- NCAE is a state affiliate of the National Education Association
- NCAE works to sow division among educational stakeholders
- NCAE opposes school choice and other education reforms
The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the largest teachers’ union in North Carolina, stirs the emotions and frustrations of educators and the general public by insisting that nothing less than a massive influx of funds to raise teacher salaries and per pupil spending will save NC’s educational future. In doing so, NCAE diminishes a complex problem that requires input from parents and policymakers and from a variety of teachers who are closest to the problems.
While I was never a member of NCAE, I have observed the organization for over 30 years and often question how their policies actually improve education.
The NCAE mission statement reads, “To be the voice of educators in NC that unites, organizes and empowers members to be advocates for education professionals, public education and children.” I’m confused by the loud cries from various NCAE members about the needs of their students and about how current policies are cheating children out of a sound education, yet their mission statement (and many of their programs) place children last, particularly children not in a public school. It makes me wonder if members really understand what they are getting in return for the dues they pay the organization. Do members support the application of their acclaimed scarce resources to executive salaries, national organizational causes, and political causes and candidates? Are they comfortable when their voice is used as leverage by the NEA, in letters expressing opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and to the recent nomination of a Supreme Court Justice? Do all NCAE members know and approve of being counted as supporting single-payer healthcare and “free” college? The Key Issues/Legislative Action Center tab at NEA.org details these initiatives and stances.
NCAE seems to have a vested interest in preventing real and productive communication among educational stakeholders. If NCAE couldn’t keep educators dissatisfied and legislators frustrated, those groups might have to communicate to solve educational challenges. Their publications portray teachers as a victimized group and busy teachers are often willing to buy into that argument. I believe that the May 16th march took advantage of teachers at a tiring and frustrating time of the year and fomented those daily frustrations into a political stance designed to piggyback on the protests in other states. It was engineered to reactivate interest in NCAE’s dwindling membership and to support interest in the upcoming midterm elections.
Sadly, I see NCAE as an organization that ultimately doesn’t support positive educational outcomes for North Carolina students. While I understand that their stated goals revolve around support of public schools and teachers, I am confused by their opposition to military family vouchers, Opportunity Scholarships, and the expansion of homeschooling. Shouldn’t we as a society support all the diverse ways that families choose to educate their children? Educational choices do not weaken public schools; choices promote healthy competition. I also believe that families must have the right to meet their child’s educational needs. This belief was expressed by a former NCAE lobbyist, who discovered that his own child needed support not available in a public school.
NCAE promotes programs and policies reflective of their parent organization, NEA. They place a growing emphasis on social and political issues such as NEA’s stances on photo ID as an anti-voter initiative and public education as the primary provider and funder of Pre-K. NCAE advocates for all teachers to receive significant raises, even though some teachers are less than effective in their positions. While I have concerns with how student test scores are used as the measure of teacher effectiveness, I do believe it is possible and necessary for educational stakeholders to find consensus on this topic.
“Let’s invest in what we know works…”; that statement is from the NEA web site and is made about public education. Unfortunately, many things in public education aren’t working. Only a real, civil and professional partnership between teachers and policy makers that respects differences can achieve common ground and the shared vision that can truly promote policies that work. The tactics of organizations like NCAE hinder such communication. Without the ever- present adversarial stances, we might see teachers invited to “shadow” a state representative to see some of the issues involved in developing education legislation. We might have legislators, State Board of Education members, or senior staff at the Department of Public Instruction spending more time in classrooms to see the result of legislation and how educators and legislators can better collaborate. As Steven Covey urged, we must “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” NCAE works hard to make sure that will never happen.
Becky Fagge is a Civitas contributor and a former teacher with the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools. She is now retired and lives with her husband, Larry, in High Point, North Carolina.