To no one’s surprise, the annual National Education Association convention voted six-to-one (7,390 to 1,153), to endorse John Kerry for President.
The head of the NEA, Reg Weaver, opened the annual convention in July in Washington, DC, with a call for public school teachers and employees to mobilize to defeat President Bush this fall. He said the union’s political activism “takes center stage,” and he predicted that “our 2.7 million members can be the X-factor in this election.”
For the 2004 political campaign, the NEA will “partner” with the leftwing organizations MoveOn.org, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), and the pro-Democratic Campaign for America’s Future in order to achieve “the largest mobilization for education ever.” Through a nationwide political strategy called “house parties” to be held on September 22, these activists will plan political rallies, register voters, meet with congressional candidates, and organize a get-out-the-vote program to cover teachers and parents.
John Kerry was to have been the convention’s headline speaker, but he stood them up, choosing that very day to announce his choice of John Edwards as his running mate. The delegates were more than pleased with his replacement, Hillary Clinton, who was introduced as “one of our closest allies; she’s so close, in fact, that she needs no further introduction.”
Hillary brought the delegates to their feet with what the NEA’s official newspaper called her “sharp wit,” such as, “We are one day closer to the end of the Bush-Cheney Administration.” Actually, she was just a warmup for a showing of Michael Moore’s anti-Bush movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, right after her speech.
The NEA’s lobbying goals for next year’s Congress include federal funding for public school child care, early childhood programs that are school-based, before- and after-school programs, big spending for school counselors, and school-based health care for children.
The NEA’s non-education-related lobbying goals include funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, national health care, reparations to African Americans, statehood for the District of Columbia, taxpayer funding of federal elections, and a national holiday for Cesar Chavez. The NEA’s foreign policy goals include ratification of the United Nations treaties on the Rights of the Child and on Discrimination against Women.
The NEA’s feminist lobbying goals include “reproductive freedom without governmental intervention” (but, of course, with tax funding), affirmative action, assigning women to military combat, and the Equal Rights Amendment. The NEA’s gay goals include a federal statute prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, income tax benefits for domestic partners, and hate crimes legislation.
The NEA opposes all varieties of school choice, tuition tax credits, vouchers, parental option or “choice” in education programs, designating English as our official language, and any possible action that might impinge on the secularists’ notion of “separation of church and state.”
The most controversial vote at the NEA convention turned out to concern one word in the anti-homeschool resolution. B-69 as introduced read: “The Association also believes that unfunded home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.”
The word “unfunded” precipitated a lively debate. Some schools provide funding for homeschoolers to participate in after-school activities such as sports. The amendment to remove the word “unfunded” was designed to put the NEA on record as opposed to letting homeschoolers darken the door of public school grounds regardless of whether or not there is money to finance their participation.
In the end, the majority of delegates voted to delete “unfunded.” Whether or not homeschoolers’ participation in public school activities is funded, the NEA does not want them in any way to compete with students who are “with us all day.”
The NEA thus made its animosity against homeschoolers loud and clear. The only thing this powerful and wealthy union fears is homeschooling.
The convention opened with an invocation by the president of the National Council of Urban Education Associations. A few delegates complained that his message sounded suspiciously like a reading from the Democratic Party platform.
Washington DC Mayor Anthony Williams was not on hand to welcome the delegates to the nation’s capital because he supports school vouchers, a politically incorrect position for NEA speakers. The delegates were welcomed instead by U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who used her time at the podium to pitch for her legislation to give congressional representation to the District of Columbia.
The speakers voiced the usual complaints about a stingy Congress not appropriating enough money for education. In fact, federal spending on education increased 51 percent since Bush took office, and Title I spending (for low-income schools) has increased from $8.8 billion in the Clinton administration to $13.3 billion this year.