The National Education Association is asking state teacher retirement plans to divest of the stocks of companies that advertise on Channel One, an in-school television program venture owned by Whittle Communications.
The NEA is opposed to Channel One and The Edison Project, Whittle's venture to operate for-profit public schools. "Investors shouldn't be making money off of children," said Nancy Kochuk, a spokeswoman for the NEA.
The stocks include McDonald's Corp., PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble Co. and Reebok International. Also, Time Warner Inc. is a partner in the Whittle Communications venture.
According to UNPLUG, an Oakland, Calif., opponent of commercialization of public schools and an ally of the NEA, at least $1.5 billion of state teacher pension assets is believed to be invested in stocks of the companies.
State teacher retirement systems that directly own shares of the companies are: State of Wisconsin Investment Board, New York State Teachers' Retirement System, California State Teachers' Retirement System, Teacher Retirement System of Texas, Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System, New Mexico Educational Retirement Board, School Employees Retirement System of Ohio and The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.
Other teacher retirement systems own shares through their investment managers.
Earlier this month, delegates of the NEA Representative Assembly passed a resolution saying the "NEA shall organize state affiliates to lobby their state retirement plans to divest from and not to invest in for-profit corporations that support and maintain the commercialization and privatization of public schools."
According to William Martin, director of communications with the NEA, the Washington-based organization has not contacted the retirement systems to ask for their compliance with the resolution. He expects information about the resolution to spread to the respective retirement by members of the state education associations that attended the meeting.
"There are no direct ties between our organization and the funds," said Mr. Martin. "They are independent agencies."
But Mr. Martin noted that "several NEA members are on pension fund boards of directors."
Connie Witt, a trustee representing education employees on the $2.3 billion Nebraska State Investment Council and a member of the state education association, said it will ultimately be up to the local education associations to lobby the trustees of the state teacher retirement systems to divest of the stocks.
"We (state and national education association) are all pretty supportive of one another," said Ms. Witt.
Donald Blaha, a spokesman for the $41 billion New York State Teachers Retirement System, said no one has contacted fund officials concerning Channel One.