Conspirator by NEA
by Judy Cresanta
n October 2, the Washington Times ran a two-page graphic spread entitled, "The Anatomy of the Far Right." The article was a synopsis of an "invitation only" press conference at which the National Education Association summarized its 144-page report charging 90 non-profit, philanthropic and public policy organizations with conspiracy against public education and public school teachers. Rather than focus on the conundrum that public education now costs 25 times as much as it did in the early 1970s with a corresponding decrease in student achievement, the NEA named, among others, Nevada Policy Research Institute as part of a complex, well-funded network designed to put public education out of business.
The NEAs paranoia notwithstanding, some interesting points surrounding this report should be brought to light.
First, the report was commissioned to Dr. Larry Sabato, a well respected political scientist from the University of Virginia. From the start Sabato cautioned the NEA that he would not be part of a study which used inflammatory labels, especially since they were inaccurate, extremist and did not portray the authors findings. The NEA betrayed the agreement by employing such terms as "far right," "state by state assault" and a "web of conspiracy," among others. Sabato called the labels "offensive."
Second, Bobby Watson, convicted felon and Democratic operative, was hired by union executives to assemble the report. Ever since he was nabbed in Virginia for illegal wiretapping in a politically related caper, his dirty tactics have become a household word on Capital Hill.
And finally (but not exhaustively), last year NPRIs Washington state counterpart, the Evergreen Foundation, exposed a money laundering scam perpetuated by the state NEA affiliate for illegally laundering money through a community outreach fund into state elections. The Washington Attorney General charged the WEA with violations of the states paycheck protection law, laundering money and failing to report campaign donations. The WEA executives were found guilty on all counts. Contrast this gallery of notables against the "co-conspirators" featured in the NEA report: people like war heroes, CEOs, judges, ministers and housewives. The report even attempts to discredit a concert pianist.
Calling the NEAs actions irresponsible is too charitable. In the face of their privileges as quasi-public employees they have turned education on its ear, exchanging power and privilege for their own gain while watching educational quality go down the tubes. Heres the record in our own state: theyre opposed to school choice, charter schools, merit pay, discontinuance of tenure, tougher academic standards, accountability, continuing teacher certification testing and any display of religion in the classroom. Instead they advocate rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic we call public educationlowering class sizes (padding their own ranks while offering zero benefit to children), lobbying ad nauseum for more money, higher benefits, less responsibility, and limited accountability. In Nevada they even refuse to allow their own rank and file to decide for themselves if they want to donate to political causes.
Control is the operative word herecontrol over a sick system, control over kids, control over education agendas, control over taxpayer pocketbooks, control over the legislature and control over their own na´ve members.
So to all those conspiracy theorists in the nations largest teachers union: Its an honor to be on the other side of the fence from you. It means we know truth from fiction, still have conscience and respect our fellow man. NJJudy Cresanta is president of Nevada Policy Research Institute.