NEA’s Top Attorney, Bob Chanin, Says NEA’s First Goal Is To Advance And Protect Teacher Rights

Bob Chanin

Bob Chanin

Bob Chanin, described as the top attorney for the National Education Association (NEA) for 41 years, is retiring from his NEA position. His farewell speech at the recent NEA convention in San Diego was interrupted repeatedly with standing ovations. Chanin in his speech (see you-tube below) emphasized that NEA is first of all a union and that NEA earns its respect because it has political power.

Chanin posed the question of why NEA is an effective advocate. Chanin said, “It is not because of creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our position, it is not because we care about children, 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 and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.” (standing ovation)

Wow. “Education employees.” In Chanin’s words, NEA’s success has nothing to do with the merit of its ideas, nor its concern for children. It all has to do with the power that hundreds of millions of dollars and the power that millions of voters can exert. This is a frank statement of truth I doubt that NEA will be posting in its PR releases any time soon. It’s not a compliment to teachers to view teachers in the same way a manufacturing union might view widget production employees.

Chanin said that of course NEA and its affiliates want to do everything possible to close the achievement gap, reduce drop out rates and improve teacher quality. He warned, however, “These goals that guide the work we do they need not and must not be achieved at the cost of due process, employee rights and collective bargaining. That is simply too high a price to be paid.”

Amazing. “Too high a price to be paid.” According to Chanin what has the greatest value in public education is “education employee” rights. I can imagine a widget union leader saying essentially the same thing — shortly before the whole enterprise going bankrupt: “We want to to make a quality product in this factory, but more important than a quality product is the welfare of our workers.”

Chanin’s remarks point out the reality of our educational system — its hierarchical, bureaucratic structure — has denigrated teacher professionalism. Our education system is structured to resemble a very antiquated industrial model, a horse and buggy system. It is not a structure that brings out the best potential of its members. It is a structure that hampers educational quality. Chanin’s remarks, to me, point out that a different education structure in needed.

The influence of union thinking pervades the entire system of education. Schools in America are supposedly under local control. Federal and state mandates have actual control and so do teacher unions.

Chanin said, “When all is said and done NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members. If we do that and if we do it well then everything else will fall into place. NEA and its affiliates will remain powerful and that power will, in turn, help us achieve a great public school for every child.”

But, according to Chanin’s own words, achieving a great public school for every child is not NEA’s first objective, nor second objective, nor third objective. It’s after the needs of the “education employees” are addressed.

Chanin said, “Why are conservative and right wing bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates? It is the price we pay for success. NEA and its affiliates have been singled out because they are the most effective unions in the United States and they are the nation’s leading advocates for public education and for the type of liberal social and economic agenda and social agenda that these (conservative) groups find unacceptable. NEA will continue to be attacked as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education for education employees and for human and civil rights. ..”

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21 comments to NEA’s Top Attorney, Bob Chanin, Says NEA’s First Goal Is To Advance And Protect Teacher Rights

  • Eric

    These goals that guide the work we do they need not and must not be achieved at the cost of due process, employee rights and collective bargaining. That is simply too high a price to be paid.

    Elsewhere, NEA asserts a “compelling governmental interest in educating all of our children to function effectively in a multiracial, democratic society and realize their full intellectual and academic potential”

    Compelling interest gives the government the means to conscript the necessary forces, tell them what and where to live and eat, and place them in harm’s way. If NEA wishes to keep collective bargaining, they might want to avoid obstructing “compelling interests” in their negotiated agreements.

  • PM Meadows

    Bob Chanin is a perfect example of why the NEA should be abolished. The least important purpose of Chanin and people like him is the education and well being of America’s children. I hope his mind is cleared and he seeks guidance during his retirement, so that he can pass away with peace.

  • Debra Fontes

    If we’re going to have this agenda shoved down our throats, then we need to have balance. Prayer & the Bible need to be allowed. Children along with parents should be allowed to decide for themselves what is best. By providing the balance will bring about stablity. I sick of crude men who shout out obcenities to try appeal the liberal media. Not everyone wants to be forced to agree when we don’t. We should not have to be forced or feel our opinion on gay marriage is wrong just because we do not agree. BOTTOM LINE: How does this issue increase the quality of education?

  • Stan Hirtle

    ““It is not because of creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our position, it is not because we care about children, 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 and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”

    As Bock notes, this is a frank statement of truth. Good ideas without political power are not effective, that is they do not achieve their goals. Look at the health care debate, where single payer insurance is a good idea but does not have sufficient power to overcome the power of insurance companies.

