Senators Seek To Revoke NEA’s Federal Charter

The teachers union is targeted due to its ballooning political contributions, support of critical race theory, and efforts to keep schools closed during the pandemic.

AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Senator Blackburn on Capitol Hill April 4, 2022. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

A growing number of Republicans are calling for Congress to strip the nation’s largest teachers union of its federal charter in response to its ballooning political contributions, support of critical race theory, and efforts to keep schools closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Senators Blackburn and Lummis have introduced legislation to revoke the National Education Association’s federal charter, claiming the organization “no longer primarily serves the purposes of advancing the profession of teaching or promoting the cause of education in the United States.” 

Ms. Lummis said the NEA “used to stand up for students. Unfortunately, it is now a federally chartered fundraising group for the Democratic National Committee.

“Students and parents in Wyoming deserve better than the NEA having a congressional seal of approval for its political efforts. Every other special interest group operates without a federal charter, and the NEA should be no different.”

The movement to strip the federal charter from the NEA is in its nascent stage. To succeed, it would require a Republican majority in the House and Senate — not to mention a GOP president to sign the legislation. Yet even this early move is noteworthy. 

The NEA is the largest teachers union in America, and the only labor union to enjoy the sanction of a federal charter, which has been in place since 1906. The two senators say that due to NEA’s overwhelming support of Democratic candidates and work to keep schools closed during the pandemic, the union “can no longer be considered a public service worthy of its federal charter.” 

Congress has designated nearly 100 groups to be “Patriotic and National organizations” under Title 36, including the Boy Scouts of America, the American Legion, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. A federal charter lends an organization the legitimacy of being sanctioned by the federal government. 

The NEA’s spending shows its priority is lobbying and supporting Democratic candidates. According to an analysis by Americans for Fair Treatment, the NEA spent 50 percent of its budget on political activities and campaign contributions in 2021, while only 9 percent went toward “representational activities” to assist members. 

Candidates supported by the NEA are overwhelmingly Democrats: 96 percent of candidate campaign contributions made by the union went to representatives of that party in 2020.

During its annual meeting earlier this year, the NEA approved an item to spend $140,000 to create an “enemies list” of groups it identifies as “working to diminish a students’ right to honesty in education, freedom of sexual and gender identity, and teacher autonomy.” 

“Over the past few years, teachers unions have demonstrated they will put their political priorities ahead of student well being every chance they get,” Ms. Blackburn said. “The NEA is by all accounts a political organization and should not be rewarded for their left-wing activism with a federal charter.”

Companion legislation in the House of Representatives is sponsored by Representative Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican of  Wisconsin. 

There is a growing coalition of Republicans that supports rescinding the federal government’s tacit endorsement of the NEA, saying the organization has “become a massive political operation dedicated to imposing a radical progressive agenda on schools.” Twenty-five other Republicans have co-sponsored the House bill, including Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana, Mark Green of Tennessee, and Kat Cammack of Florida. 

“The NEA is basically a partisan lobbying arm for the DNC that irreparably harmed students during the Covid pandemic and continues to push anti-American ideologies in classrooms,” Mr. Banks said. “Congress shouldn’t condone its misbehavior.” 

A coalition of conservative groups has voiced support for the effort to suspend the NEA’s federal charter, including the American Principles Project, America First Policy Institute, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action for America, National Right to Work Committee, and Young America’s Foundation.

“Government union bosses have spent decades successfully lobbying for unique privileges from union-label politicians, including monopoly bargaining power over public employees and, until the Janus decision, the power to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment,” the National Right to Work Committee said in a statement. “For the National Education Association, the largest union in America, one of those privileges has been the tacit endorsement of Congress for over a century in the form of a federal charter. The National Right to Work Committee supports legislation that would rescind this charter, or any of the many other special privileges that union bosses currently enjoy under federal law.”

The National Education Association did not respond to a request for comment.

The New York Sun

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