07-18-03: Area teachers give union 'F'
|By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
The Daily Standard
A group of area teachers are creating a stir at the state and national
levels by voicing their disgust with what they feel are pro-abortion views held by the
National Education Association (NEA).
The educators, who vehemently oppose abortion, say they don't want
their Ohio Education Association (OEA) and NEA fees in the pockets of a devout Democratic
agency that has gone on record promoting abortion.
"The teacher's union is there for the purpose of fair salaries,
benefits ... and improvements for our schools," said Judy Bruns, a seventh-grade
language arts teacher at Coldwater schools. "But that's not what's happening. We're
talking about a union of great magnitude taking stands that it shouldn't be taking and not
sticking to educational issues."
A representative from the NEA in Washington, D.C., called The Daily
Standard's inquiry into the matter a "non-story" and accused some of its 2.7
million members of "going outside the organization to build public pressure against
"Nobody is forced to belong to the NEA," said Michael Pons,
policy analyst for the NEA.
Although no teachers are forced to belong, The Daily Standard
discovered only one of the 11 area school districts is not affiliated with the OEA/NEA -
New Knoxville Local schools. Teachers at the other 10 area schools are mandated members
via contract between their school's board of education and teacher associations.
Currently, each teacher in the local area coughs up about $600 annually
for membership to the OEA/NEA, local officials said.
A 15-year teacher at Fort Recovery schools, Robin Armstrong of Celina
is not an OEA/NEA member due to strong moral convictions, she said.
"I was a member until I learned where some of their money was
going to. I'm a registered Republican and disagree with NEA's liberal views," said
the chemistry/physics teacher. "How would I explain to my 'maker' someday that I let
my money support things like abortion."
Armstrong is a member of Christian Educators Association and receives
many of the same services from that organization as NEA provides, she said.
The conflict with OEA/NEA is intensified in Mercer County where the
Right to Life chapter is larger and more active than many of the other 80 or so chapters
across the state.
"I'd say Mercer County is one of the top five (chapters) in the
state in terms of people who support and are active in the pro-life movement," said
Denise Mackura, executive director of Ohio Right To Life.
Bruns and Fort Recovery schools elementary guidance counselor David
Kaiser attended the NEA conference in New Orleans two weeks ago as delegation
representatives from the local area. The pair, along with other delegates from across the
country, sought approval to change the wording of a family planning resolution adopted
several years ago by the NEA.
The text of NEA resolution I-12 concerning family planning reads in
part: "The National Education Association supports family planning, including the
right to reproductive freedom."
Bruns, past president of the Mercer County Right to Life and affiliated
with the pro-life group since the mid '70s, claims the words "reproductive
freedom" are used routinely by pro-abortion groups. The term was actually coined by
abortion advocate and feminist Gloria Steinem, Bruns said.
Bruns' ultimate goal is to remove the entire resolution, which she and
other delegates from California, Kentucky and New York find unnecessary.
Bruns, 54, of Coldwater, asked the NEA delegation in July to create a
task force to "dialog" on the resolution's wording.
"The last time it was modified was 1986," Bruns said in her
speech at the assembly. "Few of us would be content with textbook information that is
17 years old."
Both requests were immediately turned down by the majority of the
10,000 delegates attending the conference. And it wasn't the first time; changes to the
family planning resolution have been suggested by delegates for years and voted down each
time by outspoken women's caucuses, Bruns added.
She fears many teachers who feel as strongly as she does about the
abortion issue are not able to attend and speak up at the conventions, which are held
during the summer months - prime vacation time for educators.
"The ones who object to our changes in the resolution may not be
representing the majority of the (NEA) members," she said.
Bruns said her opinion is shared by the members of organizations such
as the Conservative Education Caucus, Educators for Life, Teachers Saving Children Inc.,
and many Christian-based groups.
Bruns said she is not encouraging teachers to leave the OEA/NEA union.
On the contrary, she seeks to work from within in hopes of bringing back those members who
Teachers can file specific paperwork to deter their NEA fees elsewhere
and still retain protection in the union, Pons said. During the 2002-2003 school year,
only about 1,800 of 131,000 Ohio members took that option, the OEA reported.
Those teachers must file as "fair sager fee payers" or
"religious accommodation," said Chris Lopez, general counsel for the OEA.
Fee payers are not considered members of the organization, but still
pay fees in order to be represented by the union.
Those choosing to file religious accommodation voice an objection to
the payment of the fee based on personal religious belief. They, too, become non-members
with union benefits, and their fees are diverted to a different organization that is
agreed upon by the teacher and the NEA.
Pons defended the NEA's position on abortion saying it is consistent
with the majority of its members and current law. He said the NEA has in the past helped
teachers on both sides of the issue by defending women who were asked to have an abortion
in order to keep their job, as well as those whose jobs were threatened if they opted for
Bruns said in those situations the NEA's interference wouldn't be
"Federal law prohibits the termination of employees for
reproductive purposes," she explained.
In recent years, the NEA has been criticized for taking liberal
positions on issues such as homosexual rights, capital punishment and gun control. Bruns
believes it's time for the NEA to get back to the ABC's of education.
"The organization needs to get back to their original purpose of
educating our youth," Bruns said.
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