    Had Chanin been running for office instead of retiring he would probably have phrased this so that it was clear that the teachers do care about all the other things and that their other ideas do have merit. And they do. Many teachers live and die with the problems their studetns bring to school, much more so than the various issue ideologues that are out there. And if it weren’t for unions teachers would be paid a whole lot less and schools would be even worse places to work than they are now. And don’t we value due process? It is in the constitution after all.

    Certainly we need to do something about schools, particularly the urban ones where kids bring much less in the way of skills and family support to the table, have fewer resources available and get left behind as a result. Many try to blame this on teachers and particularly on unions composed of teachers, but it is really society’s doing and requires a community wide effort and investment to make up those differences.

  • truddick

    Yeah. Look:

    Unions, include NEA, have a legal obligation to serve the interests of their members. Period. Chanin is merely telling the truth; if NEA could be shown to be acting in any way other than to promote the employment security, salary, and working conditions of its members, its members could sue–this is the same standard as the teamsters, the electrical workers, and the auto workers unions must meet.

    You don’t like it? Fine, then educate yourself and work to get laws changed. Do not continue to speak from ignorance about how the evil unions are the ruination of American society; it was the union movement that gave us the 40-hour work week, child labor laws, and such anti-capitalist innovations as lunch time and bathroom breaks.

    Deborah Fontes: if you think teachers all want to lead prayer and Bible study–or are qualified to do so–then you are a fool. Teachers are like the rest of America–liberal and conservative, gay and straight, Republican/Democrat/Independent, atheist-theist-agnostic-humanist. If you don’t like our diverse, free society, fine–I will defend your right to express your bigotry–but I will respond to your free speech in the proper way, by more speech.

    Your own Bible quotes Jesus as saying that you should not pray in public places–and public schools are “public” if you missed something. If you as a Christian are free to spit on the books of Matthew and Luke, then the rest of us are free to ignore it altogether.

    Keep your religion to yourself and I’ll not force your kids to pray to Mecca or to cast the quarters or to chant Om Mani Padme Hum–or even to declare that there is no god. As Abdul Baha said, “when people are sufficiently advanced, they will have no more need for mythology.”

    Have I convinced you that freedom of religion is a good thing? I suspect rather that your mind is closed.

  • Bob Chanin thinks the right wing B**tards, as he calls them, have radical ideas. Frankly, Mr. Chanin’s attitude is more of an attitude that a left-wind, out-of-touch heathen would espouse than someone who is supposed to represent people entrusted with the education of our kids.

    Maybe that’s why today’s kids don’t know the meaning of discipline. Maybe that’s why today’s kids can pass standardized testing with grades as good as kids of sixty years ago did. Maybe that’s why the drop-out rate of young black American’s is so high that over 30% of young adult black males end up in jail at some time in their lives.

    Mr. Chanin isn’t interested in teaching kids; he is interested in maintain and growing political power and controlling the education system to impose his ideals of what American public school education would be. I pray that people like him are recognized for what they are, out-of-touch megalomaniacs who are only interested in increasing the inflow of union dues rather than the outflow of educated, well-adjusted young men and women. God save us from radical left wind b**tards like him.

  • Staber

    Bob Chanin is about as arrogant an a-sswipe as there ever was. He speaks of power and money, not success and efficiency nor serving of the supposed recipients of education. Did I mention that this guy is an a-sswipe. Same mentality as a goon in any other union, I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting. The NEA hides its least performers under the usual lowest common denominator mentality of any union. His assailing those of us who disagree with him and his gaggle of union goofballs is a failed feint away from the REAL issues of failure of the NEA!

  • Staber

    Truddick,

    The usual tripe from a pro-union goon. I’ve seen it all, at the UMW, the USW, the UAW, the SEIU…all the same propaganda garbage foist at even their very own union members who are often so afraid to speak up. That’s what keeps them in line. Union have devolved into EXACTLY what Chanin expresses…and he sees nothing wrong with that.

  • Debra Wilkerson

    truddick: Jesus’ words about “praying in public” were not an attempt to keep believers from praying in public–they were directed toward the sin of pride. Many times people who make a public display do it for power or notoriety–whether it is religion, prayer, education, lifestyle or any other debated cause. So, the warning was for self-examination of motive, not for silence. It is good for believers to get off by themselves, as Jesus did many times, to deafen the roar of the crowds and hear from the Father. But as Jesus also did on many occasions, praying in public is acceptable, necessary and, as you point out, perfectly within the realms of “freedom of religion.” I am one of those “baby boomers” that started school when prayer was not banned, grew up during the turbulent and changing 60s and graduated after prayer was banned from school. In the ensuing 35+ years, I have seen a lot of changes in the educational system–both good and bad. I realize that there are districts in our country that still need much help. But, for the most part, I believe we still have the best education system in the world, regardless of what the studies say. Good or bad, we have the NEA to represent the teaching profession as a whole; but many, many teachers, themselves, do not hold with the core values of that union. And it is the teachers, parents and administrators of each individual district that work to bring about the changes that make a district the best possible place for every child.

