DALLAS, TX - NEA delegates considered 109 (mostly political, wacky or frivolous) New Business Items (NBIs) during the union's annual convention July 2-5, compared to 77 last year.
A few of the NBIs that passed include:
- NBI 5 directs the NEA to address the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy by providing "ongoing strategic information to members and affiliates that increase member knowledge of the ongoing attacks designed to destroy NEA and its affiliates, limit educators' freedom of speech and their right to political participation." This information should include "Identification and history of individuals and organizations that support the attacks and sources of funds that support these attack efforts"; "status reports on tactics used by attack groups at the local, state, and national levels"; "status reports on responses by NEA and its affiliates to deal with the attacks."
In 1998, the NEA released a 144-page report describing an alleged "Conservative Network" of "far right" organizations which it claimed were carrying out "a state-by-state assault on public education." The report implicated dozens of individuals and organizations and included a flow chart. (See Education Reporter, December 1998.)
- NBI 67 authorizes the NEA to sponsor a "national seminar/colloquium on bilingual education" to "develop mutual strategies for dealing with the English-only movement." The Education Intelligence Agency's (EIA) July 5 Conventional Wisdom warns that "before anyone gets the idea that this will be a balanced examination of various approaches to limited-English instruction, its originator, David Hernandez of California, put the notion to rest by telling delegates that NEA needs a national campaign" to counter English immersion initiatives approved in California and Arizona and similar measures pending in Colorado and Massachusetts.
- NBI 57 directs the NEA president to "appoint a committee on early childhood education." This committee is to prepare a report that includes a recommendation about whether and to what extent NEA "should attempt to organize and represent early childhood employees." The committee's report is due early next year. (See NEA Membership Declines.)
- NBI 27 urges the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action and encourages union members to circulate a petition to "Support Affirmative Action" before the court.
- NBI A authorizes the creation of an Advisory Committee to develop "a comprehensive strategy for fully funding and, as appropriate, amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)." The union is seeking to repeal ESEA's testing and funding provisions that are contrary to NEA resolutions.
- NBI 24 directs the NEA to consider legal action, including "finding suitable plaintiffs," to force full federal funding of costs associated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Some experts predict that if fully funded, this law (currently up for reauthorization before Congress) would increase exponentially the "already frightening level of child psychiatric labeling and drugging." These experts recommend "a rollback to IDEA's pre-1991 language," which would remove the incentive for such labeling by making mental and emotional disorders ineligible for special education funding.
- NBI 25 "commences an initiative" to "refocus attention" on "qualities and skills (creativity, critical thinking, compassion, etc.)" that the NEA believes students need "to become productive and engaged citizens." This NBI will "determine whether current tests/or testing procedures measure these skills" or whether they "inhibit the learning" of "skills and behaviors" the NEA deems important.
- NBI 109 authorizes the NEA to provide members with information "about how they can organize to oppose any trade agreement that would move towards privatization of education."
The NEA opposes the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) which it claims "threatens to privatize public education throughout the Americas and expand harmful environmental and labor deregulation of NAFTA."
- NBI 8 directs the NEA to "review the research on the environmental impact of chalk dust on children, teachers and support personnel in the classroom," noting that "breathing chalk dust may be associated with respiratory illnesses."