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October 29, 2004
NEA Gave Over A Million To Kerry, Faces IRS Audit

The National Education Association has been busy this election cycle, the Washington Times reports. The teachers union has spent over a million dollars in direct support for John Kerry and $2.78 million supporting Democrats overall, prompting the IRS to investigate its tax-exempt status:

The National Education Association (NEA) pumped more than $1 million into 67 mailings for the Kerry-Edwards presidential ticket and against President Bush in the past four months, Federal Election Commission reports show.

Twenty-one NEA mailings in behalf of the Kerry campaign, produced by an Arlington firm whose clients include the Democratic Party, went out to hundreds of thousands of public school employees across the country this month at a cost of $468,333. The union paid for all the mailings from its general operating budget, not its political action committee, the reports show.

Now that presents two problems. First, using the same production firm as the DNC indicates possible collusion (termed "illegal coordination" by McCain-Feingold) in advocacy efforts. Second and more to the point for the IRS, spending the money out of the NEA's general budget instead of its political-action committee violates campaign-finance regulating the influence of corporations and unions, I believe. Conservative teachers have called for reform of the union's political activities as well:

In a July interview, NEA President Reg Weaver said about one-third of the union's 2.7 million dues-paying members are Democrats, one-third are Republicans and one-third are independents.

FEC reports show that only four Republican congressional candidates received money from the NEA's political action committee from April through July Sens. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Reps. C.W. Bill Young of Florida and Jim Kolbe of Arizona. ...

"We need to look toward spending political action committee funds more equitably between the political parties," said Diane Lenning, an English teacher from California and past chairman of the NEA Republican Educators Caucus. "The NEA's teachers speak of fairness, diversity and free speech. Therefore, we need to look toward equal representation of funds spent among candidates across the country from local to national levels," Mrs. Lenning said.

The NEA's almost-complete Democratic support comes as no surprise, and its motivations are easily understood. The efforts at educational reform have unnerved union leaders due to the administration's determination to hold schools responsible for their performance -- a philosophy that threatens to undermine the ridiculous "tenure" model that makes removal of ineffective teachers an almost impossible task.

But what they truly fear is an effort to implement a school-voucher plan that would for the first time create a competitive market for educating the children of working families instead of just the richest families in America. Competition would either force public schools to reform themselves and their evaluation processes or face obsolescence. Good teachers, of course, could find work in a boom of private-school openings that vouchers would create or negotiate better conditions for themselves at the public schools that would want to hang onto them. The effect of the NEA's opposition to change is to protect the least competent among them, a fact not lost on several teachers I know personally.

The NEA has gone all out to prevent any meaningful reform of our public education system, and they have done so by overwhelmingly supporting John Kerry and other Democrats. That should tell you all you need to know about which party can be trusted to bring change and improvement to the education of our children.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 29, 2004 5:25 AM

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