By Kathleen Gilbert

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, August 3, 2009 ( – After the National Education Association (NEA) last month confirmed its support for abortion and same-sex “marriage,” one teacher's association is reporting an influx of new members seeking an ethical alternative source of liability insurance and other benefits.

The American Association of Educators (AAE) says that more teachers are discovering their legal options, after the NEA in its July convention voted down an attempt to end the group's abortion advocacy, and strengthened their support for same-sex “marriage.” 

In addition, they say, teachers coming to the AAE have expressed outrage with retiring NEA general counsel Bob Chanin's speech at the same convention, where he launched into a tirade against “right-wing bastards” who are challenging the organization's liberal politics.

As the largest teacher's association in America, the AAE says it can provide teachers with liability insurance, access to legal assistance, and supplementary insurance benefit plans – all without the politics of the NEA.  Although many American teachers are unable to break free of paying union dues, says the group, the story does not end there.

Gary Beckner, AAE's Executive Director, said many teachers are unaware of the legal options available to keep their dues from supporting the NEA's liberal politics.

“The Supreme Court has said that even though teachers may be a part of a collectively bargained contract in a district, and have to pay them dues for that representation … that's all they have to pay for legally,” Beckner told (LSN) this week.  “They do not have to pay for any part of the dues that union collects that goes to anything other than representation.”

Beckner noted that some states have established a percentage of union dues teachers are allowed to keep if they wish only to pay for representation.  When a teacher chooses to become an “agency-fee only payer,” he said, the union will drop them from many of their usual benefits, such as liability insurance – which is where the AAE comes in.

“The biggest perk [in joining the AAE] that most teachers like is that we charge them for what they really want, which is liability insurance, legal protection, and professional development, without the politics,” Beckner explained.  “The perk is what we don't do.  We don't spend their money on things that they don't want to have their money spent on.” 

Beckner said the AAE has received “a lot of calls” from interested teachers in recent weeks – a phenomenon he says tends to correspond with the annual outrage of conservative teachers following each NEA convention.

“It comes this time every year when teachers start looking,” he said, “but it also seems to come this time every year right after the NEA convention. … Every year there's another straw, and it's too much for many camels' backs out there, and they start looking.”  As for this year, he said, “of course, it was because of Bob Chanin's speech. … There have been a lot of comments about the Chanin speech this year.”

In his speech, Chanin opined that the NEA was “effective” “not because of our creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our positions, it is not because we care about children, and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.”

What, then, makes the AAE effective?

“Just the opposite of what [Chanin] said,” Beckner told LSN.  “Because we do care most about kids.  Because every decision we make is in the best interest of children first.

“There are some times when we make decisions that, maybe, would keep us from growing quicker than we would,” he noted. If a given policy or legislation on the state or local level is not in the best interest of children, “then we just don't take a position for it,” he said.

“Sometimes that inhibits our growth, but at the same time, it attracts the kind of teachers that really care about children first,” said Beckner.  “And that's the difference between this association and the NEA.”

Click here to visit the AAE website. 

See related coverage:

NEA General Counsel Complains of Attacks from “Right-Wing Bastards”


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