The NEA collects dues in Brevard County.

Me and Ken.

Ken Previti is a retired Illinois teacher and activist living in Florida. He sent this response to a recent story I posted.

In Florida, which is a right-to-work state, teacher unions are nearly meaningless, especially on the Space Coast which is Brevard County. There is a general dislike of unions and union members, in particular teacher unions and teachers who are pro-union.

It’s a Southern thing. Most of the teachers in Brevard County are registered Republicans. (Florida is a closed-primary state.) The county went strongly for Trump.)

Because they see no future for unions or for their own careers as educators, they willingly go along with scripted online lessons and testing. “Just do what you are told” is a mantra spoken about teachers and about what students should do. Since there is no attempt at real union leadership, there is no belief in teaching as a career. “Serving the needs of students” is perceived as “job training” for students – online instruction has often become more preferable than human to human education and the advancement of critical thinking skills.

Non-union adjunct teachers form the core of Eastern Florida State College, which is two miles from my home, and serve the largest department (that used to be called Engineering), Technology and Manufacturing. The half page newspaper and magazine ads are titled “Get Trained Today.”

Temp teachers in temp jobs train students for jobs. Education? The teaching profession? Union leadership for professionals? Critical thinking skills that allow people to adapt and grow as job markets change? These are non-existent.

Could decent unions with actual leaders help change and improve this situation?

Brevard County schools from pre-school through college cannot know and will not know.

The NEA in Brevard County, Florida collects dues. Period.

The teacher union vote.

USA Today ed writer Greg Toppo posted a tweet about the teacher unions “smarting” from the membership vote for Clinton and Trump.

It is estimated 1 in 5 AFT members voted for Trump. They estimate 1 in 3 NEA members voted for Trump.

I tweeted back.

Toppo then admitted that teacher union members outperformed other union members in voting against Trump.

But that fact was buried deep in his USA Today story since it didn’t fit into the workers voted for Trump narrative.

The truth is that teachers across the nation who are members of the two national unions are slightly more progressive than the general voting population. And teachers who are active in the union fall slightly to the left of center within the Democratic Party. That’s why it was fairly easy to get delegates to the NEA convention to endorse Hillary but also why Bernie had a strong base in both of the unions.

In spite of that, NEA leaders felt worried enough about a Clinton endorsement to manipulate the process, as Wikileaks memos between Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and NEA leaders demonstrated. The Clinton campaign, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT President Randi Weingarten totally coordinated their efforts to ensure the Clinton endorsement, even though delelgates to the earlier Representative Assembly were promised no early endorsement would be made.

IEA membership, which is mainly downstate and suburban Chicago, runs less progressive then the organization as a whole. The leadership believes about a third of the IEA membership votes Republican.

Perhaps this explains their endorsement of Governor Bruce Rauner’s GOP Senate Leader Christine Radogno.

Still, the IEA’s political power is weak. They couldn’t get Governor Quinn elected after his betrayal of union members on pensions. They backed Hillary against Sanders in the Illinois primary and she barely won, dropping 20% points in three weeks, even with a major IEA effort and expense.

The real story is the historic failure of the IEA to lead. They haven’t won a major political battle in the state since we won collective bargaining rights over three decades ago. That is so even with over 130,000 members and one of the top funded political action committees in the state.

With eighteen months before the next gubernatorial election and the chance to oust Bruce Rauner, I’m not expecting much of those folks. It will have to come from somewhere else.


WikiLeaks. All was not going well with the early, no-strings NEA Clinton endorsement. The vote was nearly delayed.


Hillary Clinton and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

An email from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta to Hillary Clinton described how things were not going smoothly  for the NEA endorsement within the National Education Association leadership. The email was part of the Podesta WikiLeaks dump.

Many among rank-and-file NEA members were critical of the early endorsement and the way it was shoved down the members’ throats.


Here’s the status of things, which you may already have been briefed on. Executive Committee of 7 (3 officers and 4 others)) voted unanimously to endorse. Next step is the PAC Committee, which is weighted by PAC participation and the votes are there to endorse. Final step is a vote of the full 120 member Board where the threshold for endorsement is 58%.

Sanders forces are working furiously to put off an endorsement. We do not have certainty on hitting the 58% threshold despite the intense work of Lilly and John Stocks. You are scheduled to see the full Board on Saturday morning. John’s assessment is that your appearance is critical if they are going to get the endorsement this weekend. There is some risk though that you show up and they remain uncertain of a successful vote so that they put it off for further work by the leadership.

