My fellow educators,
I wanted to be the first to let you know that your elected representatives to the NEA PAC Council and the NEA Board of Directors took action to recommend Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for President of the United States. I am so proud of the thoughtful, thorough and incredibly rich discussion that your elected leaders held. It was truly what democracy looks like.
I am also extremely proud of this decision because I know that Hillary is a strong leader who will do what’s best for the future of all of America’s students and public schools.
After an extensive review of the candidates and an in-depth discussion, your leaders saw what I know – Hillary Clinton will be a champion for students and educator in the White House. She has a 30 year history of standing up for students and strong public schools and has actively engaged in conversations with educators in this campaign. Secretary Clinton told your leaders today that she won’t make a single decision about developing education policy without educators being in the room.
As a U.S. Senator, Hillary Clinton was a champion for our cause, earning an “A” grade from the NEA for her support on the issues most important to our students, but even before serving in the Senate, Clinton was a champion of the students we educate. While every first lady has an admirable cause, Hillary chose to stand up to the for-profit healthcare industry to advocate for children’s healthcare. Her campaign ultimately led to the largest expansion of public health care in decades, when millions of American children received health coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Even before running for president, Hillary championed early education and affordable college, and she sponsored efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work and to make it easier for workers to join a union.
And in 2016, the stakes for strong public schools will be too high to sit on the sidelines! Right now, there are presidential hopefuls who have made a career of attacking educators and public education to the detriment of students. They have allies like the Koch brothers, who have committed to spend $1 billion to defeat a pro-public education candidate like Hillary Clinton and taking control of the White House.
With so much at stake, you cannot sit on the sidelines – America’s students need you today!
Together, we can help elect Hillary Clinton as our next president and ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia
National Education Association President
What do teachers and public schools get in return from our union endorsements?
– My column from In These Times:
With just a few days before the a meeting of the National Education Association’s (NEA) board of directors in Washington DC, what seemed like a sure thing several weeks ago now seems a little less certain.
The plan was for the leaders of the largest teachers union in the country to vote for an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. With the backing of NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the endorsement should have been a breeze.
As Annie Karni reported in Politico has reported,
Top brass of the 3 million-strong National Education Association, the country’s largest union, are recommending an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, according to an email obtained by POLITICO—a move that has many state leaders and rank-and-file members planning to protest the early endorsement.
The email, sent from the union’s campaign office, states that the NEA PAC, the union’s political arm, is planning to hold an upcoming vote ’recommending Hillary Clinton for the presidential primary.
I don’t know what, if anything, has been asked for in return for the Clinton endorsement. But we can look back to past recent endorsements for a bit of instruction. Those endorsements show us that despite the fact that a union’s main job is bargaining, political horse-trading has frequently been a weakness of the NEA.
If the NEA board of directors follows instructions, it would be the second national teachers union to endorse Clinton. The earlier American Federation of Teachers endorsement was met with criticism by many progressives among their ranks and by those AFT members “feeling the Bern.”
But Weingarten controls her union’s endorsement procedures even more tightly than Eskelsen Garcia controls the NEA. Given the close relationship between Weingarten and Clinton (Weingarten sits on the board of the pro-Clinton PAC Priorities USA), there was zero chance the AFT would choose not to endorse her.
Clinton does have many supporters among the rank and file of the NEA. Yet there were plenty of Bernie buttons at the NEA convention in Orlando last July. And the past week has witnessed a growing revolt within the union against an early endorsement.
Sanders was introduced by Obama advisor David Axelrod at the University of Chicago yesterday.
What NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wants is an endorsement of Hillary Clinton this coming weekend.
What are we getting in exchange if Hillary gets our endorsement?
Probably more of the same centrist Democratic Party corporate education policies that we have seen the last eight years.
Lily’s main argument is Hillary’s electability. But that is coming more into question in the days leading up to the NEA board of directors meeting in DC.
Polls show Sanders within seven points of the tanking Hillary campaign.
And I have to wonder if former Obama advisor David Axelrod’s effusive introduction of Bernie Sanders to a University of Chicago crowd doesn’t reflect less than effusive support or confidence in the inevitability of Hillary by Obama’s folks.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was met with open arms at the University of Chicago on Monday.
