- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

If the National Education Association (NEA) were as committed to teaching minority and poor children how to read as it is committed to electing Democrats, then unconscionable percentages of fourth grade students (63 percent of blacks, 58 percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of children in poverty) would not be reading below the basic (i.e., lowest) level.

These percentages comprised the outrageous results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test administered in 2000, the eighth year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Nevertheless, even as Mr. Clinton's second term was approaching its final year and as the NEA was gearing up its soft-money machine to contribute more than $800,000 to the Democratic Party during the 1999-2000 election cycle, including nearly $600,000 from the Orwellean-named NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, NEA President Bob Chase rhapsodized about the Democratic Party's role in this educational debacle, telling the NEA Representative Assembly during his 1999 keynote address, "For Congress, we supported pro-public education stalwarts in the Democratic Party the folks who have helped Bill Clinton become the best 'education president' in history." Thus, in 2000, three out of five black and Hispanic fourth graders, who had lived virtually their entire lives while Mr. Clinton was president, proved to be functionally illiterate by the time he left office. Only the likes of Bob Chase could celebrate such a deplorable record.

Long ago, the NEA had become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Indeed, by 1992, one of eight delegates at the Democratic National Convention were members of the NEA. And NEA members represented the largest contingent 405 delegates at the 1996 convention.

As an interest group, the NEA, of course, is free to associate itself with any political party it chooses. But it is not free to violate the nation's laws in pursuing its political objectives. Nor should it be free to dispense millions of dollars in mandatory dues payments from its members to candidates and political parties without their consent. But the NEA is certainly guilty of the latter transgression. And, according to a persuasive complaint filed with the IRS by the Landmark Legal Foundation, the NEA appears to have egregiously violated U.S. tax laws in its role as one of the Democratic Party's greatest financial benefactors.

In a blockbuster complaint filed with the IRS on July 20, Landmark convincingly demonstrates that the NEA and various state affiliates have repeatedly ignored their legal requirements as tax-exempt labor organizations to "disclose fully to the public, union members, non-union fee-payers and the IRS the extent of organization's political activities and expenditures." In addition, because such political activities and expenditures are taxable to these organizations unless they are conducted through a political action committee (PAC), the NEA and several of its state affiliates apparently have failed to pay the requisite taxes on the political activities and expenditures they have intentionaly failed to report to the IRS.

Mary Elizabeth Teasley, an NEA official who served on a 1995-96 "National Coordinated Campaign Steering Committee" that routinely met at Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters, told the Wall Street Journal that "every dime" the NEA contributed to any campaign was donated through its PAC. This conveniently excludes the $9.6 million the NEA's 1996 Strategic Focus Plan budgeted to "uild bipartisan constituencies among those running for and elected to public office to support public education." Among other things, these funds were used to "mobilize members and other resources … to support the election of pro-education candidates and ballot measures." Form 990 tax returns filed by the NEA also failed to report the $540,000 budgeted over the 1998-2000 period for a "national political strategy developed to address issues such as congressional and legislative reapportionment and redistricting, campaign-finance reform, candidate recruitment, independent expenditures, early voting and vote-by-mail programs in order to strengthen support for pro-public education candidates and ballot measures." The Landmark complaint filed with the IRS meticulously documents literally millions and millions of dollars the NEA has spent on political activities which the organization failed to report to the IRS and on which it failed to pay required taxes.

For any and all violations the NEA has committed, it should be required to pay the appropriate financial penalties and back taxes. An ideal use of those funds would be to finance in the nation's capital an experimental voucher program that would teach the thousands and thousands of disadvantaged minority students victimized by the dysfunctional D.C. public education system how to read.

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