  • Alisha Walker

    I am an educator that had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Bob Chanin’s speech at the NEA RA and I was deeply moved. The media outlet has taken small pieces of Mr. Chanin’s speech and not looked at the speech as a whole. Mr. Chanin is leaving the service of NEA after 41 years and had the opportunity in his farewell speech to voice HIS opinions. Mr. Chanin, as lead council, fought for teacher rights. The right to hold a teaching job and positively affect the lives of children without fear of attack because of personal beliefs has been the job of Mr. Chanin. Throughout our nation, teachers are seen as role models and are often held to higher moral compasses than other professions. Teachers’ personal beliefs and lifestyles have been scrutinized by school boards, administrators and the public and their jobs have been threatened. It is the job of Mr. Chanin and NEA lawyers to protect every teacher’s rights. Knowing that these legal representatives are at the ready to protect my rights allows me to do my job. My job as an educator is to teach every child in my classroom to the best of my ability and to creating a learning environment where every child can and will succeed.

  • David White

    The fact that the US lags behind as many as 20 countries in the world in the areas of science, math and many other disciplines says it all. Keep up the good work NEA members, and keep on cheering on the Chanin’s of your selfish world. Your pockets may be full, but the report card doesn’t lie. You have much to be proud of.

  • I belong to a union(AFL-CIO) and quite frankly am thinking of getting out. The things that Chanin espoused ARE the only things unions care about and quite frankly they look out for themselves even more than they do the employees. Unions breed lazyness with seniority (I don’t have to I’ve done my time & have more seniority than you). You can hardly get rid of worthless employees, we have some that won’t even answer the radio when you need their help unless you finally call a supervisor &amp. Then the supervisor calls them. If they find out you’re not a union member they will turn equipment on behind your back in hopes you will get hurt & deny even being in the area. I live in a right to work state & if you are forced to cross a picket line because you have a family member who is dependent on your health insurance, their members will screw up your vehicles, paint obscenities on your house or use weed killer to write obscenities in your lawn ect. ect. The list goes on & on. They are worthless. They do a piss poor job of defending you if you do have a problem with the company.

  • lookingout for who

    I have no issue with teachers earning good wages and benefits,the problem is that unions are seeking only to further their best interest by forcing contributions from members so they can take millions of dollars for the union officials. If the unions really were looking out for the members they would be working toward real solutions which taxpayers can afford, but this is obviously not the goal.

    If the unions are to survive they must keep their hands in members pockets, promise unsustainable pensions, and back spineless politicians who lie to taxpayers about what we can afford only to get elected. The facts show that despite more and more money going towards education there has not been improvement.

    What needs to happen is that teachers should contribute to benefits and retirement just as 84% of the public does using their own money,not expecting that taxpayers should. What about using those union millions to fund members contributions to their own cause instead of the union officials?? Fair compensation, sure…….promising better than most working taxpayers receive themselves….no.

    Should we work to eliminate unions’ power if, as Chanin states, it’s MORE important than educating our children…he convinced me the answer in YES, and the members should be leading that charge!

  • dan reynolds

    you have got to me kidding me… he is absolutely right.. a unions job, the national eduacators associations job is not to care about your childrens education.. it is to represent the teachers or members, that pay to have the NEA represent them… they are paying dues to better the class quality.. they are paying dues to have a lobbying voice in washington that represents their interest, just like every other organization has lobbying interest in washington.. get off your high horse, if people want to pay an organization to represent them, that is their business… NOT YOURS

  • John Cardinale

    The truth comes out.