David Axelrod, director of the school’s Institute of Politics and President Barack Obama’s former political adviser, who reels in trending politicians to speak at the school, introduced his guest: “We have never had a president named Bernie Sanders. Ladies and gentlemen, Bernie Sanders.”
At least three NEA state affiliates have called for #NoEarlyEndorsement.
They include New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey. New Jersey is the largest fundraiser for the NEA PAC of any state affiliate.
One can understand why Sanders supporters oppose an early endorsement of Hillary.
And then there are those of us who see this as one more example of top-down decision making that so often characterizes our NEA and IEA.
I received this comment from a reader.
I wrote to President Klickna through the IEA website my same concern of an early endorsement. Linda Rice wrote back “NEA makes no recommendation prior to the primary and affiliates are always consulted. I will pass your concerns on to our Government Relations Dept.”
We don’t do it but when we do do it we consult, but we’re not doing it, but we’re planning on doing it this weekend.
Even Hillary supporters should be asking how it helps teachers and public education to endorse a candidate so early without demanding anything in return.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia skyping for Hillary.
What has been rumored for several weeks is now pretty much a sure thing.
The NEA board of directors are meeting next week and they will go through the motions of taking a vote.
But an endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primary race is all but assured.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia has been making calls and having skype meetings with state leaders from around the country in anticipation of next weeks meeting, sending the message that she wants a Hillary endorsement.
In her talks with state union leaders around the country she has admitted that Bernie Sanders and the NEA are more often in 100% agreement on education issues but that Hillary is more electable.
This has echoes of the early no-strings Obama endorsement in 2012, although that was eventually brought to the floor of the NEA RA for a delegate vote. Since this is a party primary endorsement, a RA vote is not required.
Polls released today show Hillary down double digits to Sanders in New Hampshire.
We debated the damn thing for two hours at the NEA Representative Assembly in Orlando last July.
We debated my New Business Item that long even though it was a fairly simple statement that the NEA would support efforts to remove the Confederate flag from schools and public spaces. The additional phrase that included and remove Confederate symbols from public schools and public spaces was removed over my objection.
In any case, the NBI passed by an overwhelming vote of the 8,000 delegates.
What happened to it?
In August I wrote to NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and asked that question.
I received no reply.
Yesterday Education Week published an article describing wide spread efforts to remove the Confederate flag and symbols from schools and universities.
While campaigns to rid public spaces of the Confederate flag and to drop the use of certain mascots for sports teams—most prominently, the use of Native American mascots—have drawn debate and controversy for years, the Charleston shootings have catalyzed a much larger wave of change in both public and private sectors, including K-12.
The accused shooter in the Charleston church massacre created a website where he posted multiple photographs of himself posing with a Confederate battle flag. Following the shooting, a nationwide discussion emerged regarding the appropriateness of Confederate symbolism, leading some major companies, such as Walmart and Amazon, to stop selling the flag.
The South Carolina legislature, meanwhile, decided to remove the flag from the Capitol after weeks of public protest, and the Charleston County school district has begun prohibiting students from wearing any apparel bearing the image of the flag.
The same article included this:
In Houston, six schools named after Confederate loyalists have also come under the scrutiny. Prompted by an inquiry from state Sen. Robert Ellis, the school board earlier this month introduced a proposal that calls for the names of schools to “be aligned to the district’s non-discrimination policies.” Under the proposed changes, the board may indicate “specific facilities for which renaming is deemed to be in the best interest of the district.”
If those changes go into effect, they would further build upon a policy the board adopted last year regarding school mascots. All school mascots must “respect cultural differences and values,” the board declared at the time, thus prohibiting “the use of any race or ethnic group as a mascot or nickname.” Four schools, including one with Rebels as a mascot, were affected by that policy change.
“When we name a school after someone, we send a message to our children that this individual is worthy of honor and praise,” Ellis, a Democrat representing Houston, wrote in a June letter to the board. “As an extremely diverse school district in the most diverse city in the nation, the names of our community schools should not lionize men who dedicated themselves to maintaining the ability of one human to own another.”
