Education , Law & Principles

Ray Carter | September 20, 2022

Lankford targets teacher union’s charter

Ray Carter

U.S. Sen. James Lankford has filed legislation to strip the National Education Association of its federal charter.

“As the son of a teacher and someone who really appreciated the teachers in my life and my children’s lives, I get incredibly frustrated when our schools get distracted by social issues and become political proving grounds,” said Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. “Oklahoma parents are tired of the woke ideology being pushed on their kids and the progressive values being forced into our schools by a giant teachers’ union, the National Education Association. The NEA created an ‘enemies list’ of parents willing to stand up to their tactics, and they work lockstep with the Biden Administration for their policy agenda. Unions should protect and preserve workers’ rights and speak out for the benefit of their members, not push a political agenda on our kids. The NEA is the only federally chartered union; it’s time to hold them to account.”

Lankford and U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., have introduced legislation to end the NEA’s federal charter. U.S. Reps. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., and Jim Banks, R-Ind., have introduced a version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The lawmakers said a federal charter lends an organization the legitimacy of being sanctioned by the federal government. There are approximately 100 organizations operating under a federal charter. The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union and the only labor union operating under a federal charter.

“The NEA is basically a partisan lobbying arm for the DNC (Democratic National Committee) that irreparably harmed students during the COVID pandemic and continues to push anti-American ideologies in classrooms,” Banks said. “Congress shouldn’t condone its misbehavior.”

Data reviewed by Americans for Fair Treatment and provided exclusively to the Washington Examiner showed that political-activities donations accounted for 18 percent of the NEA’s $374 million budget for 2020-2021, while only 9 percent of the NEA's budget was spent on direct assistance to its members, meaning the union spent about $2 on political activity for every $1 spent on its members.

But the NEA’s political spending is even more lopsided than those figures indicate. Americans for Fair Treatment found that another 32 percent of NEA expenditures went to “contributions, gifts, and grants,” a category that included millions of dollars donated to entities such as the State Engagement Fund and the Strategic Victory Fund, which in turn funneled donations to generally left-wing political groups and Democratic candidates.

Lankford previously denounced a business item approved at the NEA’s national assembly this year that called on the union to “compile research to create fact sheets about the largest 25 organizations” that have opposed what the union calls “freedom of sexual and gender identity,” among other things.

Lankford said that amounted to compiling an “enemies list.” The NEA plan would apparently target states like Oklahoma that have passed laws restricting bathroom access based on student sex.

The NEA’s state affiliate, the Oklahoma Education Association, is active in state politics. Unlike Lankford, some Oklahoma Republicans have politically aligned themselves with the NEA, accepting thousands of dollars in campaign funds and endorsements from its state affiliate.

In January, a top official with the OEA decried growing parent involvement in Oklahoma schools and vowed the union would counter those voices at the Oklahoma Capitol. In 2021, the Oklahoma Aspiring Educators Association (OAEA), an affiliate of the Oklahoma Education Association, hosted a symposium in which a featured speaker dismissed concerns about COVID learning loss as a form of racism, declaring that it is “just white learning that’s been lost.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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