N.E.A. Steps Up Anti-Reagan Lobbying Effort
Washington--The National Education Association (nea), which has seen its political fortunes suffer during the first year of the Reagan Administration, is once again on the offensive: The union's leaders are mobilizing some of the nearly 1.7 million members for a year-long lobbying effort to combat the decline of the federal role in education and to influence the 1982 Congressional elections.
The effort is scheduled to begin on January 17, which the union has dubbed the "National Day of Conscience for Public Education."
Local and state affiliates around the U.S. are being supplied with newspaper advertisements, speeches, press releases, public-service announcements, cartoons, and even an editorial by U.S. Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont, promoting public education.
Barry L. Abel, an nea communications specialist who organized the public-relations effort from the organization's Washington headquarters, said the idea to observe a "day of conscience" was adopted as a resolution at the union's annual convention last summer. "Somebody else put in a motion to have a one-day work stoppage to protest Reaganomics, but that wouldn't look very good," he said.
On the national level, the nea's lobbyists and its political-action committee, nea-pac, are scheduled to spend the year fighting conservative initiatives such as the abolition of the U.S. Education Department, cuts in education funding, and tuition tax credits.
The political committee, which in the 1980 elections endorsed President Jimmy Carter and 16 losing Congressional candidates, has targeted 13 House members for defeat in 1982. (See Education Week, Nov. 23, 1981.)
No Single Event
Mr. Abel said that by design, the union will hold no single, national event on the 17th--such as last fall's Solidarity Day, which the rival American Federation of Teachers staged along with other labor unions.
"The idea was not to hold one assembly. We produced a huge pack-age of material that we sent to our 54 state [and territorial] affiliates and 12,000 local affiliates." The affiliates, he said, were being urged to ask radio stations to play the public-service announcements, and to distribute the camera-ready advertisements and cartoons. nea officials are scheduled to be available to make speeches to groups around the country, he added.
'Day of Conscience'
Mr. Abel said the state affiliates were also being urged to organize events in their state capitals. "Thirty-five states have legislatures that convene in January. We thought it would be very useful to combine the 'day of conscience' with the opening of the legislatures," he said.
In Indiana and Missouri, he said, local union leaders are scheduled to demonstrate at the state capital. In Hawaii, teachers have asked the governor to declare the "day of conscience" an official state celebration. Michigan teacher unions are holding poster contests in elementary schools. And Maine teachers are publicizing the successful careers of public-school graduates, said Mr. Abel.