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NEA campaign ad dodges facts, raises financing issues

By Bob Luebke
Posted Sunday, September 14, 2014

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Raleigh, NC - “I always want my students to start with facts, and the fact is Thom Tillis is terrible for education in North Carolina.”

That’s the beginning of a pointed TV ad featuring Chapel Hill teacher Vivian Connell. The ad is part of a $1.7 million campaign by the National Education Association’s Super PAC, the NEA Advocacy Fund, and it’s airing in 95 percent of the state over a 10-day period.

In it Connell criticizes U.S. Senate hopeful Thom Tillis’ record of spending cuts for education during his time as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

I’m glad Connell wants to start with the facts because the ad is missing a few you might be interested in.

Vivian Connell is a long-time public school teacher – who is also an activist with a strong record of statements and involvement. She participated in last fall’s teacher walk-ins. She has also spoken out strongly against charter schools and vouchers and believes both to be a cancer upon the public school system. Connell was recently profiled by both Indy and the News & Observer, in which she vented her frustration at GOP leaders and “the war against public education.

You might also be interested to know that Vivian Connell is a member of the advisory board of Public Schools First NC, which describes itself as nonpartisan and focusing solely on public education issues in North Carolina. But it’s an affiliate of Blueprint NC, the left-wing umbrella organization behind a memo calling for the Left to attack Republicans, and to “Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern” while “crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger etc.).”

I have no problem with Vivian Connell expressing her views. She has every right to do so. She has every right to donate her money to the political party of her choosing (Democratic), and she has. However, I do have a problem with the ad’s implied portrayal of Connell as an average local public school teacher in North Carolina. She is not.

I also have a problem with how the ad was financed. NEA is financed largely through the dues and the contributions of NEA members. In North Carolina those members would be members of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE).

The NEA likes to talk about how the organization serves its members and reflects the diverse political views of its members. Don’t believe it. Polls continually show that teachers are less liberal than the union leadership is.

NEA has known for a long time that its membership does not reflect the diverse political makeup of the country. The fact is 90 percent of NEA political contributions go to Democrats. Are we to believe that 90 percent of NEA or NCAE members are Democrats?

Despite these problems, the money keeps coming in and the political contributions continue.

A few more interesting facts:

In 2012-2013, NEA brought in $387 million in revenue, and the great majority of that was dues revenue. How did NEA spend it? A substantial $44.8 million went to political activities and lobbying, much of which is not reported under campaign finance laws. Remember those figures do not include PAC or political party spending, which legally cannot come from dues.

Where are NEA political contributions going? Overwhelmingly to Democrats. The money-tracking web site said the NEA Advocacy Fund “is a left-leaning super PAC associated with the National Education Association. It spent money heavily against Republican candidates and in support of Democratic candidates.”[1]

Open Secrets also notes that , for the 2014 election cycle, NEA has already given just over $9 million to political candidates – with 98 percent going to Democrats or liberals. NEA ranks sixth on the list of organizations that have given to 2014 political candidates. Historically, NEA is the second-largest contributor to political campaigns among unions.

Compelling union dues from teachers in North Carolina and elsewhere to help fund candidates or causes that members would never agree to support individually is a fraud and an injustice.

There is something, however, that teachers can do to remedy these problems. If you oppose the leftist slant and policies of NEA and Vivian Connell, opt out of NEA’s state affiliate, the North Carolina Association of Educators. There are many reasons to do so. Stop lining the pockets of NCAE executives, who on average earn four times the salary of the average public school teacher. Stop NEA and NCAE from playing politics with your money, and receive a $450 salary increase and send a powerful message in the process. Find out more information at

Those are facts we can all live with.

[1] See Available at:

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NEA campaign ad dodges facts, raises financing issues
Vivian Connell has spoken out strongly against charter schools and vouchers and believes both to be a cancer upon the public school system.