Is the NEA really a NUT? By
asking, I’m not casting aspersions on the National Education Association’s
sanity, just on its choice of name. The NEA’s British counterpart really is a
NUT: It is the
National Union of Teachers. British educators unapologetically acknowledge
that their union is a union, while their American peers cling to a name that
belies their organization’s agenda — literally.
Consider the first 10
agenda items from the NEA’s recent national meeting (brought to my attention
courtesy of blogger
[No description] — defeated
Participate in a union-funded anti-Wal-Mart publicity campaign — adopted
Investigate financial firms that support private Social Security accounts
Add "other" and "multi-ethnic" to all forms asking about ethnicity —
Commemorate a 1966 NEA merger — adopted
Form a coalition to preserve the status quo on Social Security policy —
Inform members about the niceties of different pension plans — adopted
Publish an article on the purported ill effects of perfume — adopted
Provide funds for air quality seminars — adopted
Form a work group on health care issues — adopted
None of these resolutions, it
should be noted, pertains to the education of children. In fact, it is not until
agenda item No. 15 that such a resolution manages to squeeze its foot in the
NEA’s door (it concerns the use of technology funds). Another 14 agenda items
roll by before anything related to classroom instruction reappears on the list
(in reference to the federal No Child Left Behind Act).
The overwhelming majority of
agenda items from the NEA’s meeting concern employee benefits; political
lobbying related to employee benefits; efforts to promote political causes
unrelated to employee benefits; efforts to boycott or otherwise punish employers
outside the field of education who are considered unfriendly to unionization;
mundane issues of internal union protocol and paperwork; and, in at least one
case, raising barriers to entry into the teaching profession by expanding
certification requirements (which, by reducing teacher supply, allows existing
teachers to command higher salaries). Overall, fewer than 10 percent of the
meeting’s 92 agenda items can be reasonably construed as relating to the
education of children in academic subjects.
There is nothing wrong with that.
The NEA is not a citizens action
group selflessly dedicated to improving American education by the most effective
possible means. It, like the more aptly named NUT, is an employee union of
public school workers. As such, it rightly seeks to better the compensation and
working conditions of its members, and to protect the existing public school
monopoly that ensures them a degree of employment security unparalleled in the
Why does the distinction matter?
It matters because, in executing
its responsibility to protect its members’ interests, the NEA often suggests to
the public that its primary motivation is to promote children’s educational
welfare. Not only is that goal not at the top of the union’s agenda, it is
barely on its agenda at all.
So if you have children or
grandchildren of your own, or if you are concerned for the educational welfare
of other people’s children, you can, in good conscience, remind yourself of one
thing whenever you see the NEA lobbying for or against some public policy: The
NEA is a NUT.
Andrew J. Coulson is senior fellow in education policy at the Mackinac Center
for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in
Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted,
provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.