Kaine’s “A” Rating From NEA Doesn’t Mean Much

July 25, 2016

Kaine’s “A” Rating From NEA Doesn’t Mean Much. When Hillary Clinton named Tim Kaine as her running mate, the National Education Association was quick to applaud the choice. “A respected mayor, popular governor, and a current U.S. Senator, Kaine has been a tireless supporter of public education and students his entire public life,” read the union’s press release, which finished up by noting that since Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate, “he’s earned an A on the National Education Association legislative report card.”

That’s certainly true, but just how does a Senator merit an “A” on NEA’s report card?

The union tells us that “Letter grades are based on their voting records on selected votes.” In the first session of the current Congress, 19 Senate votes were selected by NEA for inclusion in scoring “based on their relevance to advancing NEA’s identified legislative priorities.” The union notifies Members of Congress in advance that a particular vote will count toward their rating.

Back in 2005, NEA decided that scoring on votes alone did not allow the union sufficient flexibility to differentiate friendly Republicans from hostile ones. So it added additional criteria for scoring: co-sponsorship of important bills; “behind- the-scenes work”; committee votes; and accessibility.

Based on these measures, 50 U.S. Senators received an “A” rating from NEA in the most recent Congress: Four Republicans, two independents, and 44 Democrats.

Kaine received an “A.” So did every other Democrat in the Senate.

NEA’s rank-and-file membership may reflect all of the American political spectrum, but the people who hold union office – particularly high union office – are overwhelmingly Democrats. So it would stand to reason that their positions and those of Senate Democrats would coincide. Except that they don’t, especially in the latest Congressional session.

The most NEA-friendly U.S. Senator was Brian Schatz of Hawaii. He voted NEA’s way 43 percent of the time. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was the only other Senator to break 40%.

Kaine agreed with NEA on 25% of its important votes. Only 9 Senate Democrats voted with NEA less often than Kaine: Reid, Carper, Nelson, Donnelly, Heitkemp, Peters, Warner, Manchin and McCaskill. Kaine’s 25% was matched by Cory Booker. (Senate Republican Lamar Alexander, NEA’s 2016 Friend of Education co-winner, voted with the union 12% of the time. He received an “A.”)

Progressive elements within the Democratic Party, particularly some in the labor movement, are upset by the choice of Kaine. They should be more troubled that you can vote against NEA’s position three of every four times and still receive its full backing.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 19-25:

Trump Jr. Passes Up Chance to Plagiarize Al Shanker. “The notion of using incentives to drive schools to change may strike some people as too radical – even though that’s the way we do it in every other sector of society.”

* Who Would Be NEA’s Choice for Hillary’s VP? First hint: Not Tim Kaine.

* I Guess We Ran Out of Great Education Governors. An NEA award disappears so quietly it took a year to notice.

Taking Release Time From the AFT Convention. That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.

And Now, A Word About Union Unity. Kumbayas are one thing, business another.

Quote of the Week. “We took on the largest education corporation in the world, Pearson. And today, here’s part of their reality.


 – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, during her address to the delegates at the 2016 AFT Convention in Minneapolis. (July 18 AFT release)

Well, Pearson has its problems, no doubt, but why in a speech delivered in July 2016, did Weingarten use stock prices from January 2015 to December 2015? Perhaps because of what happened to Pearson stock since then.


The blue line is Pearson stock, and the red line is the Dow Jones. Since the beginning of the year, Pearson outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 8 percent. In fact, a mere three weeks after the end of AFT’s graph, Pearson stock surged, primarily because it laid off staff. The latest analysis had 8 of 9 experts rating it either “buy” or “hold.”

Weingarten and her speechwriters must have known all this, but it didn’t fit the narrative and so was omitted.