An interview with myself on the second to the last day of the NEA RA.
Q: How are you holding up?
A: I’m tired. These are long days. But I’m out of here after the morning caucus. I’m longing for the 101 degree heat of Chicago instead of the 101 degree heat of DC.
Q: Were you surprised that your NBI supporting the Chicago Teachers Union passed so easily?
A: Oh, yes. I think I way underestimated how much teachers around the country are following events in Chicago. I think it helped that the IEA leadership supported it right away and that the Illinois caucus voted support almost unanimously. I’m thrilled that there is unity among all the teacher unions in the state over this.
It was pretty cool watching the state flags that direct, or advise I should say, delegates how to vote start springing up green as I was speaking. An unforgettable moment personally.
Q. Why did the delegates reject an NBI calling for firing Arne Duncan and that called for opposing Race to the Top? I thought the NEA delegates were pretty hostile to Duncan.
A. It is interesting that these are really the very same delegates that voted for the NBI last year that laid out the 13 things we hate about Arne Duncan. I mean they’re literally the same delegates. And they voted by almost 70% last year to do an early endorsement of Obama, while rejecting Duncan. It’s borderline schizophrenic.
This year the elections suck all the nuance out of these issues. It all becomes about Obama or Romney. NEA delegates are by-and-large center-left Democratic liberals. No matter how unhappy they are with Obama, and they are unhappy with Obama, they’re not going to desert the national Democrats five months before the election. And they’re not going to engage in specific policy disputes now that might threaten Obama’s chances. Anyone who had expectations of anything else is living in a dream world.
Q: I hear you’ve become a member of Educators for Obama.
A: Ha. I was quite surprised to have found my name on the list of members of Illinois Educators for Obama. Apparently someone at IEA just merged the RA delegate list and Illinois Educators for Obama. I told them that I wasn’t an educator for Obama until Obama was an Obama for educators. But we have some Romney folks in Illinois and they were really pissed.
Q: What else surprised you?
A: There was this terrific debate over what I at first thought was a rather innocuous New Business Item, NBI 31. In its original form it called on the NEA to provide curriculum materials that taught civics and encouraged a life-long habit of informed voting. It seems that something like that comes up every year. But Bob Peterson, head of the Milwaukee teachers union and who was among those that founded Rethinking Schools, offered an amendment that included the history of the struggle for voting rights and the current attempts at voter suppression.
The amendment passed, as did the original NBI.
It was a great example of using these New Business Items to expand and broaden the discussion using the tools that the RA provides. It was quite brilliant.
Q: Anything else?
A. Oh yes. Much more. But I’m retired now, so I have time to think and write about it.