- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2000

When parents and other individuals concerned about American public education consider groups to support that promote the well-being of students, an organization with a name like "The National Education Association" (NEA) seems like a good choice. Don't be fooled, though. This is a teachers' union first and foremost, and the sole purpose of a union is to protect the interests of its members.

Teachers are generally respected and trusted, but union leaders are not, so the NEA downplays the true nature of its work, even to its own members, by omitting the term "union" from its name. Only 5 percent of the Alabama Education Association thought the term "labor union" best described the organization.

The NEA sells itself as a group of dedicated professionals concerned about students' well-being, but behind the scenes, their work does not reflect students' best interest. Though it claims its issues are public school success, economic opportunity, and local control through elected school boards as stated in the 1997 NEA booklet, "Do You See What I'm Saying? Using Message to Reconnect with the Public" salaries, benefits and working conditions seem to be far higher on the NEA's list of priorities.

The NEA pushes spending for teachers, not students, by asking for federal subsidies to reduce class size and increase teacher salaries. Against parental involvement, the NEA criticizes parents who want to learn about and participate in school events. "The formation of 'concerned parents' groups, and the attendance of such a group at board meetings, for example, usually signals a possible censorship attempt," another union publication, "NEA Radical Right" stated.

Even worse, the organization refuses to hold teachers even partially responsible for students' poor scores on standardized tests. "The (state test) results are not all together positive," Trevor Neilson, the media relations director for the Washington Education Association wrote in 1997, "and the usual roundup of extremist wackos, voucher-heads, and militia members will hee and haw claiming that it is, well, your fault. That's right, you, the educators of Washington." If students perform poorly, how can we not hold educators responsible? Every job should yield results, and the product of educators ought to be educated students.

The NEA is adamantly against vouchers, despite widespread public support for school choice. A September 1999 Gallup poll showed 79 percent of public school parents favor allowing tax credits to cover partial tuition costs, 63 percent favor tax credits to cover full tuition costs, 59 percent favor partial tuition vouchers, and 60 percent favor full tuition vouchers. Clearly, the NEA's anti-voucher policy is not aligned with the desires of those they are supposed to serve.

In fact, the union boldly severed ties to a large portion of the people it is supposed to serve by comparing right-wing conservatives to racist hate groups, and alleging that conservative beliefs are based on segregationist roots. The NEA's handout on the "radical right" said today's conservatives are like those 40 years ago who fought to keep schools segregated. "What was then a scattered assortment of religious zealots and blatantly racist hate groups has become a politically adroit, well-organized network…" the handout said in reference to the conservative movement.

Americans should stop being deceived. The NEA consistently disregards the interests of the public and students, and instead facilitates stagnation in education.

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