  • I understand the premise of Mr. Chanin’s speech. I did not overreact when I viewed the commercial on television which shows an excerpt from the speech. I watched the entire thing. While I respect Mr. Chanin’s dedication to what he perceives and has chosen to be his life’s ambition, it is my opinion he has chosen the wrong road. I have had the privilege of attending a private Christian school and a public school for approximately 50/50 of my elementary and high school education. I found the overall (generally not always overwhelming) behavior towards authority in the private school as much more respectful than the public school I attended. This experience was in Minnesota in a rural setting. I know there are “bad apples” in every school, private or public, but the overall comparison for me was convincing. That is my individual experience and opinion.
    My wife and I work for the state of Minnesota now and my wife is a Chief Steward in the AFSCME union for our facility. I have dropped my union membership because I do not agree with the overall agenda of the National and International union leaders, etc… (my wife and I still are happily married because we are able to disagree with others without hyper-emotional knee-jerk overreacting or making threats,etc…) It is unreal the things workers at the facility we work at whine and complain about- these sense of entitlements are unconstitutional and lead to a mobocracy. I had a chance a couple of years ago to abuse the workman’s compensation program by making a client assault be worse than it was (or going to the bathroom and beating the heck out of my leg to get a few months off of work or possibly a disibility if I had been extremely creative). What kept me from abusing the system and contributing to the national debt, leeching off of others, etc…- my belief that I hold myself accountable to a higher power (Lord Jesus Christ in my case)- (ideals one should learn from one’s parents/guardians but can be more apt to learn in a private school setting-again, in my opinion). My brother was a teacher in a public school here in Minnesota and states students just have too many “adult rights” and the disrespect toward authority is astounding- he is now doing something else as he had much difficulty keeping his cool in the face of the students with lack of respect and utterly outright rebellious attitudes, etc… This again was in a rural setting. I can only imagine what it must be like in a big city or metropolis.

    There are good unions and good sincere workers in some unions but, it is my opionion, unions had there place in history and are not needed nearly to the scale and clout they currently possess. Also, public sector and private sector unions present a tremendous difference. Even a big government president Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned of the inherent dangers of allowing public sector employees to unionize and the extreme conflicts of interest therein.
    I would have no problem, as a taxpayer (actually working for the state I do not really pay income taxes but give the taxpayer a discount on the service I provide when I have payroll tax withheld), paying good teachers more money as long as legislation of competition (which is what the unions inhibit) is enacted. Competition raises the bar- unions make it difficult to weed out the poor teachers (look up the “rubber rooms” in the state of New York for just one example of union representation results).

  • Murph

    Irony. Chanin being run over by a school bus full of kids.

    Definition of a Union Member. One who cannot compete in the real world and has no interest in doing so.

    Defintion of an Excellent Teacher and NEA Memeber. One who has the ability to shape and change lives, but is a coward who settles for and accepts mediocrity.

  • john miron

    The next portion of Chanin’s remarks… (23:37 of the YouTube video), which restates even more clearly his central point, is not referenced in this editorial:

    “What unions do first and foremost is represent their members. If we do that, and do it well, the rest will fall into place. NEA and its affiliates will remain powerful and that power will enable us to realize that vision of a great public school for every child.”

  • Merle

    Mr. Chanin, Just what is your vision of a great public school for every child?

    Chanin said, “Why are conservative and right wing bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates? It is the price we pay for success. NEA and its affiliates have been singled out because they are the most effective unions in the United States and they are the nation’s leading advocates for public education and for the type of liberal social and economic agenda and social agenda that conservative groups find unacceptable.

    Teachers and their uninons have a liberal social and economic agenda? Wow, what a shocking revelation! Who would’ve ever thought that? We always thought that the education community was all about giving the the chlidren a fair and balanced education!!!!! WINK! WINK!

  • ARCHANGEL

    Can you spell Comm~UNION~ism?

    “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

    That notorious quote was from Albert Shanker, President of the Teachers Union (United Federation of Teachers) from 1964 to 1984 as well as President of the Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers) from 1974 to 1997.

    “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed”! Joseph Stalin

    “Give me four years to teach your children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted”! Vladimir Lenin

    “Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever”! Vladimir Lenin

    Communist Collectives like the NEA or AFT are nothing but asylums for the mediocre, and the collective stupidity, the improper grammar, the improper punctuation and atrocious spelling exhibited by the people within The United States is without a doubt a direct result of this mediocrity!

    So, if you are unable to spell, use proper grammar and punctuation then by all means, you should thank a UNION Teacher!

  • Stan Hirtle

    Quotations from Stalin and Lenin that obviously proved untrue pretty much state the credibility level of this rant. Unfortunately blaming teachers and particularly unions of teachers for societal problems rooted in poverty, expendability and exploitation are a cheap diversion from the failures of this society to invest in and provide for all of its people, particularly the children that are its future. Unions and the people who comprise them have their flaws, but we are getting nowhere with the constant beating up on, giving “failing grades” to, bringing upheaval to and the like, on the people caring enough to try and teach in schools of poverty. If we really wanted to solve this problem, educate the children of poverty to the standards we expect of other kids and that that provides for employment in communities that will provide the kind of life we want for our children and grandchildren and provide the kind of mobility and opportunity that we say we believe in, the rest of the society in the suburbs, academia and the educated classes must roll up their sleeves, dig into their wallets and into their time, taking serious steps to improve the situation.

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