Steve Gill Commentary: It’s Time for Tennessee Republicans to Reject Toxic Tennessee Education Association Money… and Those Who Accept It

During the 2018 mid-term elections the National Education Association (NEA), parent organization of the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), made recommendations for U.S. House races. There were 435 Congressional seats up for election, but only 10 of the 289 recommended candidates by the NEA were Republicans.

All ten Republicans who received NEA support were incumbents. It doesn’t appear that the national teachers’ union has EVER supported a Republican challenger against a Democratic incumbent in Congress. Although their membership numbers are declining, the NEA remains “the largest labor union in the United States” according to their own materials. They spent $18,128,105, which placed them 13th in political contributions through the most recent campaign financial reporting periods. That money helped propel the Democrats, and possibly Nancy Pelosi, to power in the House.

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Under the NEA’s “unification policy,” all union members throughout the country are forced to pay dues to them. In other words, if you are a member of a local association, you must be a member of the state organization, and subsequently a member of the national organization—which means all local teachers’ unions members are also NATIONAL union members. This approach has enabled NEA to create a vast network of local staff/activists, which is largely political in nature. And, almost exclusively aligned with the Democratic Party.

The leftwing political agenda of the national teachers’ union is the same in Tennessee. Despite a Republican super majority of roughly 3-1 Republicans to Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly (73-26 in the House in the upcoming session), the TEA has made it clear that its primary political objective is to fund the Left with dues money from Tennessee’s teachers. During the 2018 election cycle TEA donated over $161,689.95 to Democrats and only $146,614.84 to Republicans in both State House and Senate races. That doesn’t include independent expenditures spent on mail or other media to support their favorite candidates — or the salaries of TEA employees who devote their time to politics rather than teaching.

Many of the Republicans the TEA supported with their donations lost their races, like Rep. Barry Doss and Rep. Tim Wirgau. But there are Republicans who prevailed, like Jim Cooley who got $12,500, Micah Van Huss with $6,800.00, Gary Hicks accepted $6,500, and Jeremy Faison received $6,000. Representative Curtis Johnson’s PAC (the Johnson Victory PAC) took in $6,000 from TEA. None of those candidates served on a House Education Committee, but apparently all were acceptable to the same teachers’ union that has opposed the 2d Amendment, supported Planned Parenthood and helped fund Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Why did the TEA give to these “conservative” Republicans and others? More importantly, why did they accept money from a group that works so aggressively against the conservative values of their constituents?

Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) lost his reelection bid to Democrat Gloria Johnson. Gloria Johnson’s largest contributions come from the Democratic-based alliance Tennessee Tomorrow, totaling $9,100. TEA gave that organization $25,000. The entire list of those who received donations from the NEA state affiliate in Tennessee can be viewed here. This does not include donations that are made at the local level.

I wrote in a May editorial that every Republican candidate who takes dollars from the teachers’ union should explain why they are taking money from the liberal activist group. As Republican legislators elect their leadership, those who took money from the TEA should explain how they will promote conservative issues while being funded by those who so strenuously oppose them. At the very least, legislators who are beholden to the TEA and their radical liberal agenda should not be selected to serve on the Education Committee.

The Washington Post has noted that when public-sector unions lose power, so do liberal and Democratic causes. The opposite is true as well, and conservative Republicans should not be the ones who empower the Left in Tennessee simply to get a few thousand dollars in contributions.

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Steve Gill is the Political Editor for the Tennessee Star and co-host of the Tennessee Star Report, airing weekday mornings on Talk Radio 98.1 and 1510 am WLAC.








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3 Thoughts to “Steve Gill Commentary: It’s Time for Tennessee Republicans to Reject Toxic Tennessee Education Association Money… and Those Who Accept It”

  1. I truly believe the union wastes their member’s money, pick horrible candidates to support most of the time, and end up opposing the very people we must work with to strengthen public education. What happens is they make our job much harder, as well as create unnecessary conflict for public education. They need to get out of the endorsement business.

  2. Joe

    Steve, do you have data on which Republicans in the State Senate accepted contributions from the TEA/NEA?

  3. Ralph


    But understand that there’s a larger agenda afoot here – to have a child in a public school system is just begging for the totalitarians to corrupt them and recruit them to the cause – has everyone forgot about the drag queen reading hour recently?

    Private schools or, even better, home schooling is the way to go. Here’s an organization that is doing something to reverse this indoctrination: