”We feel this to be an unprofessional act by a professional organization,” said one group. “As educators we retain the right to endorse whomever we will and choose not to be identified ‘en masse’ as partisan to candidate or political party,” wrote the other, adding that the endorsement does not reflect the opinions of the local education association in general.
Some teachers may have conflicting ideas. but we can understand the point of view expressed in the two letters. Indeed we feel that NEA should re-evaluate its political policy.
Specifically, NEA endorsed the Democratic Carter-Mondale ticket in this year’s presidential race. But our question is NOT focused on the particular candidate-party preference. We’d have the same qualms had NEA chosen to endorse the Republican ticket of Ford and Dole.
In support of the teachers protest of an “en masse” identity: Americans traditionally have voted as individuals. That is our right as free citizens. How we mark our ballots inside the voting booth is our own business regardless of affiliations.
School teachers, under a professional requirement, pay dues for a three-tiered membership in the NEA, the Utah Education Association (UEA), and the local education association. But a UEA spokesman says no money from dues goes to political candidates and cannot under federal election laws.
However, the spokesman says volunteer funds contributed through the NEA’s political arm are allocated to support certain senate and congressional candidates. No NEA money goes into the presidential campaign, he stresses.
He further explains that while all teachers may not have opportunity to be heard, the process by which NEA decided to endorse the Democratic ticket was done through “representative processes.”
Some 9000 delegates to the national representative assembly in Miami Beach last June (about 90 were from Utah, representing local associations); approved guidelines developed over the last two years under which a presidential ticket would be endorsed if it won 58 per cent of the delegate votes. In the nation-wide polling, about Sept. l, the Carter-Mondale ticket received nearly 81 per cent of the votes.
It will be interesting to see what the teacher and public reaction will be nation-wide in this first your of an NEA presidential endorsement. We’d think the national organization and its stake affiliates would want to take a long look at this program – and to give the rank-and-file membership a voice in deciding a future course.