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NEA and AFT conventions. Looking ahead.

May 13, 2014

nea retired

I ran in a state-wide election for Retired delegate on a platform of fighting corporate school reform and an unapologetic defense of our pensions.

I will be back at the NEA Representative Assembly this summer as an elected Retired delegate.

With the exception of one year, I have been to every convention since 1998. The one year I didn’t go it was in Los Angeles. The Illinois delegation was put up in a hotel near LAX and the convention was at the Staples Center.

I know LA. It’s my hometown. The thought of taking a shuttle bus from LAX to the Staples Center every day for five days was more than I wanted to endure.

A hot muggy week in Chicago seemed more pleasurable than hours in traffic on LA freeways. Haisman/Swanson can use that as an example of my anti-unionism. They’re welcome to it.

The NEA RA will be in Denver the first week of July. It is 10,000 delegates in a week-long business meeting – democracy on steroids. We pass a budget. We debate New Business Items endlessly.

The NEA will elect new leaders this year. Current NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s two terms are over. Current VP Lily Eskelsen, a 4th grade teacher from Utah, will likely be elected to replace Dennis and become the first Latina to head the three million member union.

Mainly what we will get is a sense of where NEA members are at.

Last year at the RA in Atlanta, delegates were willing to criticize Common Core testing, but not the Common Core itself.

Without a signal from NEA President Van Roekel, it is unlikely that will change. And while DVR has become more critical of Common Core in recent months, he remains committed to it.

Since the Atlanta RA in 2013 there have been major shifts at the grass roots in the NEA.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles, affiliated with both the NEA and the AFT, elected a rank-and-file challenger, Alex Caputo-Pearl, as President of the 35,000 member local.

The New York State United Teachers, also jointly affiliated with the AFT and the NEA, voted to withdraw support for the Common Core.

This past weekend Barbara Madeloni was elected to head the Massachusetts teachers union, an NEA affiliate. Madeloni is a fierce critic of Common Core.

On the AFT side, Chicago’s AFT affiliated teachers union passed a resolution opposing Common Core.

The CTU has pledged to bring their anti-Common Core resolution to the AFT convention.

The AFT convention will be held in Los Angeles the week after ours.

The AFT President Randi Weingarten runs a tighter show. I wouldn’t argue that it is fundamentally less democratic than the NEA RA.  In spite of all the trappings at the RA, the results are pretty much the same.

Weingarten is running for President once again. Unlike the NEA, the AFT has no term limits.

And Weingarten has stated that she still stands behind the Common Core.

Both DVR and Weingarten argue that their position of Common Core support with fixes and adjustments places them in the middle between the conservative wing-nut opponents and what they suggest are the left-wing radical opponents of national standards.

But we shall see how many delegates disagree with that assessment. Is it a position on Common Core that represents what is going on back home? What will be interesting is to see how far delegates will go to express those disagreements.

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