Michigan Education Association Lawsuit Dismissed
On March 18, the Michigan Court of Appeals dismissed a Michigan Education Association (MEA) lawsuit against the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The MEA complaint arose from a Mackinac fundraising letter that quoted MEA President Lu Battaglieri as saying in 2001, referring to Mackinac, “… quite frankly, I admire what they’ve done over the last couple of years …”
Battaglieri did not dispute the accuracy of the quote, but claimed Mackinac had “misappropriated” his name for commercial purposes. The court concluded Mackinac’s letter “falls squarely within the protection of the First Amendment for discourse on matters of public interest.”
NEA Acknowledges Labor Department Probe …
Not only are the National Education Association (NEA) and California Teachers Association (CTA) undergoing IRS audits, but NEA is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. On March 4, the Associated Press received public confirmation from NEA that the Labor Department is investigating whether the union had reported all its expenditures on its annual form LM-2.
“The general statement was, it’s a review of the report and they wanted to see backup material,” said NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin. “It was anything but focused. We’ll keep giving them data and they’ll keep asking questions.”
The probe seems to have been prompted by a complaint filed by the Landmark Legal Foundation in 2002.
… and Forms a New Political Group
Faced with IRS and Department of Labor investigations concerning its political activities and reporting, the NEA has created a new advocacy organization that will be able to use both dues money and state PAC money to advance the union’s goals.
Called “America Learns,” the new group is a “social welfare organization,” as defined by section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. The American Civil Liberties Union and National Rifle Association are examples of 501(c)(4) organizations. Such groups are allowed to lobby, provided doing so isn’t their primary activity. They may not participate directly or indirectly in political campaigns.
The new organization’s primary focus will be on “spreading the word about the misguided so-called NCLB law, and how to fix it.” Any doubt that the organization will be controlled by NEA was erased by the identity of its key personnel:
- Anne Davis, president of the Illinois Education Association, will chair the board.
- The remaining two board members are Robert Bonazzi, executive director of the New Jersey Education Association, and Maurice Joseph, NEA’s deputy general counsel.
- The executive director is John Hein, most recently the associate executive director of government relations for the California Teachers Association.
NEA is asking its state affiliates to contribute a minimum of $1 per member to America Learns, which can come from the union’s general fund, PAC fund, or outside donations–though these are not tax deductible.
Most Philadelphia Teachers Can’t Pass Content Tests
In March, more than half of Philadelphia’s middle school teachers failed their content exams for certification as “highly qualified” teachers. Nearly two of every three teachers who took the math exam failed it, though one teacher who achieved a perfect score said the test “mostly included seventh- and eighth-grade math and touched on high school math.”
“Content sometimes is really overrated,” said Philadelphia middle school teacher Nick Perry, commenting on the news to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A teacher is like an artist, a coach. He has to be able to inspire children.”
For more information …
The seven-page ruling of the Michigan Court of Appeals in the Battaglieri case is available for downloading from the Appeals Court Web site as a Zip file dated March 19, 2004: http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/resources/asp/zipfiles.asp.
Landmark Legal Foundation’s 2002 complaint regarding NEA’s alleged failure to properly report its spending on political activities, is available online at http://www.landmarklegal.org/complaints.cfm?webpage_id=503.
NEA’s most recent LM-2 reports may be accessed through the Department of Labor’s disclosure Web site at http://union-reports.dol.gov.
The weekly Communiqué from the Education Intelligence Agency is available online at http://www.eiaonline.com.