Anti-N.E.A. Groups Spreading Views With Tracts
u Up to 5 million copies of an "illustrated narrative" attacking the National Education Association will be distributed in states across the nation before the end of the year, according to the publisher of the booklet, Ronald D. Rankin, a businessman in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Last week, nearly 200,000 copies of the pamphlet were distributed in New Mexico; 194,000 copies were distributed to Idaho homes in early October.
The booklet, written and illustrated in the style of a comic book, portrays an nea representative as a homosexual and criticizes the teachers' union for its support of gun control, affirmative action for homosexual teachers, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
The comic book is only one of several recently released publications attacking the 1.7-million member teachers' organization.
Last month, the National Council for Better Education, a 4,000-member, self-described "anti-nea" organization, distributed 500,000 copies of a book called nea: Propaganda Front of the Radical Left.
"The National Education Association has wrung control of the public schools from parents and local communities and placed it in its own offices. [It] has been waging a campaign of terror against public education and parents' rights to control the lives of their children," the book states.
In September, a newly established entity in Boise, Idaho, called the Paradigm Company released nea: The Trojan Horse in American Education. The book--written by Samuel L. Blumenfeld, whom the book jacket describes as a former private- and public-school teacher and author--is billed as the "first full-length expose of the National Education Association" and is the only book Pardigm has published.
Criticism Not 'Unusual'
Such attacks on the organization are not "unusual," according to Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the nea, but she characterized the recent publications as "especially vicious and erroneous."
"They use scare tactics to try to frighten parents and undermine public education, they grossly distort what the nea and its members are all about, they print quotations out of context, and they lie about statistics," she said.
Dorothy Massie, a specialist in the human- and civil-rights division at the nea who monitors conservative political activities, said that attacks on the nea have increased in recent years in direct proportion to gains in the strength of "far right" groups.
The purpose of the most recently released publications, Ms. Massie maintained, is to discredit the political candidates the nea supports in the elections this week. The comic book, in particular, is an "election piece," she said.
Aim To 'Discredit'
But according to the publishers of the recent books, they intend to continue, and in some instances expand, their efforts to "discredit" the nea well past Election Day.
"This is not just geared toward the election; this is an ongoing thing," said Mr. Rankin, publisher of the comic book.
He estimated on the basis of the requests he has received to reprint "What in the World is Going On in Your School?" that between 3 million and 5 million copies of the booklet would be distributed in California, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas during the next two months.
Mr. Rankin and a small group of "anonymous" donors provided the $12,000 it cost to print and distribute the comic book in Idaho, but others who wish to reprint and distribute the booklet in other states are doing their own fund-raising, he said.
In New Mexico, for example, the pamphlet was distributed by Citizens for Quality in Education, a small group of educators and parents who are opposed to the political activity of the nea
John Chase, executive director of the state nea affiliate said that he believes Citizens for Quality in Education is a "front" for New Mexico Citizens for Right to Work, an anti-union organization based in Albuquerque.
But James Marshall, executive director of the right-to-work group denied any affiliation with Citizens for Quality in Education. He said, however, that he had done "some volunteer work" for the organization and had endorsed the comic book, as have several "pro-life" organizations in the state, and the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association.
Mr. Chase, who has called the comic book "slanderous," said last week that the union's lawyers are in the process of examining "legal remedies" related to the publication and its distribution.
Truth Said 'Best Defense'
Mr. Rankin said he would welcome a lawsuit from the nea "Truth is the best defense and everything in [the booklet] is true," he said. "Every bit of it is in their own handbook."
Mr. Rankin also denied any affiliation with state or national right-to-work committees or any other national conservative political organizations. Most of the reprint requests he has received have come from politically conservative individuals like himself who "just don't like what the nea is doing," he said.
Mr. Rankin said he and his supporters in Coeur d'Alene who paid for the booklet's distribution in Idaho began their campaign against the nea because they believe that the union's political action has overshadowed its activities as a professional organization.
"In other words, it is hard for me to understand how lobbying for tax-paid abortions is going to help a 3rd grader with his homework," Mr. Rankin said.
Battling Tax Increases
Mr. Rankin said he has also battled tax increases for education in Idaho in recent years--tax increases that have had the full backing of the Idaho Education Association. In Idaho, 75 percent of the state's general fund and 50 percent of county taxes are used to fund public schools.
"It's not that we think our teachers are overpaid--you won't find any place in the country where they are, but we pay taxes according to ability and we can't pay any more," he said.
The average teacher salary in Idaho is about $15,000 and the state ranks 44th in per capita income, according to Mr. Rankin.
Mr. Rankin said he is the father of five children who all have gone through the public-school system.
But while Mr. Rankin is opposed to the political activities of the nea, other groups are opposed to the entire organization.
"We are an anti-nea organization," said Sally Reed, author of nea: Propaganda Front of the Radical Left and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council for Better Education.
"We feel the nea is the biggest detriment to quality education," she said.
The council is a nonprofit membership organization funded by indi-vidual's contributions and dues. About half of the organization's members are teachers and the other half are "concerned citizens," Ms. Reed said.
Ms. Reed, a former teacher from Texas and employee of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, said she decided to found the 4,000-member organization last year to provide "a balance" to the nea for conservative teachers.
"Even the nea admits that many of its members are conservative," she said. nea figures show that about 50 percent of its members voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.
Most of the teachers who belong to the nea have "no idea" of the extent to which the organization is involved in politics, Ms. Reed said. "The teachers are trusting and think the nea is working for higher pay, but their agenda reads like a wish list for the radical left; we're hoping to at least make them honest with their membership."
Her organization is also "hoping to hurt their membership," she said. She is working on a documentary about the nea "and when they do their membership drive next fall, we're going to mount a counter drive.''
A 'Labor of Love'
Peter Watt, the owner of Paradigm Company, which published Mr. Blumenfeld's book, said he left his job with the Idaho-based Center for the Study of Market Alternatives, an organization that conducts research and holds seminars on free-market economics, in order to work with Mr. Blumenfeld on nea: Trojan Horse in American Education.
The book, as well as being a business venture, was a "labor of love," Mr. Watt said.
About 10,000 copies of the book were printed, Mr. Watt said, and about 4,600 have been sold since its release in late September. The book will probably go into a second printing, he said.
In his book, Mr. Blumenfeld credits the nea with advancing a "conspiracy of illiteracy" designed to maintain a permanent national underclass.
"It was a conspiracy because the American People were never informed of what was happening or given a chance," he writes. "They were never asked if they wanted their children's education tailored to socialist ends. All of this was imposed from above by educators, psy-chologists, and philosophers imbued with a messianic mission to transform America into a socialist society."
Last week, nea officials were in the process of developing a strategy to counteract the recently released publications, according to Ms. Massie.
The association has not planned a "damage-control" program, she said, but probably will increase the number of meetings with affiliates to help them develop local responses to any attacks.
In addition, the nea already has publications, such as a pamphlet entitled "Questions and Answers," that address questions about its political activities. Another publication called "Fact and Fiction About 'Guess Who Spells Disaster for Education,"' responds to criticism of the association in an article published by Reader's Digest last May. Mr. Rankin's comic book is based on that article.
"It is difficult to know how to respond to some of these things," Ms. Massie said. "Some of these attacks are so insane, we don't want to dignify them with a response."