A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

NEA Representative Assembly 2015: A Lesson in Time Management

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•15

This afternoon’s bone of contention was NBI 23, which as originally submitted, banned NEA from accepting monetary sponsorship or affiliation with any foundation or corporation linked to “the negative public education reform movement,” naming in particular the Gates Foundation, Microsoft and Pearson Inc.

The Utah and Washington delegations defended their work with the Gates Foundation, but the nail in the coffin was hammered home by NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia who, while answering a question, noted that passage of the NBI might preclude the union from working with a long list of civil rights groups, most of whom appear on this letter to the U.S. Senate. Eskelsen Garcia called this “an honest difference of opinion.” Perhaps if NEA labeled more things this way, we would all benefit.

New Jersey Education Association president Wendell Steinhauer then suggested that if the Gates Foundation was the enemy, the obvious solution was to “take all their money.”

NBI 23 was overwhelmingly defeated.

The debate took a long time, though, and delegates are getting very uneasy about tomorrow. Along with everything else, they still have to debate and vote on the remaining 95 NBIs on the final day – a total that usually requires about four days.

Youngsters might want to review the events of the 1999 Representative Assembly – in Orlando, as fate would have it. There were a multitude of NBIs to complete on the final day, and a misunderstood suspension of the rules led the assembly to blitz through dozens of them within minutes. We then spent several hours on points of order and parliamentary inquiry, finishing up somewhere around 1:10 am, if memory serves.

Finally, the delegates took up resolutions. The only one of note would have put NEA in favor of lowering the voting age to 16. That was quickly voted down.

Tomorrow will be a very long day so bear with me as the delegates and I put the finishing touches on our work here.


NEA Representative Assembly 2015: Federalist Sighting!

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•15

The delegates debated amendments to the union’s legislative program – the list of things for which NEA lobbies at the federal level.

Legislative Amendment 1 would have directed NEA to support a U.S. Constitutional Amendment recognizing the right to a public education. Legislative Amendment 7 would have had NEA lobbying for a change to the Fair Labor Standards Act so that teachers could receive overtime pay.

I then heard twice within an hour what I had never heard cited on the floor of the NEA convention in 18 years – the 10th Amendment! And by a delegate from Oakland, no less!

Both amendments were defeated.


NEA Representative Assembly 2015: Merged Affiliates Stuck With Status Quo

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•15

Constitutional Amendment 1, which would given merged NEA-AFT state affiliates a full complement of delegates at future RAs, was resoundingly defeated in a secret ballot vote.

Needing a two-thirds majority to pass, the measure was able to garner only 16.1% of the delegate vote.

NEA’s $20 per member assessment for its national ballot initiative and media funds was made permanent by a 74.5% to 25.5% margin.

An amendment to devote half of the union’s Great Public Schools Fund to organizing charter schools was rejected 85.1% to 14.9%.


NEA Representative Assembly 2015: The Final Few

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•15

The last of the NBIs have been submitted and published. Here are some to watch:

NBI 84: Directs NEA to stop using the phrase “right to work” and replace it with something like “educating without rights.”

NBI 85: Wants model legislation so that the RICO Act cannot be used to prosecute educators.

NBI 90: Calls for the postponement of standardized assessment of English Language Learners until state-approved English proficiency assessments show them to be proficient in English.

NBI 96: Calls for stiffer penalties against parents who assault teachers or support staff.

NBI 114: Would eliminate the requirement of voter ID at NEA Representative Assemblies.

There are a total of five NBIs calling for varying levels of support for the opt-out movement. So far, one has been defeated and one has passed. NBI 115 is the most comprehensive of these, directly requiring NEA to “support a national opt out/test refusal movement.”


NEA Representative Assembly 2015: I Am Not a Number, I Am a Free Man

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•15

Janet Eberhardt, NEA’s Education Support Professional of the Year, had this to say today: “It takes a village. NEA, we are the village.”

This, naturally, reminded me of The Village, and this conversation.


NEA Representative Assembly 2015: Rebel Yell

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•15

The delegates spent almost two hours debating NBI 11, which called on NEA to support efforts “to remove the Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy from public schools and public spaces.”

It took that long because the “other symbols of the Confederacy” were a little too vague and widespread for the delegates. Ultimately they approved language that simply called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public schools and spaces.

It might seem an unusually excessive amount of time to spend on the issue, but I seem to recall last year’s debate over the Washington Redskins name taking quite a while, too.

The delegates also spent a long time on Constitutional Amendment 1, which would grant full RA representation to states where NEA and AFT affiliates have merged. I don’t want to lose you in the complexities of it, but New York will serve as a quick example.

When NEA New York merged with New York State United Teachers, it was only about one-twelfth the size of NYSUT. Merger guidelines required that the national dues be split proportionately between NEA and AFT – 8 percent to NEA, 92 percent to AFT. NEA delegate representation was limited to that percentage. So while NYSUT has over 375,000 active members, it sends only 8 percent of the delegates to which it would otherwise be entitled.

The amendment, voted on by secret ballot tomorrow, would give NYSUT and the other four merged affiliates 100 percent of their allotment, thereby greatly increasing their relative power in the assembly.

There wasn’t much debate, but an awful lot of questions. All the arguments in favor seemed to come from the merged affiliates, which doesn’t bode well for a two-thirds majority needed to pass. The New Jersey delegation in particular was determined to defeat it.

Constitutional Amendment 2, which would have changed the RA to biennial, was withdrawn. Bylaw Amendment B, which would make permanent the $20 assessment each NEA member pays to the Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises and Media funds, was introduced, but not debated at all. It, too, will be voted on by secret ballot tomorrow.

Unfortunately the delegates have completed action only through NBI 11, and there are evidently 122 NBIs in total. At this rate it promises to be a very, very late night on Monday.


NEA Representative Assembly 2015: What Happened to Playing the Long Game?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•15

This morning’s agenda unfolded slowly. NBI 5, which would have put NEA squarely behind the opt-out movement, was defeated. Then there was about 45 minutes devoted to NBI 6, which would have organized a march and rally in Washington DC at next year’s convention. The projected cost was $1.2 million, which was a major factor in its defeat.

NEA executive director John Stocks delivered his annual speech, and in the interest of reducing my usual level of snarkiness, I’ll simply direct you to the full text of his remarks.

It’s both a blessing and a curse to remember the events of past RAs, and I seem to recall that Stocks’ theme last year had to do with NEA’s skill at “playing the long game.” He was convinced the union would weather the storm and return stronger than ever.

Today, eight months after virtually all of NEA’s endorsed candidates lost in national and gubernatorial elections, Stocks is now convinced that the union and America are in the midst of a “movement moment” that will lead to a “new American majority” devoted to a panoply of progressive causes.

He concluded by shouting, “NEA, this is our time! This is our moment! This is our movement!”

It seemed odd, considering NEA is expending considerable effort – even at this RA – tamping down the most progressive elements of its own membership.

This afternoon, delegates will debate constitutional and bylaws amendments that they will vote on by secret ballot tomorrow morning. These all have significant ramifications for NEA, dealing with full representation for merged state affiliates, making the RA biennial, making permanent the special assessment for the ballot initiative and media funds, and devoting funds to organize charter schools.