They will not call the vote unless they are certain that they will hit the threshold. Downside is that the Sanders people will spin that notwithstanding the PAC Committee recommendation, the Board delayed action. All here assess that it’s worth the risk and that you should show up and try to get the endorsement now. If the vote is delayed, Lily and John will say this is a multi-layered process and good progress was made by securing the PAC Committee recommendation. I wanted you to have a good sense of the state of play, because they have to let people know that you will be there no later than tomorrow early am. I and the rest of the team think you should confirm participation, but wanted to give you a chance to discuss if you have a different view.

Lily and Randi get their seat at the table. They are surrounded by corporate reformers.

20160705 NEA VOTE RR 01

If any two people know how to win a vote it’s Randi and Lily.

When the NEA and the AFT gave Hillary an early endorsement over Bernie Sanders, many scratched their heads trying to figure out what the two teacher unions gained by this.

By hitching the unions’ wagons to the HRC campaign so early, it seemed to many observers that we lost whatever bargaining chip we had.

The AFT’s Randi Weingarten and the NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia promised members that an early endorsement would ensure that teachers got a seat at the table.

And so it has.

Mother Jones published a list of those who are serving on Hillary’s K-12 policy working group.

The previously unreleased list includes:

Chris Edley Jr., the president of the Opportunity Institute, a California-based think tank that works mostly on early-childhood and college access initiatives

Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, the nation’s biggest teachers’ union

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-biggest teachers’ union

Carmel Martin, the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and onetime adviser to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan

Catherine Brown, the former vice president of policy at Teach for America and current vice president of education policy at the Center for American Progress

Richard Riley, the secretary of education under Bill Clinton who’s known for his views that don’t neatly fit into the pro-reform or pro-teachers’ union wings of the Democratic Party. Riley supported testing and accountability but also pushed with equal fervor for smaller classes and more funding for schools.

Mother Jones wonders whether the inclusion of Randi and Lily at the table represents a rejection of the Obama education policies. Although Obama also received teacher union endorsements (the NEA was in such a hurry that they endorsed him two years early), the two unions were pretty much shown the door when meetings at the table took place.

There is still a lot to make us wonder.

Let’s hope it’s not based on a voice vote of those sitting at the table.

Of course, from my experience with union votes, if any two people know how to win a voice vote, it is Randi and Lily.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia two years ago.

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Lily Eskelsen Garcia in 2014.

-I’m on the road until the end of August. In between intermittent posts of my own I have been posting other bloggers and posts. Some have written to say these have been the best things I have ever posted. Oh well.

This is from a 2014 interview with NEA President Lily Garcia by Washington Post education columnist Valerie Strauss.  

To call the woman who is about to take the helm of the National Education Association “outspoken” would be something of an understatement. Lily Eskelsen García, who will take over next month as president of the largest teachers union in the country (and, for that matter, the largest union of any kind in the country), is nauseatingly sick of what she calls “factory school reform” and she doesn’t mind telling everybody about it in clear, challenging words. “Stop doing stupid,” she says.

That’s not all. Acknowledging that sometimes it is hard for her to be diplomatic, García says she wants to shake things up: “The revolution I want is ‘proceed until apprehended.’” Translation: Teachers, administrators and everybody else involved should ignore bad school reform policy and do “the right thing” for kids. “Don’t you dare,” she said, ” let someone tell you not to do that Shakespeare play because it’s not on the achievement tests. Whether they [reformers] have sinister motives or misguided honest motives, we should say, ‘We are not going to listen to you anymore. We are going to do what’s right.’”

The biggest problem in education today, she said, is the obsession many school reformers — including Education Secretary Arne Duncan — have with standardized tests and using student scores to make high-stakes decisions on  whether students move to the next grade or graduate high school, how much teachers get paid and whether they can keep their jobs, and even if schools are reconstituted or closed. “I will go down to my last breath telling people that the most corrupting influence in public influence today is a high-stakes consequence for not hitting the cut score on a standardized test,” she said.

What would she do if she were still teaching and an administrator told her to do something in class to improve student’s standardized test scores so that her test-based evaluation would be better?  “I would totally ignore them,” she said. ” ‘Go stand out in the hall and don’t waste five seconds of my time.’ I would not make that change one thing in my classroom.”

You can read this story by my colleague Lyndsey Layton about García’s rise to the top of the NEA, a journey that started when she worked in a school lunch room, moved through years of teaching (during which she was named Utah’s Teacher of the Year)  and took her to the leadership of her union. And here are some excerpts from the recent interview I just had with García about her views on challenges facing educators today.

