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Education Reporter
NEA Launches Campaign for ERA

The NEA has embarked on a major drive to revive and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which officially died on June 30, 1982. In addition to the usual resolution supporting ERA, an expensively printed "Curriculum Guide" for use in the schools and elsewhere was distributed to convention delegates and discussed during a workshop held during the NEA convention in Atlanta this year.

NEA resolutions have included support of ERA every year since 1975 and, according to NEA materials, NEA members participated in "massive efforts to win state ratification within the time limitation - and to win an extension of that seven-year deadline to ten years." After the deadline expired, the NEA continued its commitment to reintroducing and passing ERA. In 1991, a New Business Item directed the NEA to develop a curriculum guide.

This guide contains eleven lesson plans to cover 18 class periods for grades 9 to 12, spelling out teacher procedure, student activities, and homework. The content of the guide contains the usual false argument made by the pro-ERA advocates, i.e., that women were omitted from the U.S. Constitution, as well as the usual excuse for the failure of ERA, i.e., that the Stop ERA women were "well-financed . . . by corporate institutions, such as the insurance industry." The guide omits most of the substantive arguments against ERA, and all the resources listed in the guide (books, videos and organizations) are pro-ERA.

This year's New Business Item 23 imposes a duty on the NEA to "collaborate with the ERA Summit in its effort to achieve ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Collaboration will include representation at ERA Summit meetings, establishing contacts in each state, and providing assistance in getting legislators to sponsor enabling legislation."

ERA Summit is the group of feminists who are spearheading political activism for ERA. They have developed the extraordinary theory that ERA is not dead after all, that they can ignore the 1982 deadline, and that ERA can become part of the U.S. Constitution if three more states ratify it! They rely on "legal analysis" developed in 1995 by three third-year female law students at the T.C. Williams School of Law in Richmond, Virginia. The crux of their theory is that, since the Madison Amendment was ratified after 203 years (becoming the 27th Amendment), that makes ERA viable, too. The problem with that argument is that the Madison Amendment contained no time limit, while ERA did.

In an interesting sidelight to the NEA's ERA campaign, the NEA's "powers that be" deleted the questions about ERA and abortion from the NEA-PAC 1998 Candidate Questionnaire. Some NEA delegates were upset by this and introduced New Business Item 5 to require the NEA-PAC to put the questions on ERA and abortion back in the Questionnaire. The motion failed after delegates were assured from the platform that this omission is solely for tactical reasons, and that only pro-ERA and pro-abortion candidates will be supported by NEA-PAC. Some delegates commented that NEA-PAC officials apparently believe it is damaging to their candidates to put them on record in writing as pro-ERA and pro-abortion.

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