An estimated 350 delegates to the Democratic National Convention are members of, or work for, the National Education Association – including 11 state affiliate presidents. About 250 more belong to AFSCME and SEIU. The Los Angeles Times reports that more than one-third of California’s delegates are from unions, which would be about triple their representation in America’s workforce.
So there’s a lot of union stuff going on. And while the formal convention events may be highly scripted, there are also some oddities surrounding the get-together.
* First there’s the belief that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is running some rogue education reform clandestine operation without the knowledge of President Obama. Alyson Klein of Politics K-12 found a couple of union delegates who apparently think the President has nothing to do with his administration’s education policies.
* That’s odd enough, but then we have Michael Barone writing this about Ramona Oliver, NEA’s senior director of communications:
Oliver admits that the NEA has some differences with the Obama administration, but likes Education Secretary Arne Duncan and says he’s working toward the same goals, “which is the important thing.”
I’m 99.9% sure that Barone either misquoted or misunderstood Oliver, or that Oliver had been replaced by her counterpart in the Bizarro World.
* There was a panel organized by the Democrats for Education Reform that included both the NEA and AFT presidents, which was generally met with positive reviews. Moderator Jonathan Schorr described it as “marked more by agreement than debate.” Afterwards, though, both reformers and unions were claiming victory. Whitney Tilson wrote, “Ya know, the way they (the union presidents) were talking, you might actually think they were reformers… ;-)” The NEA side claimed Dennis Van Roekel “completely shifted the conversation our way, effectively stealing the show!”
* Van Roekel told the Washington Times that he learned from Wisconsin “I don’t think recalls are the way to go.” That’s an expensive lesson, but we might question if he really learned it. He also said voters backed Gov. Walker because “they frowned on the general idea of recalling an official they’d elected just 18 months earlier.” Just a reminder: California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled 11 months after being re-elected by a five-point margin.
* NEA vice president Lily Eskelsen made headlines of her own when, during a breakfast event for Utah delegates, she referred to the GOP nominee for Utah’s 4th Congressional District seat, Mia Love, as “a crazy person.” That might be par for the course these days, but it’s weird in that the pro-Democratic House Majority PAC is running an online ad against Love attacking her for raising taxes and spending too much. Take a look:
* Joy Resmovits at the Huffington Post notes that while NEA doesn’t donate much money to Republicans, the ones who have received it hold less-than-progressive views on some of the union’s core issues. You’ll be especially tickled by the Alabama Education Association’s support of Randy Brinson, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.
But don’t place too much stock in this. Some NEA affiliates make calculated decisions based on political realities in their state, whether the race is competitive, and, most important, incumbency. Let me restate the obvious: The reason NEA endorses so many Democrats is because the people who sit on the union PAC councils and run state affiliates are almost entirely Democrats. It’s really that simple.