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NEA Delegates OK Dues Hike to Fight Vouchers
CHICAGO, IL - Delegates to the 2000 National Education Association's Representative Assembly (RA) held at McCormick Place over the July 4th holiday voted to impose a $5 a year increase in each member's union dues. Sixty percent or $6 million of the additional $10 million raised per year will be used to combat vouchers and other related ballot initiatives. Delegates from several states, including California and Michigan, complained about the battles they face against vouchers.

In his keynote address, NEA President Bob Chase cautioned the 9,200 delegates about the importance of the upcoming elections. "Think about the federal government subsidizing vouchers," he warned. "Please keep in mind that the next President of the United States could name as many as three Justices to the Supreme Court. If these new Justices join Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and Chief Justice Rehnquist to form a new majority, we would see a breach in the wall separating church and state, vouchers declared constitutional, and your union and employee rights eroded." He went on to attack George Bush's education policies.

Voucher supporters contend that, while the teacher unions have been successful in stifling their efforts so far, the issue continues to gain steam. Proponents predict they'll spend a nearly equal amount of money this election year. "It's going to be a very tough battle," California entrepreneur and voucher supporter Ron Unz told the Washington Times (7-7-00), "but it does look like they will match the unions dollar for dollar."

Other proponents point to the fact that 34% of the convention delegates voted against the dues increase. Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm that has defended voucher initiatives against lawsuits, commented in the Times: "Whereas we raise all of our funding from voluntary contributions, they have to force their members to contribute to the cause. I hope that a number of teachers will look for ways to recover their dues, given that a number of public-school teachers support the concept of choice."

The remaining 40% of the additional dues money will establish a media campaign fund that some speculate may be used to counter such recent NEA public relations embarrassments as the complaints filed against it by the Landmark Legal Foundation with the IRS and the FEC.

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