By Ben Velderman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – They’re strangers in a strange land.

The handful of Republican teachers who are attending the National Education Association’s annual convention are discovering firsthand how rabidly political and left-of-center their union has become.

The NEA’s week-long meeting – supposedly held to adopt the union’s strategic plan and determine its budget – is little more than an “Obama love fest” that “has all the trappings of a re-election rally,” reports the Associated Press.

“NEA leaders have been urging members to hold house parties to educate their friends about why Obama … deserves a second term,” the news service writes.

The AP interviewed roughly a dozen Republican teachers, many of whom said they felt harassed into supporting Obama, and marginalized by their fellow union members when they refused. Some of the Republican teachers “were so worried about retribution from their colleagues” that they refused to allow the AP to publish their names.

The hostility has become so overt that “a Republican teacher speaking at the convention was booed” for praising GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. This incident was so over-the-top that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, a vocal Obama supporter, had to remind delegates that everyone has the right to speak.

How high-minded of him.

It’s unsettling that a crowd of educators – people who are allegedly committed to learning new ideas and concepts, willing to follow wherever the truth may lead them – insist that their colleagues march in lockstep with the union and adhere to its political orthodoxy.  Unsettling, but not surprising.

Of course it’s no secret that the NEA is simply an appendage of the Democratic Party, whose leaders are hardcore leftists who masquerade as educator “experts” who care deeply about “the children.”

The good news is that more and more teachers are recognizing the NEA as the political group it has become, and are dropping out of the union. Mike Antonucci reports that union membership has sharply decreased, causing severe financial hardship for the NEA.

Nobody should feel sorry for the beleaguered union; this is the path it chose for itself. Back in the 1960s, NEA leaders make the conscious decision to promote “social justice” causes instead of sound educational policies. They decided to treat teachers as assembly line workers who should be allowed to slog through their jobs, instead of as professionals who doggedly pursue excellence.

Sooner or later, we suspect the handful of Republican (or independent minded) teachers who even bother showing up at the NEA convention will tire of the abuse and will simply drop out.