Commentary: NEA Resolutions Support Social Justice Agenda, Not Education Quality

Published September 12, 2019

Any lingering fantasy about the National Education Association (NEA) having anything to do with education can now be extinguished finally and completely.

At the NEA convention in July, thousands of the teachers union’s members gathered to debate and vote on policies and priorities for the organization. One “New Business Item” proposed the NEA “re-dedicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America by putting a renewed emphasis on quality education.”

“NEA will make student learning the priority of the Association,” the item read.

It seems odd, astounding even, to consider a teaching organization with “education” in its very name needing to “rededicate” itself to student learning. What, after all, was the priority of the NEA up to this point, if not “student learning”?

What’s even more shocking is that the members of the NEA actually rejected the proposal to refocus on student learning. Yes, you read that right. A motion to put “a renewed emphasis on quality education” was shot down by the nation’s largest teachers union.

NEA’s Priorities

What then, you may well wonder, does the NEA prioritize over student learning?

“White Fragility,” for starters. An item passed by delegates states, “NEA will incorporate the concept of ‘White Fragility’ into NEA trainings/staff development, literature, and other existing communications on social, gender, LGBTQIA, and racial justice whenever and wherever context and expense allows.

“White supremacy culture has fashioned a social norm insulating white people from the impact of racial stress, which consequentially constructs a social atmosphere that depresses the ability of society, in general, to tolerate racial stress, also known as ‘White Fragility,'” the NEA states.

Other resolutions passed include supporting “reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States,” emphasizing “human’s [sic] involvement in climate change,” and promoting “attitudes, values, and goals of unionism, solidarity, justice, fairness, and the search for the common good.”

Forced Unionism

If only educators more interested in education than social justice could simply leave the NEA. In states without right-to-work laws, teachers are forced to pay union dues and have the NEA represent them. That adds up to more than $363 million—let that number sink in for a second—worth of union dues the NEA uses to promote every radical left-wing cause you can think of.

What’s more, reminds us, “[The NEA] is exempt from antitrust laws, and in 22 states it can compel payments from customers who never asked for its services. Oh, and almost all of its income is tax-exempt.”

NEA members in right-to-work states who oppose abortion, the concept of “white fragility,” and other core principles of the NEA do technically have the option of leaving the organization, but what about taxpayers who are against these things? It is we, after all, who pay the salaries of public-school teachers, and in non-right-to-work states, our tax dollars are forcibly sent right into the coffers of the NEA to spend on things many of us find morally reprehensible.

How is this constitutional?

Lobbying Politicians

Why is something so innocuous-sounding as an “education association” involving itself at all in the great societal issues of abortion, racism, and the like? And how did the NEA, which reports “lobbies elected and government officials on everything from government funding of education to school safety to teacher pay,” become so well-funded and so powerful? states, “The NEA is a major political player, with its associated political action committees contributing nearly $143.5 million to federal candidates and committees—97% of which supported Democrats and liberals—from 1990 through February 2019.”

In other words, the NEA buys the support of politicians, almost all of whom are leftists. Consider it was the likes of Joe Biden, Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other Democratic presidential hopefuls who pandered to the union delegates at this year’s NEA convention.

NEA Supports Big Government

“The NEA is also deeply entangled in state and local politics and is a major contributor to left-of-center nonprofit organizations,” states.

“Left of center” is putting it mildly. The NEA has a long history of supporting big-government initiatives that benefit the union’s members, regardless of how or even whether they affect the straightforward instruction of reading, writing, and arithmetic with which public school teachers are charged.

The NEA has abandoned any pretense of educating and is shamelessly showing its true objectives: to increase its wealth and power and advance the most extreme liberal policies—teachers, students, and taxpayers be damned.

Teresa Mull ([email protected]) is a policy advisor for education at The Heartland Institute, a research fellow for The Henry Dearborn Institute for Liberty, and editor of