Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My union leadership, all bluster?

I didn't go this year to the National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly, but having gone twice, I have a sense of the results by looking at the new business items passed by the delegates. I was particularly interested in how the NEA would respond to the increased attacks against teachers and our unions, specifically with Obama's Race to the Top and his horrible plans for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (titled NCLB under Bush).

With the attacks suffered by our teacher unions this year, there is no better time than now to start fighting back.

In his keynote address, NEA head Dennis Van Roekel thundered, "We must not allow another bad ESEA. Because if they take the old NCLB, fancy it up and call it the new ESEA, I think we ought to just call it TNT and blow the whole damn thing up!”

But a look at the passed business items suggests that the NEA leadership does not intend on leading a grassroots mobilization, but rather plans on continuing with their ineffective support of Democratic Party politicians and lobbying efforts.

Van Roekel does call for state affiliates to organize a Day of Action against Obama's plan for ESEA, which in my opinion is even worse than Bush's NCLB. But such devolution of organizing to state bodies insures a mediocre effort. The New Business Item that would have committed the NEA to a national mobilization in the streets failed, undoubtedly due to the leadership's opposition to it.

More tellingly, New Business Item 95, passed late in the proceedings by the delegates, assists state affiliates in attracting Race-to-the-Top grant money, apparently contradicting the NEA position laid out in NBI A. NBI A commits the NEA to opposing "federal educational funding through competitive grant models" like that of Race-to-the-Top.

What we need is a national leadership willing to lead by mobilizing the ranks. Instead, once again, I suspect that we are getting fiery rhetoric with no substance. That said, we need to nevertheless influence our state affiliates to organize a Day of Action against Obama's ESEA. But it should be a real Day of Action by marching in the street, not worthless texting or call-ins.

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