More than 30 conservative organizations have endorsed Representative Scott Fitzgerald's (R-Wisconsin) Stopping Teachers Unions from Damaging Education Needs Today (STUDENT) Act, which he introduced three months ago to address the National Education Association (NEA).
Max Nelson of the Freedom Foundation, one of the groups that backs the legislation, says something must be done about the NEA.
"It's a particularly controversial organization these days for many reasons, not least of which was the prominent role that the NEA played in advocating for school closures and prolonged school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic," Nelson notes.
The NEA's charter does not contain many of the safeguards and accountability mechanisms by which most organizations that get federal charters have to abide. For example, it is not required to stay out of political activity. In fact, it is involved in politics to the tune of at least $30 million every year.
The Freedom Foundation and the other STUDENT Act supporters say the union's focus has shifted over time into partisan politics, and it has fallen out of touch with the views and values of many Americans.
At a conference in recent years, for example, the NEA voted down a business item to "rededicate itself to the pursuit of increased student learning in every public school in America," but voted in support of the right to an abortion, supporting illegal immigration, and expanding professional development for educators to help create student Gender Sexuality Alliance clubs.
"This is a very robust package of reforms that I think would go a long way towards reining in the abusive behavior, the toxic, partisan behavior of the NEA as it exists today and really force it to focus back in on the mission that is reflected in its original charter about promoting education quality," Nelson submits of the STUDENT Act.
If it passes, it will require the NEA to remind teachers of their First Amendment right to not join a labor union, It would also require the union to collect dues on its own rather than taking it from teachers' paychecks. Additionally, it would keep critical race theory out of the NEA's governance and structure.
As the bill goes before Congress' House Judiciary Committee, Nelson is waiting on and watching for developments. Due to Congress operating on its own schedule, there is no timeline.