- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2000

Differing opinions on the NEA

I feel compelled to respond to your July 30 editorial "The truth about NEA," which described the national organization as a deceptive, self-seeking (gasp) union negligent of the well-being of America's students.

I am not a teacher, but I grew up in a home with parents who are, and they are active National Education Association members to boot. I disagree with the editorial's statement that the NEA is opposed to parental involvement and critical of parental participation in school events, because I know from my own experience that NEA members who are parents are avid supporters of their children's educational pursuits.

The NEA is not trying to fool anyone or hide the fact that it is a union. The reality is that it is more than a union, in the sense that NEA's interests go far beyond the mere welfare of teachers. Indeed, not many would make teaching their career if they were not interested in the welfare of children. Would a doctor go into medicine for purely selfish reasons? Is the American Medical Association a union and therefore "bad" by your definition? Doesn't your own statement that "Only 5 percent of the Alabama Education Association thought the term 'labor union' best described the organization" prove my point and the NEA's self-definition that it is much more than a union? And if organizations such as the NEA or the American Federation of Teachers didn't look after the interests of teachers, who would? School boards? The public? Politicians?

The need for vouchers is predicated on the assumption that public schools are failing, that we need to separate our eager, knowledge-seeking students from the incompetent public school teachers. Where will the "good" teachers come from? Are they all hiding away somewhere waiting for a voucher policy to materialize? My guess is that they are not.

The statement that takes the prize, however, is, "Every job should yield results, and the product of educators should be educated students." If we are to consider education a product, let's make sure we give each "worker" the same "raw material." But how does one classify and evaluate groups of 30 individuals so that the classes of each teacher are equally talented? How does one evenly balance IQ, family values about education and parental support so that one can fairly measure the influence a teacher has on a group of students?

Until people realize that education is a two-way street, that it is one of the most mysterious and wonderful processes of the human mind, I don't see any improvements forthcoming. Bashing teachers and their unions will not do it, and public schools, such as they are, are the last bastions where our often forgotten children can find refuge in a society that regards everything as a product.

VALERIE ZANCHETTIN

Arlington

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I commend The Washington Times for its editorial "The truth about the NEA" (July 30).

The National Education Association is unique in marketing itself to the public as an association of teachers, not a labor union. Recent polls show why. A November 1999 Gallup poll on the honesty of professions found that respondents ranked teachers fifth among workers in 45 professions. Fifty-seven percent of participants rated teachers as highly or very highly honest. Union leaders ranked 13th. In an October 1998 Louis Harris poll rating workers in 16 professions, teachers ranked first in trustworthiness (86 percent of respondents saw them as having this trait) while union leaders finished last (37 percent).

In a recent Capital Research Center study of the NEA, author Michael Antonucci asks, "Given these results, which of the two words in the term 'teachers' union' would you emphasize?"

TERRENCE SCANLON

President

Capital Research Center

Washington

Capital Research Center was established to study critical issues in philanthropy, with a special focus on nonprofit "public interest" and advocacy groups, their funding sources and their agendas.

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I commend The Washington Times for its editorial "The truth about the NEA" (July 30).

The National Education Association is unique in marketing itself to the public as an association of teachers, not a labor union. Recent polls show why. A November 1999 Gallup poll on the honesty of professions found that respondents ranked teachers fifth among workers in 45 professions. Fifty-seven percent of participants rated teachers as highly or very highly honest. Union leaders ranked 13th. In an October 1998 Louis Harris poll rating workers in 16 professions, teachers ranked first in trustworthiness (86 percent of respondents saw them as having this trait) while union leaders finished last (37 percent).

In a recent Capital Research Center study of the NEA, author Michael Antonucci asks, "Given these results, which of the two words in the term 'teachers' union' would you emphasize?"

TERRENCE SCANLON

President

Capital Research Center

Washington

Capital Research Center was established to study critical issues in philanthropy, with a special focus on nonprofit "public interest" and advocacy groups, their funding sources and their agendas.

Head Start takes columnist to school

I was disheartened to read Tony Snow's column "Democratic dither … and self-destructive pile-on" (Commentary, July 30). In his effort to politicize a nationally recognized, effective program for children and families, Mr. Snow failed to represent accurately the bipartisan support Head Start has had since its inception in 1965. Not only are his facts misrepresented and dated, but Mr. Snow chose not to acknowledge the 1998 Head Start reauthorization, championed by several Republicans and Democrats. The bipartisan measure called for a longitudinal study assessing the lasting effects of Head Start on children and families and the implementation of outcome measures requiring that Head Start graduates have acceptable reading skills.

Apparently, Mr. Snow is unaware of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), which collects data annually on a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs, classrooms, teachers, parents and children, examining the quality and effects of Head Start. FACES found that Head Start has higher quality than most center-based early-childhood programs. The typical Head Start child possesses a variety of cognitive and social skills and makes significant gains in vocabulary, letter recognition, writing and other pre-reading skills. For these reasons, Head Start children have scored higher on school readiness measures, such as verbal achievement, perceptual reasoning and social competence, than children who have attended other preschools or no preschool. This signifies that they are "ready to learn" when they enter kindergarten, which is Head Start's purpose.

The assertion that Head Start produces no lasting effects is false. There has been no credible research one way or the other because Congress (regardless of the majority party) has failed to appropriate the funding necessary for the research until now.

The program also is about more than just education of the child. Head Start is known for the following:

n It has immediate positive effects on children's socio-emotional development, including self-esteem, achievement motivation and social behavior.

n Head Start Children are more likely than their non-Head Start peers to receive medical attention, have health and vision problems treated successfully and experience significantly fewer dental problems.

n Head Start parents report positive changes in their personal lives, behaviors and attitudes, including knowledge of social services and resources.

Having been involved in the program since the late 1960s, I have seen the way the program has changed lives, not just for the more than 17 million children who have been through the program, but for their families as well. Research clearly shows no other early child development program has been as extensive and successful as Head Start in meeting the needs of the children, families and communities it serves. At a time when our national political parties are making much of personal empowerment and responsibility, Head Start has been there, "where the rubber meets the road."

Finally, I challenge Mr. Snow's implication that Head Start is a darling of the Democratic Party. If that is the case, why did President George Bush champion one of the largest single-year appropriations increases for the program, President Ronald Reagan identify it as part of the "national safety net" and, in this election year, a bipartisan Congress approve a fiscal 2000 funding level that represents the largest single-year increase in the history of the Head Start program? Perhaps Mr. Snow should examine the facts fully before making his political assertions.

SARAH M. GREENE

Chief executive officer

National Head Start Association

Alexandria

Cheney delivers

Who was it who said that Richard B. Cheney was a boring or uninspiring speaker? My wife and I thought the opposite while watching the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, as Mr. Cheney poignantly promised aid to our suffering military and the restoration of pride and dignity to our White House. I cannot wait to have adults in charge of our government again.

ERIC COOPER

Springfield

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