Random Thoughts. Teacher unions aren’t all white.


A couple of years ago Lily Eskelson Garcia was running for president of the National Education Association and I was an Illinois IEA Retired delegate to the national Representative Assembly. Lily came and spoke to our Retired Conference that precedes the RA.

During the Q&A that followed Lily’s talk I asked her about the decline in the number of public school teachers of color and what our union was going to do about it.

Garcia never gave an action response, although she agreed that the decline in teachers of color was a scandal.

In Chicago the number of African American teachers in CPS has gone from nearly 70% of the teaching staff to under 20% over the past decade or so.

That doesn’t mean that public school teachers are now all white.

I posted yesterday about the few faces of teachers of color among those selected as excellent by the NEA Foundation. We have over three million members in the NEA. They are not all white.

Excellent teachers are not just the white ones.

It does not take anything away from the teachers who were selected to point out the racism in composing a list of excellent teachers in which so few faces of color are included.

It does not even come close to reflecting who we are.

It is particularly discouraging to find this in a year in which the NEA voted to make the fight against institutional racism our most important union-wide campaign.

As I wrote at the time of the 2015 RA, we have met that institution and it is us.

This morning I found this tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten.

It is a disturbing comment on two counts.

It suggests that the American Federation of Teachers, a union based primarily among urban teachers as compared to the NEA, is a union of white teachers.

What does it mean to say, “Our union” should “confront our privilege”?

To be fair, the tweet contains a link to a speech Randi made to the AFT’s Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Conference in New Orleans last year. It’s a good speech.

Randi can make a good speech.

And maybe in her rush to tweet again about Hillary – which she seems to do non-stop – she lost sight for a moment of who “our union” is, who our own members are, as well as the class, race and social privileges enjoyed by Hillary Clinton.

When she speaks of confronting privilege in the future, perhaps she and NEA President Garcia  can address this crisis: The hemorrhaging of teachers of color from our profession.

7 Replies to “Random Thoughts. Teacher unions aren’t all white.”

  1. Interestingly enough, I received my copy of neaToday for BEA-Retired Members &–lo & behold!–a colorful, 4-page spread (smack dab in the middle of the magazine)–“Opportunity for All’–StrongPublicSchools.org–
    2016 Voter Guide”–cute kids’ faces on front, button “NEA for Hillary,” Hillary’s stands, etc., etc., w/big, glossy pix, teacher statements in support…
    (Wonder how much this cost?!)
    Anyway, I really would like to hear from the Arkansas Education Assn. on this, seeing as the NEA doesn’t have a very long memory as to having to come in & help them out when Bill was guv, due to some policy changes brought about through…Hillary (read Carl Bernstein’s 2007 book, A Woman in Charge).
    After Lily’s election, Diane Ravitch wrote a post, “I Think I Love Lliy Eskelsen Garcia.” After having seen/heard her in person (w/Randi) at last year’s Chicago Network for Public Ed. Conference–in addition to all of this–I think I
    &–BTW–as doe the inaction on your passed RA Conferderate flag motion so long ago (w/no action, yet)–it’s interesting (speaking of New Orleans) how quickly the New Orleans City Council voted in favor of removing all of that city’s Confederate statues. A funny note (we all need a laugh, after all):
    a reader of Gambit (which is NOLA’s equivalent of the Chicago Reader), suggested that, after the statue of Robert E. Lee comes down, the city not change the name of Lee’s Circle, but “name it for SARA Lee, because nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.”

  2. So at one time Chicago was 70 per cent black teachers. So, what turn the situation to a 20 per cent black teachers ??? Maybe if we know the cause of the change we can address the problem.

  3. Part of the change in numbers could be due to the push by suburban school districts to recruit teachers of color to prove that they are diversified(not racist). Among a lot of other reasons and I’m sure money and politics had little to do with it.

    1. What suburban districts are those. Park Ridge hasn’t hired an African American teacher in decades. I think they hired one 40 years ago.

    2. The schools I taught in and DuPage Co. has a whole did not have black teachers. Sorry to say i cannot even remember one! Your idea is not the answer. Anyone else???

  4. A lot of Black teachers, just like us old White teachers have retired Fred.
    I cannot speak for Park Ridge But I know many Black teachers who have
    gone to the South Suburbs, and a few to Will County.

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