The first response from the National Education Association to the January 3 Wall Street Journal editorial, “Teachers’ Pets,” is filtering down through its activist network and the gist of it goes like this:
* “The $65 million figure was the total amount the NEA spent on grants and contributions. Of that, $64.2 million — about 98 percent — went straight to our state and local affiliates for education programs and member services.”
The Wall Street Journal was wrong to portray the $65 million in the contributions category as a total amount distributed to liberal political groups. UniServ grants are included in that category, which is money used to subsidize the salaries of UniServ directors in each of NEA’s state affiliates. UniServ directors have a broad range of responsibilities, including coming to California from all over the country last November to fight Gov. Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives.
However, NEA’s contributions to political advocacy groups do not reside solely in the “contributions, gifts, and grants” category. As EIA’s December 19 report plainly shows, sums like $25,000 for the National Coalition of Health Care and $40,000 for the Consortium for Educational Change were listed by NEA in the “representational activities” category, the $51,200 donation to People for the American Way, among many others, was listed in the “union administration” category — all of these outside the “political activities and lobbying” category, which by NEA’s admission constitutes $25 million.
While WSJ’s total figures were incorrectly applied, NEA’s claim of $800,000 in advocacy contributions is laughably low-balled. NEA gave $2.5 million to Communities for Quality Education alone.
* “The editorial also grossly exaggerated President Weaver’s salary. Worse yet, it counts funds used for President Weaver’s travel as he meets with members all across the country as part of his salary.”
Again, the WSJ was wrong to include Weaver’s travel expenses as part of his salary. However, you judge for yourself what constitutes a gross exaggeration. EIA’s December 12 report explains the compensation of Weaver and the other executive officers clearly and fairly: “Topping that list is NEA President Reg Weaver, who received a base salary of $272,170, plus allowances for benefits and living expenses of $98,258, for a total pay of $370,428. These cash allowances for NEA’s three executive officers are meant to compensate them for the cost of maintaining two homes, plus the fact that they do not receive retirement benefits from NEA during their union tenure.”
* “The Journal and Bill O’Reilly would like the public to believe that the NEA is hiding information from the public or advancing a hidden agenda: it makes it easier for them to push their own political agenda.”
Sure. That’s why you’re reading all this information in NEA Today, viewing it on the NEA web site, hearing about it on all those NEA-sponsored television and radio ads, and receiving it in your NEA direct mail.
Even the NEA Representative Assembly — according to the union “the largest democratic deliberative body in the world,” and made up of its most devoted activists — voice votes up or down on the total union budget, which contains only line-item descriptions such as: “Collaborative relationships supportive of quality public education developed, maintained, expanded, and tracked among labor, civic, civil rights, minority, religious, family and parent, community, and public policy advocacy organizations.”
I don’t see anything about the Council on Foreign Relations in that paragraph.