- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

If urban-area teachers answer students’ questions as carelessly and erroneously as the president of the National Education Association (NEA) answered the questions of his C-SPAN host and the network’s callers, it becomes clear why big-city public-school students perform so poorly.

Welcomed by C-SPAN on Aug. 31, in recognition of the beginning of the new school year, Reg Weaver earned an “F” for turning in such a self-serving and politicized performance. He acknowledged that the NEA was in fact a “special-interest group.” But Mr. Weaver then insisted, against all evidence to the contrary, that the NEA’s “special interest happens to be children and public education.”

Indeed, when the C-SPAN host began the interview by asking Mr. Weaver about the current “state of American public schools,” the labor leader launched into a lengthy monologue that confined itself to the concerns of teachers and their profession. He said the teaching corps is “more prepared today that what they have been in years,” and said that “over 50 percent have master’s degrees.” He neglected, however, to tell viewers that, while the teachers may have advanced education degrees, there remain shortages of math and science teachers.

Asked “how much is spent in the aggregate by federal, local and state tax dollars on public education,” Mr. Weaver replied by saying that “the federal government spends now anywhere from 15, 16, 17 percent for public education.” In fact, according to the 2002 edition of the Digest of Education Statistics (DES), the federal government has contributed less than 7 percent of the funding for public elementary and secondary schools over the past five years. But that’s almost beside the point, which is this: Current expenditures per pupil enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools have more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars during the past three decades, according to DES data.

Confronted by a caller accusing the NEA of becoming “a voting bloc for the Democratic Party,” Mr. Weaver admitted that the NEA’s own survey revealed that only 45 percent of teachers are Democrats. But he neglected to explain: why nearly 92 percent of the NEA’s soft-money contributions went to the Democratic Party during the 2001-02 cycle; why 91 percent of its political action committee donations went to Democrats; and why 100 percent of its independent expenditures were on behalf of Democratic senatorial candidates. The NEA’s only “special interests” are itself and the Democratic Party.

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