The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 2.7 million elementary and secondary teachers. Their professed goal is to make public schools great for every child. The real goal is to increase their own bargaining power by ripping to shreds any education reform that seeks to hold public schools accountable to their failures.
I don't think there is any doubt about this. For example, their most recent anti-voucher edict, it's called "Strategic Plan and Budget, Fiscal Years: 2002-2004, starts out by saying, the NEA's goal is to "focus the energy and resources of our 2.7 million members toward the promotion of public confidence in public education." So, in other words, their top priority is not the oft professed goal of "making public schools great for every child," but rather massaging the perception of public education. It goes on to say, "the success of students is inextricably tied to the success of teachers. . . who serve them. . . ." In other words, protecting the perception of public education is inextricably linked to keeping the teachers from being perceived as failing. This is important because it reminds us that the organization exists to advocate for the teachers who pay their dues, not the children. At least one way that the NEA has accomplish this is by sparing public teachers any close scrutiny. They are fundamentally opposed to any education reform-like vouchers or the No Child Left Behind Act-that seeks to hold public schools accountable for their failures.
Of course there is no academic reason why this should necessarily be so. Private school students routinely test better than their public school counterparts. At least part of the success of private school students should be attributed to the fact that private school educators are held highly accountable for their job performance. They have no long--term job security, work only on year-to-year contracts and are held accountable by annual job evaluations. In public schools, by contrast, powerful teachers unions have secured long term tenure for the teachers, thus removing a powerful mechanism for immediate accountability.