A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

NEA Convention 2014: Everyone Climbs One Rung

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•14

Election results:

NEA vice president Lily Eskelsen Garcia was elected president.

NEA secretary-treasurer Becky Pringle was elected vice president.

NEA Executive Committee member Princess Moss defeated NEA Executive Committee member Greg Johnson to become secretary-treasurer.

Earl Wiman was reelected to the Executive Committee.

The election for the open seat on the Executive Committee was tight but Shelly Moore of Wisconsin and George Sheridan of California will compete in a runoff tomorrow. They edged out former Massachusetts Teachers Association president Paul Toner, whose reputation for collaboration clearly hurt him with this RA.


NEA Convention 2014: Union Calls On Arne Duncan to Resign

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•14

The National Education Association Representative Assembly in a close vote officially called for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. This is an accomplishment of sorts, in that the delegates have been trying to get him to resign since 2009, but this is the first time the vote has been successful.

This particular item was introduced in a rather odd speech from California Teachers Association president Dean Vogel, who went on about leaders needing to take responsibility for what happens under their charge. Vogel asked rhetorically “Where does the buck stop?” and concluded “The guy at the top has got to go.” Apparently the buck stopped far from the guy at the top if Arne Duncan is the cause of all this angst.

No need to repeat myself on this issue. Check out my post from May 2013 on how NEA could have easily avoided Arne Duncan’s appointment in the first place.


NEA Convention 2014: Collaboration

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•14

Former NEA president Reg Weaver and I debate the relative merits of fettucine alfredo and shrimp fra diavolo while plotting a palace coup at NEA.


NEA Convention 2014: Milk of Human Kindness

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•14

Delegates struck a blow against the lactation-intolerant today by passing New Business Item 15, which urges schools and colleges to set aside a clean and safe place in each work site so that new mothers – both teachers and students – can express milk.


NEA Convention 2014: Fewer Than 3 Million Bodies

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•14

I said I would get the warm body count and here it is, though I’m still working on the state-by-state numbers.

NEA’s 2011-12 membership numbers ended this way:

Active: 2,706,350

Total: 3,062,810

Today it was revealed that the 2012-13 figures showed a 67,146 active member decline, but only a 64,637 total member decline because there was an increase in the retiree category. That would make 2012-13 numbers:

Active: 2,639,204

Total: 2,998,173

So NEA fell below 3 million members at the time of last year’s convention.

This year there was more happy talk because the decreases were smaller, though again mitigated by an increase in retirees.

Active: 2,622,214

Total: 2,982,518

One more footnote about those active members. They include more than 42,000 working teachers who paid “life dues” in a lump sum decades ago and haven’t paid a dime since.

The union has lost more than a quarter-million members in the last five years.


NEA Convention 2014: Pearson’s Conspiracy Really Is Wide-Ranging

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 03•14

Earlier today I mentioned how long NEA’s enemies list has gotten. Little did I know how far the tentacles of the corporate monster can reach.

The delegates had a long debate about New Business Item 5, which concerned the evaluation of teacher candidates. Among other things, the item called on NEA to ensure that “edTPA developed by SCALE and scored by Pearson, Inc., currently mandated in several states, and other similar models, are not the only measure of a student’s readiness to enter the profession.”

We all know that Pearson is a charter member of the Axis of Education Evil, and it is in charge of the edTPA assessment for students who want to become teachers. It must be stopped, right?

Well hold your horses, hard-core union rider. SCALE is the acronym for the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity, whose adviser is the illustrious and union-beloved Linda Darling-Hammond. SCALE partnered with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), another union-beloved (and union-financially supported) organization to develop edTPA.

The edTPA is apparently scored entirely by classroom teachers and university professors, is endorsed by the union-beloved National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the self-loved National Education Association. In fact, sitting on the edTPA Policy Advisory Board are NEA secretary-treasurer (and soon to be NEA vice president) Becky Pringle and AFT president Randi Weingarten!

Egad, those corporate reformers are insidious.

Despite the hand their own leaders and leading lights had in creating and implementing this teacher candidate assessment, the delegates voted by a substantial margin to approve NBI 5. That’s right. NEA will be simultaneously advising edTPA and studying how to defang it.

If that seems goofy, it gets goofier.

The NBI doesn’t automatically undo NEA’s current policy. Instead, it creates a task force that will submit its recommendations for change to the union’s board of directors for action. That would be the same board of directors that must have approved the endorsement of edTPA in the first place and the placement of an NEA executive officer on its policy advisory board.


NEA Convention 2014: Rage Against the Machine

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 03•14

The National Education Association Representative Assembly opened this morning with 7,024 delegates attending – a touch higher than last year’s nadir of 6,931 delegates.

Dennis Van Roekel delivered his final keynote speech as NEA president and I’m at a loss to analyze these performances anymore. Everyone has a unique style, but there are only so many ways you can say, “There are Evil forces arrayed against us, but we shall prevail for we are Good!”

Van Roekel told a horror story about a school in Trenton, New Jersey, he visited that was crowded, dingy, dark, and often flooded. I don’t doubt his veracity, but I’m sure his tale had more effect on people who were unaware than Trenton spends more than $17,000 per pupil. It’s not lack of funding bedeviling those unfortunate kids.

He tried to set today’s tribulations in a historical context of attacks beginning with A Nation at Risk and continuing on through No Child Left Behind. “We can’t allow politicians to define the solutions,” he said as he called on the delegates to “change the system.”

What would come immediately to mind to a room not filled with teacher union activists is that NEA is very much the system and that the union helped elect many of the politicians who are defining the solutions, particularly in the case of No Child Left Behind. An enemies list that used to consist solely of John Walton and the current Republican president/presidential candidate now grows long with assorted billionaires, neoliberals, privatizers, machine Democrats, Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Pearson Corporation, the Koch Brothers, Eli Broad, Bill Gates and a host of companies and organizations that turn a profit from the education business. (How does McGraw-Hill stay off this list?) The list of allies is shrinking faster than the membership numbers.

Most candidates for NEA office were similarly agitated in their campaign speeches, each vying with the next to say the same thing, only louder.

You shouldn’t get the idea that the delegates are going to return home and start burning down buildings. They will act as circumstances dictate in their states and local school districts. But the message they are getting while they are here is not to work together with others to reach a consensual solution to the problems of public education. It’s to fight for our side until the opposition submits. That plays well in a hall of besieged unionists. With everyone else, it’s bound to reinforce their negative image of NEA.

Early prediction: Lily Eskelsen Garcia’s first keynote address in 2015 will read from a longer enemies list.