Monday, November 10, 2008

NEA's True Service to Democrats: Incumbency Insurance.

Mike Antonucci over at The Education Intelligence Agency is always spot on with his analysis of the NEA. The following was in his November 10 email update. Until we curb the NEA socialism will remain on the rise.


NEA's True Service to Democrats: Incumbency Insurance.

There is no question that last Tuesday's election results came as close to a total victory for the National Education Association as one could possibly expect. Its presidential candidate won an electoral landslide. Its Democratic majorities grew stronger in both houses of Congress. Of all the ballot initiatives across the country that received NEA and affiliate support, I could find only three in which the union side was defeated. Two of these occurred in California – Prop 8 (gay marriage) and Prop 9 (crime victims' rights). Both passed despite opposition from the California Teachers Association, but neither has a direct effect on public education or organized labor. The only other defeat was the passage of Amendment 54 in Colorado, which bans political contributions by contractors or organizations that do business with the government. A court challenge has already been filed.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel lauded the victories. "NEA members played a vital role in critical congressional races across the country that helped expand margins in the House and Senate for pro-public education allies," he said in a press statement. "As a bipartisan organization, the National Education Association was pleased to return many friends from both sides of the aisle to Congress and elect new ones as a part of a growing Democratic majority."

Aside: If you parse that last sentence, you get NEA "as a bipartisan organization" being pleased about "a growing Democratic majority."

Along with everyone else, NEA believes its "vital role" requires some form of compensation. Merit pay, you might call it. And there are already fights in the blogosphere about how well-deserved it is.

I don't find persuasive the argument that the efforts of NEA, or any other union, were so far superior this election cycle than previous ones that it resulted in an Obama victory or additional seats. But it is indisputable that NEA played a "vital role." It's just not the role you might believe.

The union's political action committee will laud its 79% success rate in electing recommended candidates. You have to go inside the numbers for the real story. While some of the results may change, for the purposes of this article I am going to assume that whichever candidate is ahead right now in the too-close-to-call races will end up winning.

The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education recommended 328 candidates for Congress, of whom 260 won. It's impressive, but not that impressive.

Of those 328 candidates, 230 were incumbents, of whom 39 ran unopposed. NEA's record in those races was 226 wins and 4 losses, dropping only Florida 16th, Kansas 2nd, Pennsylvania 3rd and Texas 22nd.

NEA recommended 38 candidates for open seats, and its record in those races was 20 wins and 18 losses.

NEA recommended 60 challengers, and its record in those races was 14 wins and 46 losses, which was actually better than usual.

When people criticize the teachers' unions as being defenders of the status quo, they generally mean the status quo as it applies to education policy and labor affairs. It seems, however, that NEA's power and influence among Democrat politicians (and some Republicans) is due to its defense of the political status quo. For example, virtually all of its ballot initiative victories were on the "no" side.

The union's ability to capture open seats or defeat incumbents is no better than that of many other special interest groups. There is little reason for a new candidate to seek out NEA support instead of support from other ideologically compatible groups. But once elected, staying on NEA's good side is a path to easy money and campaign support for a friendly politician.

With Democrat incumbents impervious, the battles continue to be fought over marginal GOP seats. When these are lost with some regularity, some safe GOP seats inch over to the marginal column and you end up with decades-long Democratic majorities in Congress.

No comments: