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July 5, 2006

1) This Way to the Egress. The 2006 NEA Representative Assembly adjourned this evening at 6:54 p.m. (if you were playing the adjournment time pool at home).

I was spoiled by my first NEA convention in 1998, the year the delegates were to decide whether to merge at the national level with AFT. There was a lot of freewheeling, backroom dealing, hurt feelings, heads reeling, and more than a little squealing back then. A lot of the spontaneity, and subsequently, a lot of the news, is gone from the convention.

The Associated Press sent their Tampa correspondent down for a couple of days, Education Week was there, and a couple of Orlando reporters showed up for the local angle. That was it, and who can blame the others for staying away? Sports reporters don't cover roller derby or the WWE, and education reporters shouldn't waste much time at staged events, either.

NEA is to be credited for perfecting the annual circus. But the result is preordained. The clowns always get out of the car, the human cannonball always hits the net, the elephants always lift one foot in unison, the lion tamer always uses a chair and a whip, and the high-wire artists wear safety harnesses. Despite a growing young staff of professional ringmasters and barkers, there is nothing to see here.

EIA is fortunate enough at times to find a sideshow running far from the midway, and certainly talking to delegates, officers and staff at the convention greatly improves my reporting the rest of the year, but even the AP was so stumped that it basically reported three-year-old news.

The TV networks cut back their coverage of the political party conventions for this very reason. For the 2007 NEA Representative Assembly, EIA may contract out its coverage to Spectacle magazine.

2) Action on NBIs and Other Business. Here's some of what the delegates did today:

* Approved the NEA resolutions, with little controversy, little debate, and extreme orchestration. Resolution B-10 was set aside for discussion at the request of the Alabama Education Association. AEA President Ollie Underwood asked that the resolution be referred back to the Resolutions Committee, but made no argument regarding why. He merely said he wanted AEA to be on record as wanting to refer the resolution. His motion would have left NEA without any Resolution B-10 for the 2006-07 school year. The resolution begins, "The National Education Association believes in the equality of all individuals," so there was never a chance in a million the entire resolution would be removed. After a speaker or two spoke against referral, NEA President Weaver asked the delegates if they wanted to close debate, which wasn't exactly a gold-plated tribute to Robert's Rules of Order. They closed debate, and voted not to refer, and then to accept B-10 with the language EIA reported in Intercepts last week, all in overwhelming fashion.

When a delegate went to the microphone and asked Weaver about his request to close debate, Weaver replied, "What Alabama needed to accomplish, was accomplished." Neatly done, if not very subtle.

Resolution B-73 on home schooling also passed, with the amendment that home schoolers "must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress." The vote was close.

And just a note, dear readers: Don't bother asking EIA for a copy of the new resolutions. Reporters didn't receive the preliminary report of the Resolutions Committee or the supplementary report, so I really have no idea what the changes were in the resolutions that the delegates opted not to debate at all. Eventually NEA will post the new resolutions on its web site. When this happens, I will let you know.

* Delegates approved an amendment to the union's policy statement on charter schools, changing language that now says charter applications "must include a public hearing allowing for teachers, school employees and the community the opportunity to testify as to the positive and negative impact of the charter on the authorizing school district."

* Referred to the NEA president NBI 51, a motion to alert Americans to the dangers of trans-fats in the diet.

* Approved NBI 59, concerning the handling of teacher test scores at the Educational Testing Service and other teacher certification test companies.

* Approved NBI 61, which directs NEA to develop ballot initiative language for guaranteed quality health care for all Americans.

* Defeated NBI 71 on the effects of large scale philanthropy on public education. The vote was largely due to the efforts of the Nebraska State Education Association, whose delegates vouched strongly for the generosity of the Buffett family to Nebraska's public schools.

* After debate, NBI 79 was withdrawn by the delegate who introduced it. The item directed NEA to form a task force to study creating a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to guarantee every child in America a free, high-quality, public education. For a few sublime minutes, EIA was treated to the sound of NEA activists arguing against the federalization of public education. NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin mentioned the possibility of a federal court mandating vouchers if such an amendment existed, or teachers being subjected to educational malpractice lawsuits for violating the constitutional rights of students. Delegates painted pictures of all education policy being run by the current occupants of the White House and the current Congressional majority. The sweetest moment came when one delegate asked about "a clause in the Constitution that reserves powers to the states."

Hurrah! An NEA delegate knows about the Tenth Amendment (even if she didn't know it was an amendment) and knows part of what it's for! NEA delegates, can, even if it is only in utterly extreme circumstances, fear the transfer of powers from state and local governments, and the people, to the federal government.

Here, my NEA friends, before the memory of your fears fades, are a few things you should read.

* Delegates raised $1,527,459 for the union's PAC, the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. This is an average of about $169.11 per delegate.

* NEA Executive Committee members Michael Marks of Mississippi and Rebecca Pringle of Pennsylvania will be term-limited out of office in 2007. Two people filed for what will be those open seats (others may also enter the race until next April): Paula Monroe of California and Christy Levings, president of Kansas NEA.

3) Scheduling Note. That's all from the NEA convention. EIA will resume blogging at Intercepts no later than Monday, but the communiqué will not resume until after EIA's coverage of the AFT Convention in Boston, which will begin Thursday, July 20.

4) Quote of the Day. "His efforts have laid waste to the district in which I teach." – Oakland delegate Manny Lopez, discussing philanthropist Eli Broad. Describing Broad's attitude as believing that students are "pawns" and "cogs for the war machine," Lopez went on to link Broad with co-conspirators Rod Paige, Caprice Young, and Kati Haycock. Lopez failed to mention, however, that Broad has been a major funder of the Teacher Union Reform Network.


© 2006 Education Intelligence Agency. All rights reserved.