Stop Letting Weingarten Steal the Spotlight — Pay Attention to the NEA

Ginny Gentles | July 5, 2024

(RealClearEducation) — Teachers union delegates from around the country will descend upon Philadelphia this week for the National Education Association’s annual Representative Assembly. The powerful union will map out its political strategy, rally the troops to campaign for union-endorsed candidates, and endorse the progressive agenda du jour.

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA), rarely demands the attention that American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten relishes and receives from her friends and foes. Pringle’s unhinged closing speech–sermon, really–from last year’s NEA Representative Assembly was a significant exception. She hollered that she could “hear Chief Seattle crying out to us, urging us to remember” that union organizers were “a light in the darkness” whose “purpose would not be dimmed” as they fight for “righteous freedom.”

By righteous freedom, Pringle means the freedom to elect and control elected officials, “from the school board level all the way up to the presidency.” In the 2022-23 fiscal year, the NEA spent $50.1 million on political campaigns and lobbying and $126.3 million on “contributions, gifts, and grants” often directed to political causes.

Local union affiliates also invest heavily in elections. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) spent $5.7 million to elect former CTU organizer Brandon Johnson as mayor, and the union has budgeted $1 million for upcoming Chicago school board elections.

American parents and policymakers should pay more attention to Pringle’s preaching and predictions. The NEA is the nation’s largest teachers union with three million members. Although the union is shrinking, it still collected $379 million in member dues over the last year. The dues combined with massive investment income fund the NEA’s powerful political machine. The organization’s enormous political war chest and highly ideological agenda directly impact the culture, performance, and outcomes of our nation’s public schools.

The NEA may not receive as many headlines and Twitter (now known as X) mentions as Weingarten’s AFT, but the union’s immense size and influence should alarm parents. The NEA’s website boasts of the union’s power with “affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.” Pringle’s political and ideological ravings and the agenda established at the union’s annual summer gathering will likely impact your children.

Unfortunately, the NEA blocked public access to details of this year’s NEA Representative Assembly with a password-protected firewall. By limiting press coverage and preventing public access to the business items and resolutions delegates will vote on this week, the full extent of the union’s political and policy plans will remain secret. The NEA began hiding the Representative Assembly’s agenda after a particularly embarrassing vote in 2019. Delegates opposed a motion to rededicate the NEA to “the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America by putting a renewed emphasis on quality education.”

Yes, that’s right. National Education Association delegates voted down a resolution to “make student learning the priority of the association.”