What you won’t read is this:
Supporting these efforts to remove the Confederate flag is the National Education Association.
That’s because it wasn’t there.
So, I’m asking again. What happened to our New Business Item?
Two years ahead of the 2012 presidential election of Barak Obama, the NEA leadership called for a no-strings endorsement of him for a second term.
I had no expectation that the NEA would not eventually endorse a sitting Democratic president.
As a delegate to the NEA RA I voted to oppose an early no-strings endorsement.
I had hoped that there would be some political demands made before the deal was done. After all, this had not been an administration that had been very friendly to public education and teacher unions in the first term.
Two words: Arne Duncan.
Why the rush to endorse for the second term?
Naïve of me, perhaps. Or of them?
Rumor has it that NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia will follow the lead of her friend, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and move an NEA early endorsement of Hillary the first week in October.
I have to wonder who is being naïve now?
Considering it only from a pragmatic perspective, why on earth would the largest union in the country move to endorse Hillary at the moment she is in political free fall?
As in the case of Obama, what are we demanding for public schools from a third Clinton administration?
Might it include a break from her Wall Street hedge fund pals in Democrats for Education Reform and other corporate reform groups?
Could luck with that.
This is the time of year when we get all the best and worst of the year lists.
The other day I received one from my National Education Association.
The NEA gave an apple to Susan Bowles. She is a Florida kindergarten teacher who made a stink about giving a bunch of high stakes test to her kindergarten students.
Right on Susan Bowles!
The best also included teachers in Ferguson, Missouri.
No argument there. I can imagine being a teacher in a town with tear gas in the air and tanks on the street.
Even the onions – who the NEA called the worst of the year – made sense.
It included the Koch brothers, Campbell Brown, high steaks testing zealots and and my old friends from Democrats for Education Reform.
Just to remind you, DFER director Joe Williams once promised to kick my ass.
I would agree about giving him an onion.
The NEA also included a list of anti-education governors.
Illinois’ Pat Quinn was not on the list even though he was a major teacher pension thief. But the IEA endorsed him for governor anyway. So I’m not entirely surprised that the NEA looked the other way when they made their list of bad governors.
But the big surprise was the name that was missing from the NEA’s worst list.
Because I distinctly remember the vote at the Representative Assembly by the members of the NEA back in July.
We were in Denver.
We voted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan should resign.
You may have heard about it.
So, why didn’t he make the NEA worst of the year?
National Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and me at the NEA RA in Denver.
The new school year has started.
The third without me. How have they survived?
For me, the start of a new school year was a moment for optimism.
It is like the optimism I felt leaving this year’s Representative Assembly of the National Education Association in Denver last July.
We had just passed a stinging rebuke of the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
The NEA leadership had proposed, and we had passed, a New Business Item calling for an end to the constant, pervasive testing and the misuse of testing scores for teacher evaluation.
We had elected three women of color to head our union, the nation’s largest.
While I was critical of the protective wall that the NEA leadership had built around the Common Core, I choose to think that this reflected the perspective of the former NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel. Van Roekel was never willing to directly challenge the Democratic Party leadership on education issues. Although Eskelsen served with Dennis, you never really thought they were entirely on the same page. It reminded me of the relationship that Reg Weaver had with Bob Chase when Reg was NEA vice-president under Chase.
Chase was a go-along kind of guy. He advocated something he called “New Unionism,” which sounded suspicious to many of us.
Weaver was a fighter.
It was only when Weaver won election as NEA president (while Bush II was President) that the tone and substance of NEA leadership changed.
Eskelsen has now taken the helm of our three million plus union.
In the months since the RA, dozens of people have asked me about her. “I hear she is pretty good,” a union friend said to me just the other day at a Labor Day barbecue. It was more of a question than a statement.
“We know what is at stake and it is why we are who we are. It is why we are fearless and why we will not be silent when people who for their own profit and political posture subvert words like ‘reform’ or ‘accountability’,’ she told the RA after her election.
Leadership matters and I am always optimistic.