On Education Secretary Arne Duncan:

Arne Duncan is a very nice man. I actually believe he is a very honest man. And that cannot excuse the fact that he is wrong wrong wrong on just about every thing that he believes is reform. I could just give him hugs when he talks about preschool. I love when he talks about affordable college. Its not that he is in the pocket of the Koch brothers and wants to destroy public schools. But he has drunk the Kool-Aid. He has drunk the factory reform Kool-Aid.  So now it’s you have to hit a number and that number is what we call accountability and we have to blame someone and there has to be a punishment for not hitting that cut score. And I believe will go down to my last breath telling people that the most corrupting influence in public influence today is a high-stakes consequence for not hitting the cut score on a standardized test.”


On the Common Core State Standards and aligned testing:

“We have something with incredible promise, like the Common Core. My own friends will go, ‘You know they are just going to mess up the Common Core.’ Yeah, and then we have Texas. Texas isn’t in the Common Core but it’s a mess there. It’s not the standards. It’s what they are doing with these standards, or whatever standards. So you have a New York situation, which is the “I Love Lucy’ thing. ” We have the Common Core and add one more test and judge you and punish you by it and ramp up the factory thing and you have chocolate falling to the fall — and there is no more tragic metaphor to me than chocolate falling on the floor. Educators, my colleagues, are trying to take the high road and explain that … 100 percent of the kids cannot statistically be above average. And you can’t throw these wonderful new problem-solving, critical-thinking skill standards at teachers when we haven’t trained then on it or given them any curriculum and tell them that the tests are being field tested but they are still going to be judged on them, even fired, and third graders can’t go to fourth grade because of test results. Imposing this toxic testing regime makes no sense.

“Stop the stupid. And I’ll try really hard to make that diplomatic.”

On ‘value-added measures’ (VAM is a way of evaluating educators that takes student standardized test scores, plops them into a complicated formula that can supposedly weed out things like how much living in poverty or being sick affects a child’s performance on a test and determining the “value” of an individual teacher.)

Voodoo value-added. It is beyond ridiculous. Have you ever seen the formulas? Here’s what I think. Let’s make it so complicated no one will ask a question for fear of looking stupid. I’m the teacher who told my kids there is no such thing as a stupid question. … I looked the year I had 39 fifth-graders and looked at what is factored into the value-added formula to determine my value. That year I had Brandon and Chris, both of whom had behavior disorders. How is that factored in [to the formula]? You cannot surgically remove every factor that might affect some child’s test score, and then attribute a “value” to a particular teacher. I know that part of what I did was build on what the teacher the year ahead of me was able to accomplish. It is not surgery. And anybody that stands up and sends us the voodoo value-added should be ashamed of themselves.

I’ve always told people — because I am that obnoxious — that  I am the best freaking teacher you have ever seen. You want your child in my class… I am not afraid of an evaluation system. Bring it on. But what I would do with value added? I would totally ignore them. ‘Go stand out in the hall and don’t waste five seconds of my time.’ I would not make that change one thing in my classroom. If a principal said, ‘We can’t do the blood drive because we have to prep for the test,’ I would say, ‘Go away’. That’s where the rebellion would be.

There is no law that says we have to race around and catch that testing tail. We do it to ourselves. The revolution I want is, ‘Proceed until apprehended.’ … Stop listening to the salesmen. Stop listening to phony reformers. And stop listening to those good-hearted and absolutely wrong people and do the right thing with kids. We are the educators, the professionals. We actually know what to do with children.”

On No Child Left Behind:

“I am so convinced that No Child Left Behind is really based on the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode in the chocolate factory [when Lucy and Ethel work in a factory to box chocolates that appear on a increasingly fast assembly line]. I really believe that someone spent a little too much time watching ‘Nick at night’ and said, ‘Let’s just speed up the chocolate. We will find a way to wrap it and put it in pretty little boxes. And Lucy and Ethel couldn’t do it of course. We have corporate reform. It doesn’t make any sense.”

