Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige's recent reference to the National Education Association as a "terrorist organization" is ethically disgusting to the 2.7 million teachers, including more than 70 in Payson, who belong to the NEA.
After public criticism was leveled at Paige about the statement, which was made in a meeting of governors, he offered a half-hearted retraction of the bizarre statement.
But even in his so-called apology, he continued his ongoing feud with the NEA comparing the association's public education concerns to "obstructionist scare tactics."
He has gone so far as to label the NEA "the coalition of the whining."
NEA president Reg Weaver responded to Paige's charges by calling them morally repugnant.
As a 37-year member of the NEA, Arizona Education Association, four local affiliations and past president of the Show Low Education Association, I have witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of these professional associations.
When, for example, teachers are falsely accused, especially when the claims are ridiculous, the school administration doesn't have the teacher's best interests in mind.
Those who have the greatest concerns about protecting a teacher's rights are the members of local, state and national organizations.
Many a wrongly charged teacher has been able to keep his or her job because the NEA, AEA and members of the local affiliates were in the fight providing support.
The NEA also has long led the charge to ensure that classrooms are staffed with highly qualified teachers. The association offers professional development opportunities, mentoring programs for new teachers and incentives for teachers to work in impoverished schools.
The NEA's philosophy that the people closest to the schools -- teachers, principals and parents -- should have the flexibility to teach as children learn best, is a time-tested viewpoint.
Through lobbying efforts, the NEA has fought to ensure schools receive the resources to help children succeed.
When some federal programs seemed to be diverting critical resources away from teaching and learning, the NEA stepped up to say government should be a partner in helping schools, not hindering them.
NEA members are encouraged to express their concerns to legislators and hold politicians accountable for the votes they cast on public education.
If Secretary Paige wants true reform that helps children, he would be better served to join forces with the NEA. His continued animosity and attempts to discredit the NEA is not in the best interest of public education.