Denise L. Baer and Martha Bailey
National education policy was prominently debated in the 1992 presidential campaign, due in no small part to the sophisticated legislative and electoral strategies of the 2.1 million-member National Education Association (NEA). While the economy and health policy became the defining issues of the 1992 campaign, the partisan divide was just as deep and wide on education as it was on economic and health issues. What was different in 1992 is that both the embattled incumbent, "Education President" George Bush, as well as his ultimately successful challenger, "Education Governor" Bill Clinton, ran on the explicit platforms that there should be a national education policy, and that it is the president who should properly set the agenda. The prominence of educational issues in a presidential race was unparalleled in a policy area traditionally considered the province of state and local authorities. This marks the achievement of a major goal that NEA has pursued actively for two decades through a distinctive mix of coalition building, campaign field work, political education and training of its members, lobbying, and targeted campaign donations through its political action committee--NEA-PAC.
As one of the largest and oldest institutionally affiliated PACs, the NEA-PAC provides important insights into the goals, activity, and influence of PACs. This chapter discusses the history of NEA-PAC and its activities in the 1991-92 election cycle. 1