On corporate school reform and whether Democrats who support it have abandoned teachers union:

“I talk about factory school reform. Its not even like a well-run modern corporation that they are suggesting. It’s a 1920’s factory. And …on both sides of the aisle we get the same misguided list of reforms. Basically its privatized, standardized, deprofessionalized. The exact opposite of what very successful international success stories like Finland or even Singapore do. They personalize. They use data to make good decisions. They have ramped up the professionalism of education. They make it harder to get into your college of education than to get into your law school. They make it a career, not a summer project for someone who just graduated from college. Even KIPP [charter schools] will say one of the secrets of their success is a stable, highly professional faculty. How do you make sense of a churn system of Teach For America where you give two years and go on your way? The corporate factory reformers have this evidence-free zone that surrounds them… We are like waving red flags of evidence in front of them. Stop doing stupid. Can we just do what we can show you makes sense?…

“I would challenge the premise that the Democratic Party is not a friend of organized working men and women. But there are disconnects on more and more issues. And of course we are seeing that disconnect seriously in the education world….

“We just need to say this is no longer partisan. It is just stupid.”

Anti-Trump Republicans stay away from the RNC. But not the NEA. “Republicans love public education,” says the NEA.

Even Bruce Rauner isn’t attending the Republican National Convention.

Yet the brilliant minds at NEA have set up a booth in Cleveland at Trumpence-a-looza.


I left the NEA after four years of heading up an IEA Retired chapter, so it’s not my membership money or PAC contribution being spent in Cleveland.

But this is more evidence of the Bizarro World of teacher union politics:

The UFT members of the MORE/New Action Caucus swept the high school election for seats on the UFT Executive Board, but can’t attend the convention as delegates. Only Randi Weingarten’s Unity Caucus can get seated in the UFT New York delegation.

MORE/New Action slate winner, Arthur Goldstein, tried to register as an observer/member, but was told he needed to be “vouched for.” Arthur is the long-time chapter leader of one of the largest high schools in all of New York City.

NEA endorsed Hillary Clinton, as will the AFT.

But the NEA is handing out pro-GOP buttons at the show in Cleveland. “Republicans love public education,” they say.

Bizarro World.

A bigger threat than Friedrichs ever was.


In reaction to the mass killings in Charleston last year, Bree Newsome climbed a flag pole in front of the state Capitol and took down the Confederate flag. A year later, the NEA has barely reacted at all.

Union teachers breathed a sigh of relief when the Supremes failed to uphold Friedrichs in a recent decision. Had the court ruled differently the right to Fair Share, or agency fees, would have been taken away from us. Agency fees are the fees all employees must pay to the union for the cost of bargaining and the duty to represent them in disputes with management.

There is a greater threat to teacher unions than Friedrichs ever was.

That threat is frequently the poor leadership of the teachers union itself. Leaders like Cinda Klickna, President of the Illinois Education Association, Lily Eskelesen Garcia of the NEA, Michael Mulgrew of the UFT and his boss, Randi Weingarten President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Yesterday I received the results of the recent elections for delegates to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly. It will take place this year in D.C. in July.

The results illustrate exactly what I am saying.

Delegates are mainly elected by a vote of local members. But state leaders are elected in an at-large election of the entire 120,000 state-wide membership.

Compare the 2015 results to the 2016 results:



1600 votes out of 120,000 is nothing to get excited about. But this year the number of members voting for the union’s highest governing body is half of what is what last year.

Members don’t feel connected to the IEA or the NEA.

IEA Retired also sends its own group of delegates.

Disclosure: I recently resigned from IEA Retired after four years of trying to build a chapter where there had been none. Although we were successful in establishing a chapter, I no longer believe IEA serves the interests of retired teachers.

It appears I am not alone.

IEA Retired claims 12,000 members. IEA Retired delegates also elect national convention delegates on a state-wide ballot. I was elected each time I ran, an unusual accomplishment for a newly retired member.

Here is a comparison between last year and this year’s vote for Retired delegates. I did not run as a delegate this year:



Again, less than half the turn-out.

Of course, this is just one measure of membership engagement. It is a significant measure.

Yesterday I also received the final of three reports on the NEA’s leadership implementation of my New Business Item 11 from last year’s Representative Assembly. New Business 11 directed the NEA leadership to take action in response to the flying of the Confederate flag in schools and public spaces. Since it is new business, action must be taken before the next Representative Assembly.

My NBI resulted in a two-hour debate. Language calling for the removal of all symbols of the Confederacy were removed from the NBI over my objection. It then passed overwhelmingly.

The first two reports I received earlier this year reported no action had been taken.

