A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

NEA Representative Assembly 2016: NEA Endorses Hillary (84.1%)

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•16

The margin exceeds those President Obama received initially (79.8% in 2008) and for re-election (72% in 2011), but short of the margins achieved by John Kerry (86.5% in 2004), Al Gore (89.5% in 2000), and Bill Clinton (91.5% in 1996).


NEA Representative Assembly 2016: Hold My Wallet

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•16

Back in March I wrote a whole communiqué on proposed Bylaw Amendment 1, which would have given the RA – NEA’s “highest decision-making body” – the power to decide on the national dues level.

I suggested at the time that this would be a revolutionary change in the way the union conducted itself, but I also said “the delegates will chicken out.” I was wrong.

Well, not really. Whoever introduced the amendment withdrew it from consideration this morning, so the delegates will not get the opportunity to vote on it tomorrow via secret ballot.


NEA Representative Assembly 2016: The Value of Experience

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•16

I left the hall even though the delegates still had about 90 minutes of new business to conduct. When I left, they were beginning debate on NBI 23:

NEA will offer a two-day “Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training” for up to 30 delegates as a pre-RA option at the 2017 RA. Participants should represent a cross-section of NEA members, including teachers and support personnel. States or individuals will bear the cost of travel and lodging.

You wouldn’t think this would be controversial, but I was able to leave the hall, go get an early dinner, return to the hotel, check my e-mail, review the news stories about Hillary’s speech this morning – and the discussion of NBI 23 was still going on.

As I write this, the delegates just voted to refer it to committee after about an hour of debate.

I’m told there are 102 more NBIs left to go.


NEA Representative Assembly 2016: Extremely Careless or Politically Shrewd?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•16

Hillary Clinton addressed the delegates to the National Education Association Representative Assembly for a half-hour this morning, during the very time that FBI Director James Comey was announcing she wouldn’t be indicted for her handling of classified e-mails. He did say she or her staff were “extremely careless,” and some might wonder if she was extremely careless at one point during her remarks to the delegates.

C-SPAN carried the entire speech, and at about the 6:35 mark, Clinton said, “And when schools get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working.”

There followed a chorus of boos from the back of the hall, and Clinton responded, “No, let’s figure out what’s working and share it with schools across America.” She then turned it into a denouncement of “people from the outside who try to foist for-profit schools on our kids.”

Intermittently throughout the rest of her speech, there was audible chanting and ruckus from the same area of the hall, though its content couldn’t be discerned in the front. I did learn at one point they were chanting “No Arne Duncan! No charter schools!” Some delegates have reported that protesters were escorted out of the hall, though I haven’t been able to confirm that.

The Badass Teachers Association categorically denied any involvement in the protest, and the chant alone should tell you that the protesters were from By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), who are also responsible for virtually all of the anti-charter NBIs submitted from California.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of the delegates were either wildly supportive or respectfully silent during the speech, as Clinton promised them everything from higher pay to universal preschool to student loan refinancing to an end to teaching to the test, et al.

All in all, it wasn’t very different from the speech delivered via satellite by Barack Obama when he finally received NEA’s endorsement in 2008. He was also booed after mentioning charters and performance pay, and responded, “I know this wasn’t necessarily the most popular part of my speech last year, but I said it then, and I’m saying it again today, because it is what I believe.” Clinton also echoed the Obama of 2009, with her emphasis on collaborating and coming up with something that works – a message that, ironically, was delivered by Arne Duncan to the delegates that year.

Clinton did say the magic words, though. “Educators will always have a partner in the White House and will always have a seat at the table,” she told the delegates.

So it’s only fitting that I repeat this meme.



NEA Representative Assembly 2016: California Dreamin’

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•16

Hillary Clinton will address the delegates this morning and that will occupy much of the time and attention, but a whopping 91 new business items have already been submitted, the lion’s share from the California delegation. Here are a few:

NBI 18: “The NEA will publicize a call on Hillary Clinton to end the Democratic Party’s attack on public education. No more Arne Duncans. No more charter schools.”

NBI 20: “The NEA will publicize its condemnation of Donald Trump’s racist, sexist, and xenophobic presidential campaign and the impetus it is giving to immigrant bashing and violent racist and fascist organizing.”

NBI 36: “The NEA will publicize the role that the creation and then later closure of charter schools plays in leaving thousands of young people and families without any school, and in creating entire communities where no school exists and young people and families are thus denied the fundamental right to public education.”

NBI 50: “NBI NEA DEFEND PUBLIC SCHOOLS BY FIGHTING PRIVATIZATION. NEA will educate and organize their members to defend public education from the privatization process that threatens the existence of America’s democratic school system. NEA will educate its members on how to identify and effectively correct and refute myths, misinformation, fabrications, half-truths, and lies that form the prevalent corporate reformers narrative that is allowing and validating the dismantling and privatizing of America’s public schools system.”

NBI 52: “NEA will create a committee to draft a proposal for the U.S. government to create a healthcare system for all (single payer/Medicare for all).”

