America’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA) commands unparalleled resources, especially in elections, but its membership may be its undoing as surveys and investigations reveal how out of touch the NEA is with its members.
On gay rights, even the union itself concedes that its stances “are often a source of controversy—both internally with Association members, and externally with the media, political decision-makers, and the general public.”
“Schools cannot be neutral when we’re dealing with [homosexual] issues,” former NEA president Bob Chase said. “I’m not talking about tolerance. I’m talking about acceptance.” The Evergreen Freedom Foundation reported on Chase’s comments in its recent monograph When Values Collide: Teachers, unions and the charity option.
In the state of Washington, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) reports, “Frieda Takamura works as a field representative for the Washington Education Association (WEA) while serving on the National Board of the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).”
“Takamura admits the WEA has provided financial assistance and resources to support the Washington chapter of GLSEN.” Based in Olympia, Washington, the EFF has gone to court to get the WEA to reveal the amount of dues money it gives to political causes and campaigns rather than the normal expenses of negotiating that labor unions incur.
The NEA attempts to promote the cause of gay rights groups through the curricula it endorses for sex education courses while the union tries to advance its position on abortion through financial support for pro-choice groups.
The NEA consistently promotes a pro-choice position on abortion. At the same time, according to the EFF, “Most teachers don’t believe it is part of the NEA’s role to have an official position on abortion.”
“An Ohio survey revealed the following: only 10 % of teachers believe their professional education association should take a position in favor of reproductive freedom; 8 % believe their association should be officially opposed to abortion; and 82 % believe their association should take no position at all on the issue.”
Teachers whose beliefs run counter to those of their union bosses have recourse, and, although, thus far, they may represent a minority of NEA members nationally, they are using every means available to opt out of the union. They can do so, the EFF shows, as religious objectors to the NEA’s policies.
“In a right-to-work state, teachers can resign union membership and pay nothing to the union,” the EFF reports. “But in forced-fee states like Washington, teachers must pay mandatory agency fees.”
“Teachers who have religious objections to union activities can redirect these fees to a charity they help choose.” In right-to-work states you don’t have to join a union to keep your job in a union shop: In forced-fee states, you do.
Bruce Cameron of the National Right To Work Foundation, who represents religious objectors, primarily public school teachers who belong to the NEA, estimates that nine out of ten members who choose to opt out for spiritual reasons receive some form of accommodation.