I was reading an article in the April issue of NEA Today about military recruiters in schools. Despite the union’s position on the subject, I was surprised to discover the article is pretty even-handed. It covers both sides of the issue, both the NEA’s and the military’s perspective, and the key parts of the article, the opening and closing, focus on the military’s outreach program to teachers and patriotism… surprising coming from an NEA, which opposes recruiters in schools, etc.
The article praised the Tucson Unified School District’s policy on recruiters: “Tucson Unified distributes a card that lets parents opt in on having their child’s contact information sent to the Department of Defense for recruiting purposes.” This is the opposite from what the NCLB requires. Schools must provide the DOD with student contact info unless parents opt out. The article went on, “Tucson’s more restrictive opt-in approach is the same one that the NEA advocates.”
The NEA understands the power of “OPT-IN” and “OPT-OUT” systems and relies on them heavily. Rather than sticking to intellectual honesty and consistency, however, it supports the option that best serves its interest.
For example, the NEA gets a majority of its political funding through an OPT-OUT system, presuming teachers want to underwrite its political agenda and putting independent-thinking teacher at a disadvantage. Yet, when it comes to the U.S. military, the NEA supports an OPT-IN system that puts the cause of its political opponents at a disadvantage.
In most states, the NEA automatically deducts political contributions from teachers’ paychecks. While the deductions usually have to be authorized, the union hides the authorization papers in the confusing stacks of initial paperwork. Teachers are often rushed or overwhelmed when filling out the forms, so they don’t often scrutinize what they are doing. They simply trust the union and district. As a result, the deductions often slip by without much thought. After all, they are consumed with teaching your kids.
When given a true, clear choice, though, a vast majority of teacher opt out of supporting the union’s politics.
In Washington state, when the union was finally forced to go to an opt-in system, contributions dropped from 80 percent of membership to 11 percent.
In Utah, when the union was forced to do the same, PAC contributions dropped from 68 percent of membership to 7 percent.
This is amazing! While many teachers support the union’s efforts to collectively bargain and help them at the local level, they refuse to fund the union’s political agenda.
But the teachers unions continue to defend their political OPT-OUT programs… with member dues. In 2005, an initiative that would have created an OPT-IN system similar to Washington state’s and Utah’s faced California voters. The teachers union spent more than $100 million in member dues to prevent members from having a choice.