Here is the final report I received yesterday:

NEA drafted model state legislation and a model school board resolution that were distributed to state affiliates. We also conducted a comprehensive research project to analyze state activity, and coordinated and shared model legislation and resolution language with national civil rights partners for work within particular states.  NEA shared model language with Members of Congress who have taken a leadership role regarding this issue. At the time of this report, very few states or local school boards had introduced bills or resolutions calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public spaces and/or public schools.  With our model legislation in hand, state affiliates can work to get laws passed around the country. NEA has also highlighted actions in communities and states across the country.  A story on is slated for spring 2016 to share information and drive activism to end the use of the Confederate battle flag.

Last year’s Representative Assembly in Orlando followed by a few weeks the mass killing of nine African American members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer was a white supremacist.

Bree Newsome, a Charleston activist, was in no mood to wait for officials to do something. She climbed to the top of the flag pole in front of the Charleston capitol building and took down the Confederate flag that had flown there since the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. She was arrested by Charleston police.

“In the name of Jesus, this flag has to come down. You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today,” Newsome said.

Meanwhile the NEA responded a year later with model legislation yet to be distributed to state affiliates along with a soon-to-be-published article in EdVotes.

I will look forward to hearing which states have the model legislation offered, let alone voted on.


Randi Weingarten: Labor is united in support of Clinton.

Photo by Jocelyn Augustino©2004

NEA President Eskelsen Garcia. Buyer’s remorse?

AFT President Randi Weingarten thinks political election campaigns are like differences in her union.

It’s works like her vision of democracy.

All she has to do is declare it so and that’s the way is.

So she tell’s the New York Times that all labor union members support Hillary. There is no other opinion. And it is so. Facts don’t get in the way.

In an effort to dispute what they say is a false narrative that union voters are closely split between Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Hillary Clinton, a group of more than 20 unions representing more than 10 million workers is releasing a statement on Monday reaffirming support for Mrs. Clinton.

“Secretary Clinton has proven herself as the fighter and champion working people and their families need in the White House,” the statement says. “That is why, of all unions endorsing a candidate in the Democratic primary, the vast majority of the membership in these unions has endorsed her.”

Leading the charge for Hillary among labor union leaders is the AFT President.

“Because there’s now a story where there should not have been one — certain people in the Bernie camp wanted to take advantage of it — the unions that endorsed Hillary want to make really clear to people that we are incredibly supportive of her.”

How dare the news report a story without Randi’s approval.

Even if it’s true.

It is obvious that the union leadership that supports Hillary would not feel the need to issue a statement like this if they were feeling comfortable.

Saturday’s Nevada Democratic Party caucus voters were split between Sanders and Clinton in heavily unionized Las Vegas with Clinton squeezing out a win.

The AFL-CIO is hedging their bets and has decided to stay neutral. Their neutrality contrasts with the NEA and the AFT making early primary endorsements with no demands made of the Clinton campaign or strings attached.

What I find interesting is that the NEA and its President, Lily Eskelson Garcia have been relatively silent about the presidential race since declaring their early support for Clinton.

Her name does not appear in the New York Times article.

There was a lot of unhappiness among the rank and file when the NEA and AFT early endorsement was made.

Not only is labor divided, maybe Lily has buyer’s remorse.

NEA/IEA go bird dogging for Hillary.

That survey NEA members may be receiving in their email?

The one you didn’t get before the NEA made their early, no-strings endorsement of Hillary?

It isn’t for the purpose of getting membership guidance or direction.

They were bird dogging for Hillary.

If you are an old precinct worker like me then you know what bird dogging is. One person goes knocking on doors to find out who your voters are. That’s bird dogging. And then on election day (or sooner now that we have early voting) you make sure your identified voters get to the polls.

From IEA Government Relations Director Jim Reed:

From: Reed, Jim  

Subject: NEA Member survey

We want to let you know that an NEA Member survey regarding the presidential primary election will be going out in the next day or two.  

In an effort to ID IL members on their presidential preference, NEA is using Qualtrics to do short email surveys to members. NEA did several tests in early primary states with members and had really strong response results and figured out the best practices for using these.

The email survey has 4 questions and branded with IEA’s logo (you have to answer each question before seeing the next). This would be emailed to members and all data received back would be posted back and shared with you via VAN.  The email addresses used will be personal emails and not school emails.

 Jim Reed, Jr.

Director of Government Relations

The survey asks who you were going to vote for in the Democratic Primary and how sure are you about it.

Trust me. They were not just interested. They wanted to identify Hillary voters and concentrate on getting them out to vote.

I said I was certain that I was going to vote for Bernie.

I probably won’t be hearing from the IEA again until after the primary.

There is nothing illegal or wrong about this.

It is just that they never asked us before they endorsed.