Guest Column: Rockford schools: WEE should check out the NEA

By Tim Hughes

It’s my hope that Jane Hayes and her Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (Grrrrrrrr) will sniff out and identify the school board’s Chicago attorney rumored to get “approximately $500 an hour” for services rendered to the Forces of Reaction previously known as the current school board, many of whose members were so recently and so wildly endorsed by District 205 teachers as just the people teachers needed to have in charge of our schools!

Too bad the watchdogs have to (sniff) spend out-of-pocket money for a FOIA to unmask that old scoundrel who’s been getting $500 an hour. I say old because, gosh, he was collecting $500 an hour during the 1972 teachers’ strike, according to rumor, that is, and was around again for the 1978 strike, according to rumor, of course, and got rich off the 1984 , 18-day-long strike, again, according to rumor, and is now back collecting $500 an hour to drag out, and prolong as long as possible, teacher negotiations. That is, according to rumor, you understand. Heck, it’s no wonder the teachers’ union goes broke by having to keep buying the sheet music to “We Shall Overcome”!

Hayes then launches into shrill finger pointing at what she calls powerful influences of greed and capitalism that seek to take over Rockford’s school system and put business interests ahead of education, especially for minority students.

I wonder what Hayes would say to a firm that spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists to fight and defeat attempts in Congress to force the firm to pay its “fair share” of federal income taxes on the organization’s commercial assets? Income taxes that would have advanced the educational needs of minority students in public schools in the city where that firm’s national headquarters is located. In other words, I wonder what she would say if she knew or even bothered to know the truth about the National Education Association (NEA), the only labor union in the United States exempt from paying federal income taxes on certain commercial assets? This was as a result of a 1906 congressional charter granted to the NEA when it still had something to do with education.

During the 1995 session of Congress, those nasty Republicans tried to revoke that charter, one of only seven granted by Congress and includes such organizations as the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts of America. The NEA spent nearly as much money fighting the attempt to revoke its charter as it would have spent had it paid its taxes. After defeating the effort, NEA officials managed to keep a straight face while insisting the NEA was no different than the Boy Scouts of America. The last I heard, the Boy Scouts of America weren’t hiring more political operatives than the Democrat and Republican parties combined!

Following its successful effort to defeat the attempt to eliminate its congressional charter and force the teachers’ union to pay its taxes, the NEA, just to show it has a conscience (sort of) offered to pay 40 percent of the taxes it would normally owe on its commercial assets. I’d like to see what the response would be if Rockford public school teachers advised the IRS that they were only going to pay 40 percent of their taxes for any given year!

During the funeral of modern civil rights founder Rosa Parks, the NEA, in yet another gesture of big-heartedness, opened the lobby of its headquarters to accommodate the overflow crowd wishing to watch the funeral service on large-screen television. But paying taxes on that very property, the NEA’s headquarters building, taxes that would have gone to help improve life for Washington, D.C.’s public school children, was another matter. The NEA has even set up an office of “D.C. Affairs” to provide its own forces of reaction to make sure its cash flow of more than a billion dollars annually doesn’t have to be accounted for.

Hey, I got an idea. Perhaps Hayes’ watchdogs can file a FOIA to find out how that billion-dollar, untaxed and unaccounted-for cash flow gets spent.

Tim Hughes is a former teacher in Rockford School District 205 who coached debate and taught English at Auburn High School for 20 years. At Auburn, he coached three debate teams to first-place national championships.

From the May 2-8, 2012, issue

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