NEA Convention 2011: Obama Endorsement Passes Easily

All that press attention to NEA’s opponents of an early endorsement of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign turned out to be much ado about not much.

Today the delegates approved the endorsement by a vote of 5,414 to 2,102 – or 72-28%. The margin of victory easily exceeded the 58% requirement to pass.

It also exceeded the 63-66% window I predicted yesterday and, frankly, isn’t much of a drop-off from the union’s endorsement vote in 2008, when Obama was able to secure only 79.8% of the delegate vote – a historic low for NEA.

The mood in the hall for the last few days indicates quite a few delegates held their noses while pulling the Obama lever, but that vote counts the same as that of the enthusiast.

It’s an unfortunate situation for teachers’ unions that they need Obama more than he needs them. His relative indifference to their agenda doesn’t seem to have hurt him among the general electorate, or even among Democrats. When Neil Abercrombie starts cutting teacher salaries, it’s tough to paint NEA’s woes as simply a right-wing plot.

In a similar vein, the delegates easily approved the new policy statement on teacher evaluation and accountability, which was also supposed to generate heavy resistance from the floor on account of including, for the first time, the use of student standardized tests as an indicator of a teacher’s “contribution to student learning and growth.”

That provision was essentially bowdlerized at the start of the convention when an additional sentence was added that reads:

Unless such tests are shown to be scientifically valid and reliable for the purpose of measuring both student learning and a teacher’s performance, such tests may not be used to support any employment action against a teacher and may be used only to provide non-evaluative formative feedback.

NEA’s officers have determined, and repeatedly reassured the delegates, that there currently is no test that fulfills these requirements.

You can add this to the list of things that NEA supports, but doesn’t really believe exist – like good charter schools, Republicans who support public education, and workers who freely choose not to join a union.

There are still dozens of new business items, amendments to the federal legislative agenda, and resolutions to be introduced and debated. But the headline moments are out the way, and most of the rest will be mopping up.


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