Thursday, July 23, 2009


It’s not the kind of news AP generally cares to print—and I found no local reportage on the story. I refer to a speech given by the National Education Association’s retiring General Counsel Bob Chanin at the group’s convention in San Diego during the long Fourth of July weekend. The entire presentation is on YouTube. I provide a few salient snippets below:

About the NEA’s effectiveness as an advocate, Chanin said, “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. 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 unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.” (Standing ovation)

Concerning student achievement, dropout rates, and teacher quality, Chanin observed, “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, and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay.”

Reemphasizing his union-centered theme, Chanin had this to say: “When all is said and done NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members. If we do that and if we do it well, the rest will fall into place. NEA and its affiliates will remain powerful and that power will in turn enable us to achieve our vision of a great public school for every child.”

Chanin’s rhetorical coup de grace was this bit of gutterly eloquence: "Why are these conservative and right-wing bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates? … It is the price we pay for success. NEA and its affiliates have been singled out because they are the most effective unions in the United States, and they are the nation’s leading advocates for public education and the type of liberal social and economic agenda that these groups find unacceptable.”

Chanin can at least be credited with honesty, if not civility. Note, however, the absurd invisible hand he assumes will work to the benefit of students once union demands have been satisfied—a benefits-results correlation that’s clearly nonexistent, as the late Senator Patrick Moynihan observed.

Anyone who isn’t blinded by self-interest can see that the “successful” unionization and politicization of teachers over the last forty years has been paired with a general decline in public education that’s often been catastrophic.

By the way, NEA and CTA dues will be increasing this fall--despite the recession.

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