also works to advance NEA’s legislative agenda and resolutions “with elected and appointed public officials.”
The NEA’s Political Affairs program wages what it calls “effective, unified campaigns to elect leaders, from the school board to the White House, who are committed to public education,” i.e., the NEA political agenda. The NEA-PAC brags that, in the 1996 campaign cycle, 60% of the candidates it supported were victorious, and that NEA-PAC is preparing to elect record numbers of pro-education candidates to state and federal office in 1998. The NEA-PAC ranks among the top 10 of the more than 4,000 political action committees.
A-12. Federal Financial Support for Education. The Association believes that funding for federal programs should be substantially increased.
A-14. Basic Financial Support of Public Education. Funds must be provided for programs to alleviate race, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination and to eliminate portrayal of race, gender, and sexual orientation stereotypes in the public schools.
A-18. Undocumented Immigrants. The National Education Association believes that, regardless of the immigration status of students or their parents, every student has the right to a free public education in an environment free from harassment.
A-27. Federally or State-Mandated Choice/Parental Option Plans. The Association opposes federally or state-mandated choice or parental option plans.
B-1. Early Childhood Education. The National Education Association supports early childhood education programs in the public schools for children from birth through age eight. These programs should be available to all children on an equal basis and should include mandatory kindergarten with compulsory attendance.
B-6. Diversity. The National Education Association believes that our diverse society enriches all individuals. Similarities and differences among races, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, geographic location, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, size, occupation, and marital, parental, or economic status form the fabric of our society. The Association also believes that education should increase acceptance and foster an appreciation of the various qualities that pertain to people as individuals or members of a group.
B-26. Multicultural Education. The National Education Association believes that the goal of multicultural education is the recognition of individual and group differences and similarities in order to reduce racism, ethnic prejudices, and discrimination and to develop self-esteem as well as respect for others.
B-27.Global Education. The National Education Association believes that global education increases respect for and awareness of the earth and its people. Global education imparts information about cultures and an appreciation of our interdependency in sharing the world’s resources to meet mutual human needs.
B-33. Family Life Education. The Association believes that education in these areas must be presented as part of an anti-biased, culturally-sensitive program.
B-34. Sex Education. The Association recognizes that the public school must assume an increasingly important role in providing the instruction. To facilitate the realization of human potential, it is the right of every individual to live in an environment of freely available information, knowledge, and wisdom about sexuality.
B-35. AIDS Education. The National Education Association recommends that educational institutions establish comprehensive acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) education programs as an integral part of the school curriculum.
B-63. Home Schooling. The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. The Association believes that if parental preference home schooling study occurs, students enrolled must meet all state requirements. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.
C-7. Child Care. The National Education Association believes that all child care centers should be examined and monitored on a continuous basis, and additional legislation should be sought as necessary to maintain the highest quality child care. The Association encourages school districts and educational institutions to establish on-site child care for preschoolers, students, the children of students, and the children of staff members.
C-24. School Counseling Programs. The National Education Association believes that guidance and counseling programs should be integrated into the entire education system.
F-2. Pay Equity/Comparable Worth. The Association supports all efforts to attain accurate and unbiased forms of job evaluation and to raise the pay of those jobs that are presently undervalued. The “market value” means of establishing pay cannot be the final determinant of pay scales since it too frequently reflects the race and sex bias in our society.
H-1. The Education Employee as a Citizen. The Association believes that it is the duty and responsibility of education employees to involve themselves in the selection, election, and reelection of qualified, committed candidates who support goals that will provide quality education. Therefore, the Association urges its members to become politically involved and to support the political action committees of the Association and its affiliates.
H-6. National Health Care Policy. The Association supports the adoption of a single-payer health care plan for all residents of the United States, its territories, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Association will support health care reform measures that move the United States closer to this goal.
H-10. Statehood for the District of Columbia. The Association supports efforts to achieve statehood for the District of Columbia.
I-1. Peace and International Relations. The National Education Association recognizes the interdependence of all people.
I-3. International Court of Justice. The National Education Association recognizes that the International Court of Justice is one instrument to resolve international disputes peacefully. The Association urges participation by the United States in deliberations before the court.
I-11. Civil Rights. The Association calls upon Americans to eliminate — by statute and practice — barriers of race, color, national origin, religion, philosophical beliefs, political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, size, marital status, and economic status that prevent some individuals, adult or juvenile, from exercising rights enjoyed by others.
I-13. Family Planning. The National Education Association supports family planning, including the right to reproductive freedom. The Association further urges the implementation of community-operated, school-based family planning clinics that will provide intensive counseling by trained personnel.
I-18. Immigration. The Association opposes any immigration policy that denies human and/or civil rights or educational opportunities to immigrants and their children regardless of their immigration status.
I-22. Freedom of Creative Expression. The Association supports the freedom of publicly funded agencies to exercise judgment in the awarding of grants to individuals and organizations.
I-50. Equal Opportunity for Women. The Association supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution (such as the Equal Rights Amendment). The Association urges its affiliates to support ratification of such an amendment. Personnel policies must include family leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, leave for adoption of a child, child-care leave, and professional leave. The Association believes that sexism and sex discrimination must be eliminated and endorses the use of nonsexist language.