Constitutional Amendment 1 (2019)Defeated
To amend the preamble to add the word “secular” before “public education.”
Preamble: We, the members of the National Education Association of the United States, in order that the Association may serve as the national voice for education, advance the cause of secular public education for all individuals, promote the health and welfare of children and/or students, promote professional excellence among educators, gain recognition of the basic importance of the teacher in the learning process and other employees in the educational effort, protect the rights of educational employees and advance their interests and welfare, secure professional autonomy, promote, support and defend public employees’ right to collective bargaining, unite educational employees for effective citizenship, promote and protect human and civil rights, and obtain for its members the benefits of an independent, united education profession, do hereby adopt this Constitution.
This amendment would add one word to the preamble to the NEA Constitution, inserting “secular” before “public education.” The Committee on Constitution, Bylaws, and Rules interprets “secular” in this context to mean nonreligious – that is, not relating to religion or to a religious body.
Because, as a matter of federal constitutional law, public education must be secular and may not advance any religious viewpoint, NEA’s support for public education has long been understood to mean that NEA supports public education that advances no religious viewpoint.
NEA policy documents also make clear that NEA’s support of public education applies only to secular public education. For example:
- The NEA Legislative Program states, “NEA supports separation of church and state in federal education programs” (Section I, High Quality Public Education, subsection O, Federal Role in Education).
- Resolution I-21 (Freedom of Religion) states, “The National Education Association believes that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. The Association also believes that choice of religion is an intensely personal decision. Instruction in religious doctrines and practices is best provided within a family setting and/or by religious institutions. The Association further believes that schools should teach the rights and responsibilities associated with the freedom of religion, the religious heritage and diversity of the United States, respect for the beliefs of others, and the historical and cultural influences of various world religions. The Association believes that local school boards should adopt policies that govern religious activities on school property. Such policies must respect the separation of church and state; govern voluntary, student-led meetings with adult supervision before or after regular school hours; treat all religions on an equal basis; and protect the rights of students and education employees. The Association also believes that the constitutional provisions on the establishment of and the free exercise of religion in the First Amendment require that there be no sectarian practices in the public school program. The Association opposes the imposition of sectarian practices in the public school program and urges its affiliates to do the same. The Association also opposes any federal legislation or mandate that would require school districts to schedule a moment of silence. The Association particularly opposes a moment of silence as a condition for receiving federal funds.”
- Resolution A-23 (Privatization and Subcontracting Programs) states, “The National Education Association believes in promoting the importance of quality public education, the principle of separation of church and state, the economic security of public education employees, and racial integration in the public schools.”
- Resolution A-24 (Voucher Plans and Tuition Tax Credits) states, “The National Education Association believes that voucher plans, tuition tax credits, or other funding/financial arrangements that use tax monies to subsidize preK through 12 private school education can undermine public education; reduce the support needed to adequately fund public education; cause racial, economic, and social segregation of students; and threaten the constitutional separation of church and state that has been a cornerstone of American democracy.”
If adopted, the amendment would have no impact on NEA’s current policies or programs.
Jim Mordecai - CA