NEA Lawyer: It’s Not About Kids

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by Tammy Drennan

Updated August 10, 2009

Bob Chanin, a lawyer for the National Education Association, made it clear in a speech recently that the NEA is not about children but about the power to secure good pay and benefits for teachers. Not that the children don’t count at all (where would the NEA be without them?), but to tend to the children at the expense of employee perks would be “too high a price to pay.”


Excerpt from speech:


“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child.


“The NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them; the union that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.


“This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing drop rate rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.


“That is simply too high a price to pay.”


Quite possibly, Mr. Chanin will cry foul, claim he’s being misrepresented by all the people outraged at his comments. Or maybe, just maybe, he’ll stick by what he clearly said and meant. His audience loved it. [Link to video of speech]


It’s not that this is a new revelation – it’s just nice to hear an NEA insider be honest about it.


So, who is looking out for the children, even if it’s at the expense of some of their own perks? There are a few activists with areas of special interest who do what they think might help – start a charter school here, an after-school program there, demand vouchers. And there are some teachers in the trenches who really do sacrifice.


But ultimately, it’s up to parents. And there’s work to do on that front, because we’re many generations into public-school-reared citizens, and too many moms and dads no longer really know what it means to actively parent. As if that’s not bad enough, the system that shaped them now intimidates them into believing they are ill-equipped to take control of their children’s education, to decide who will teach their children and what they will be taught.


The battle for independence in education boils down to empowering parents – by reinvesting them with the knowledge and will to truly parent and by creating more and better options and resources to help them meet their goals for their children.