Delegates from other states also have some ideas.

NBI 35: “The NEA will withdraw from the #TeachStrong Coalition of the Center for American Progress.” The rationale provided is that the “membership of the NEA is committed to defending public education from the many corporate-backed groups in #TeachStrong, including Digital Promise, Education Post, Teach for America, National Council on Teacher Quality, Relay Graduate School of Education, and Stand for Children.”

NBI 45: “NEA will develop a list of job qualifications, to be given to presidential candidates, that candidates for Secretary of Education shall possess. This should include such things as formal training in education, experience as a public school educator, and no financial, employment, or positions supporting the education privatization industry.” The rationale states: “The Secretary of Education is the highest officer in charge of public education in our country. The Surgeon General is always a surgeon. The Attorney General is always an attorney. The Secretary of Education should be an experienced educator.”

Not to pick nits, but although the Surgeon General is always a doctor, I am 99% sure they have not always been surgeons.

NBI 55: “The NEA will petition the next President of the United States to remove the ‘National Charter Schools Week’ designation from the week that has traditionally been reserved for ‘Teacher Appreciate Week’.”

NBI 74: “1) NEA will gather evidence and inform its members of the impacts that charters have had on funds available for traditional public schools. 2) NEA will urge its members to not use the term ‘public charter schools’ and NEA will cease to refer to them as such.”

Finally, there is not one, but two distinct and perhaps contrary NBIs on graduation attire.

NBI 27: “President Eskelsen-García will write a letter to every state chief officer of public education recommending they support American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders’ wearing symbols of their culture during their graduation.”

NBI 79: “NEA will publish an article using NEA digital properties suggesting that all graduating seniors wear the same color and design graduation grown at graduation ceremonies making male and female graduates equal.”


NEA Representative Assembly 2016: Donald Trump and the Return of the Ethiopian Cabbie

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 05•16

No, that’s not the title of a new mystery novel I’m pitching to Poisoned Pen Press, it’s a couple of themes that appeared in the keynote address of NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia to the 6,880 delegates to the union’s Representative Assembly (RA). That number signifies a small increase in attendance over last year’s low of 6,724.

The speech began with a tribute to the victims of the Orlando massacre and segued into the union’s focus on institutional racism over the past year. But as this is an election year, and union’s preferred candidate will be speaking tomorrow, Eskelsen Garcia’s thoughts turned towards Donald Trump.

“I am terrified that this man has made it this far,” she said. “This unfit, unworthy man will be the Republican nominee for president of the United States of America. And I am so proud that more and more Republicans are bravely speaking up and saying they will never support Donald Trump. They will put country before party and I applaud them. They see what I see: Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned bully who must never get within 1000 miles of the White House.”

Eskelsen Garcia then touted the virtues of President Obama, although NEA certainly has its differences with him. Nonetheless, she said “we moved forward in achieving our mission because of a president that we helped elect.”

She also praised Hillary Clinton – briefly because those accolades will come in her introductory speech tomorrow – but some delegates, particularly the Sanders supporters, might have been taken aback to hear that Clinton “fought for women and unions and working families all her life.” Well, maybe not ALL her life.

Finally, I have to note that the Ethiopian cabbie from Denver made a return appearance in this year’s speech. If you want to know more about him, check out item #3 from the November 3, 2008 EIA Communiqué.


NEA Representative Assembly 2016: Imaginary Numbers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•16

Didn’t fool me once, shame on you for trying anyway.

Didn’t fool me twice, shame on me for thinking anyone cared.

On the opening day of the National Education Association Representative Assembly the union released its overall membership numbers as of June 16, 2016. Here’s the slide with the figures for all categories:

This was met with cheers and attaboys and, as you can see from the caption, were cited as the “results of your hard work.” An increase of 30,252 active members is quite an achievement in a single year.

Except that it’s off a bit. Quite a bit. Here’s the slide from last year’s RA in Orlando, with the membership numbers as of June 18, 2015.

If you compare the two sets of numbers by category you find that the number of active certified increased by only 6,838 in 2016 and the number of active ESP by 1,004. With the number of active life members decreasing by 834 (not 578), it results in an increase in total active members of 7,008 – not 30,252.

So what? It’s still an increase, right? Hooray!

Except as you can see from the 2015 slide, last year’s numbers were also reported as an increase, and they turned out to be a decrease.

So if we look at two years of extraordinary effort and self-professed organizing results, we get not the combined increase of 41,336 active members NEA reported to its own delegates and state affiliate representatives, but a loss of 8,846 active members.

I think it highly likely that NEA experienced an overall increase in membership during the 2015-16 school year, due to the resumption of steady teacher and support employee hiring. But I expect the increase will turn out to be small, as the numbers in the weak affiliates mostly offset the gains in places like California and New York.

I also know that NEA can continue to report huge growth in membership if it continues to revise the previous year’s numbers downward, after everyone has forgotten what they were.