School's out, but the nation's teacher unions will be working overtime this summer to help elect John Kerry president. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will host John Kerry at their convention next month, and the National Education Association (NEA) has launched a new ad campaign in several battleground states to attack President Bush's education record. The ads claim the president's No Child Left Behind Act "forces teachers to drill students for standardized tests," which, it contends, "hurts kids today and limits them in the future."
Teacher union members will be the biggest single contingent of delegates to the Democratic Convention in Boston later in July, just as they were in 2000, when more than 350 NEA members and 152 AFT members were Democratic delegates. In addition, teacher unions will donate millions to elect Democrats at all levels of government. Indeed, the NEA and AFT are two of the top 13 all-time donors to the Democratic Party since 1978, giving nearly $12.4 million to Democrats as of June 2003, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to teacher union political activism. Much of what goes on is hidden from view, even from teacher union members themselves.
Like most unions, the teacher unions not only collect voluntary contributions from their members to donate to political candidates -- some 95 percent of which goes to Democrats -- they also spend huge sums of their members' dues to register voters, run ads, print campaign leaflets, set up phone banks and turn out voters on Election Day. What's more, the NEA employs what Landmark Legal Foundation president Mark Levin calls "the largest army of campaign workers that any organization has" -- the 1,800 NEA UniServ directors who are deployed in every Congressional District in the nation. The NEA, with its state affiliates, spent some $90 million to underwrite its UniServ program in 2003, according to documents Landmark Legal Foundation unearthed in its extensive court filings against the union.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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