Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: New DFI Report Exposes How the Nation’s Largest Teacher Union Has Abused its Congressional Charter

WASHINGTON—A new report released today from the Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) sheds light on the National Education Association’s (NEA) federal charter—a rare distinction granted by Congress in 1906. Rather than rescinding the NEA’s federal charter, the report urges Congress to leverage that charter recognition to demand institutional accountability from the nation’s largest teacher union.  

In “The Neglected Charter: Reversing the National Education Association’s Slide from Selfless Professionalism to Selfish Extremism,” DFI’s Paul Zimmerman explains how the NEA evolved from a “professional organization interested in improving schools” when it received its charter, to a political machine that, with its affiliates, spent more than $100 million of member dues money on politics in the 2021-2022 reporting cycle, 99.8% of which went to Democratic or liberal candidates and organizations.

The report states, “Among the ninety-five organizations whose federal charters are codified as a ‘patriotic and national organization’” by the U.S. Code, “the NEA is the only labor union and by far the largest political advocacy group.”

To illustrate how the NEA has run afoul of its federal charter, the report states, “[T]he union’s current strategic plan commits the NEA to spending nearly $100 million on lobbying over a two-year period; installing pro-union legislators, executive officials, and judges to the exclusion of those who oppose ‘the rights of workers’; and ‘foster[ing] social, racial, and economic justice.’” The NEA’s plan also devotes over $33 million to the advancement of racial and social justice in education by “raising awareness of the effects of institutional and systemic racism.” The NEA also calls on public-school teachers to “help counteract dominant patterns of white supremacy.”

Zimmerman said of the NEA’s charter, “It is inexcusable that this is an organization that has strayed so far from its original purpose and whose political priorities are so unpopular with most Americans that they conceal their public meetings behind closed doors. But Congress has an opportunity to fix this. We’ve laid out seven concrete actions Congress can take to demand accountability from the NEA using federal charter requirements.”

The report provides several policy recommendations for Congress, including that it—

  • Establish a three-person oversight board of governors appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate with the authority to scrutinize the inner workings of the NEA and its affiliates and to reject decisions of the NEA’s board of directors when they do not accord with the purposes set out in its federal charter.
  • Require the NEA to submit annually to the oversight board of governors and to the appropriate committees in the House and Senate a report on the NEA’s activities, as well as audited financial statements.
  • Establish a mechanism for the U.S. Attorney General to compel the NEA to comply with the terms of its federal charter.
  • Direct the Department of Education to enforce existing federal law requiring that the NEA file annual reports regarding how it has used its property and income and investigate why the NEA has, to this day, failed to abide by its legal obligation to file such reports.
  • Prohibit the NEA from lobbying as a substantial part of its activities and from participating in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
  • Require the NEA to open to the public annual meetings and assemblies of the organization’s members.

To read the full report and history of the NEA’s charter, click here.

About DFI’s Teacher Union Accountability Project

Union leaders and their allies have used their political power to push aside parents, families, and classroom teachers to dominate public education in ways that harm students and limit their opportunities. Rather than focus on academic rigor, individual learning, and innovative teaching, union activists pursue a woke ideological agenda in classrooms that ignores sound academics and causes good classroom teachers to leave the profession. DFI works to hold teacher unions accountable and expose the harm that they continue to cause students, families, and teachers. To learn more, click here.