Analysis: National Education Association publication blames ‘dark money’ for school culture wars – but says nothing about funds it pays to its own experts


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The National Education Association has a long tradition of finding hidden cabals behind groups that oppose the union’s agenda. In 2019, I chronicled the story of the NEA’s efforts, dating as far back as 1998, and its report “The Real Story Behind ‘Paycheck Protection’ – The Hidden Link Between Anti- workers and anti-publics: an anatomy of the far right. This report included this elaborate organizational chart.

The union’s latest dispatch is a 3,000-word article posted on its website, titled “Who’s Behind the Attacks on Educators and Public Schools?”

He characterizes the protests against critical race theory and COVID-19 security measures as “manufactured outrage” by small groups “enraged.”

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Who holds the whip? It is “a network of black money and right-wing operatives who seek to exploit Culture War grievances for political gain” by spreading misinformation.

But while the NEA seeks to warn us of the actions of these conspirators, it has a typical blind spot on its own record of fabricated outrage, black money and misinformation – much of it present in its own article.

He quotes NEA President Becky Pringle: “We must reject the false narratives that distract and divide us, and unite to ensure students have what they need to succeed. We should focus on solving the shortage of educators that has only worsened during the pandemic.

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But an “educator shortage that has only worsened during the pandemic” is in itself a false narrative, so much so that even one NEA-affiliated state president noted that “there is little of evidence… suggesting a mass exodus. On the contrary, most of our colleagues remain.

To back up its conspiracy theories, NEA cites a number of scholars and experts. One is Tim Chambers, who works for the Dewey Square Group.

“‘The anti-CRT effort is textbook misinformation, fabricated and funded by right-wing think tanks and fueled by programmatically targeted ads to inflame users,’ Chambers said. “It comes from well-funded organizations working with suspect local groups on the ground, and with Fox News’ ever-present background push on broadcast and cable behind it all.”

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The article does not mention that NEA paid $283,650 to the Dewey Square Group last year.

The article also cites the Center for Media and Democracy and Media Matters. Both received six-figure grants from the NEA, but not last year. The article omits the union’s previous financial arrangements with these organizations.

The NEA is also upset with efforts to recall school board members, particularly in the state of Wisconsin. He quotes a researcher from True North Research in Minnesota.

It is not said that True North Research has its own transparency problems. The firm is led by Lisa Graves, former executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. NEA and Graves haven’t always been so discouraged by recall efforts, as they were both instrumental in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s failed recall in 2012.

I don’t believe that people are chess pieces moved by the great and powerful, but if they are, there are certainly players on both sides of the board.

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