NEA Convention Delegates Gather to Gloat
July 23, 1997
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 gloat about 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
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 for FY 1997. This
surpassed 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, and all attempts to make English the official language of our
public schools and to curtail Goals 2000, School-to-Work, and
The NEA's 1996 political campaign can now be revealed to have
included television advertisements, editorial coverage, radio
actualities, and member telephone contacts. This very wealthy union
provided plenty of organizational back up from its Government Relations
field teams in Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado in order to
"enhance their effectiveness in political activities and legislative
NEA-financed field teams engage in training, strategic planning,
and consultation with state and local affiliates in order to increase
participation in federal and state elections, ballot initiatives, 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
promote 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
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 ranks among the top 10 of the more
than 4,000 political action committees, and claims that, in the 1996
campaign cycle, 60% of the candidates it supported were victorious.
The NEA is predicting that, while Congress has not yet finalized
the FY 1998 budget, Education Department programs have the potential to
receive a second historic increase in federal spending from the
Republican Congress. The NEA is also confident that Congress will pass
the Kennedy-Hatch KidCare bill, a first step toward the single-payer
socialized medicine system that the NEA has endorsed for years.
At the Atlanta convention, the NEA's Gay Lesbian Caucus was
strutting its stuff, celebrating its tenth anniversary with honored
guest, Candace Gingrich, sister of Newt. The NEA-GLC caucus has
succeeded in weaving its agenda into about a dozen resolutions passed
by the convention.
For several years, "diversity" has been the code word for the gay-lesbian agenda. This year's convention accepted a one-word change in
the Diversity resolution: Last year's resolution said that "education
should increase tolerance," but this year's resolution changed
"tolerance" to "acceptance."
The NEA convention resolutions again endorsed "reproductive
freedom." Pro-life teachers made a valiant attempt to pass an
amendment requiring the secretary-treasurer "to ensure to the NEA
membership that no General Fund monies are expended for abortion
lobbying activities," but it failed by a vote of 2,408 to 5,748.
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
Politics is obviously more important to the NEA than education.