Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Wall Street Journal looks at how the NEA has been spending its money. And no surprise, the union's employees are receiving inflated salaries. And the union has been funding political interest groups that fight school reform.
Many of the organization's disbursements--$30,000 to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, $122,000 to the Center for Teaching Quality--at least target groups that ostensibly have a direct educational mission. But many others are a stretch, to say the least. The NEA gave $15,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights." The National Women's Law Center, whose Web site currently features a "pocket guide" to opposing Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito, received $5,000. And something called the Fund to Protect Social Security got $400,000, presumably to defeat personal investment accounts.

The new disclosure rules mark the first revisions since 1959 and took effect this year. "What wasn't clear before is how much of a part the teachers unions play in the wider liberal movement and the Democratic Party," says Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a California-based watchdog group. "They're like some philanthropic organization that passes out grant money to interest groups."

There's been a lot in the news recently about published opinion that parallels donor politics. Well, last year the NEA gave $45,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, which regularly issues reports that claim education is underfunded and teachers are underpaid. The partisans at People for the American Way got a $51,000 NEA contribution; PFAW happens to be vehemently anti-voucher.

The extent to which the NEA sends money to states for political agitation is also revealing. For example, Protect Our Public Schools, an anti-charter-school group backed by the NEA's Washington state affiliate, received $500,000 toward its efforts to block school choice for underprivileged children. (Never mind that charter schools are public schools.) And the Floridians for All Committee, which focuses on "the construction of a permanent progressive infrastructure that will help redirect Florida politics in a more progressive, Democratic direction," received a $249,000 donation from NEA headquarters.

When George Soros does this sort of thing, at least he's spending his own money. The NEA is spending the mandatory dues paid by members who are told their money will be used to gain better wages, benefits and working conditions. According to the latest filing, member dues accounted for $295 million of the NEA's $341 million in total receipts last year. But the union spent $25 million of that on "political activities and lobbying" and another $65.5 million on "contributions, gifts and grants" that seemed designed to further those hyper-liberal political goals.
What you might not realize is that many teachers, myself included, joined the NEA solely to get the professional insurance. Teachers are vulnerable to lawsuits for all sorts of reasons and it is drummed into our heads in classes on the law and education that we took to get certified that we are liable if, for example, one kid throws a pencil at another kid and injures that kid's eye. Or, if a teacher steps out of the room for a minute and one kid hits another, the teacher can get sued. So, as protection, the recommendation is that we join the union. So, although most teachers are indeed liberal, many who are not go ahead and join the teachers union. And then are dues are used for all sorts of purposes that we don't support. Fortunately, we finally got a choice in North Carolina of joining the NEA affiliate or joining PENC, a truly non-partisan association that cost about half as much in dues. I don't know if other states has similar competition. Perhaps, as the NEA's budget gets publicized, members will realize that they could get the same protection in some other non-partisan competiting organization.