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Antonucci: NEA rejects many California delegation proposals for its national agenda

Mike Antonucci | July 9, 2019

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

The National Education Association held its annual Representative Assembly in Houston last week. Six thousand delegates, representing teachers and education support workers in every state, met to debate and vote on the national union’s budget and agenda for the 2019-20 school year.

The delegation from the California Teachers Association comprises only about 13 percent of the total assembly but is responsible for a disproportionate number of new business items (NBIs) that make it to the convention floor for debate. Of the 160 NBIs submitted, 61 came from California delegates.

A large California delegation with an even larger set of proposals usually results in national policies that mirror the desires of CTA. But this year, the assembly was more likely to reject California measures, as just under half — 46 percent — were passed. Last year, NEA adopted 66 percent of CTA’s offerings.

California delegates saw 28 of their proposals approved by the entire assembly, some of them with far-reaching effects for the national union. Here are just a few:

• NBI 37 calls on NEA to “publicize our vigorous defense of immigrants’ rights: defending the right to asylum, ending the criminalization of border crossings, opposing child separation, the construction of a border wall, and immediately shutting down immigrant concentration camps.”

• NBI 38 requires NEA to “develop a report on the negative effects of charter co-locations on students, particularly students of color, students with disabilities, and public school communities, and publish such reports in the NEA Today, on NEA social media, and all other forms of communication.”

• NBI 52 directs NEA to “expose in existing NEA publications the continued efforts by venture capitalists to privatize substitute teachers and education support professionals by subcontracting these positions through unrepresented ‘gig’ workers, for example, from Swing Education, Inc., EDUStaff LLC, and Kelly Educational Staffing.”

• NBI 56 has the effect of altering decades-long NEA communications strategy on the issue of abortion. The union’s resolutions expressed support for “reproductive freedom,” but the word “abortion” never appeared in NEA policy documents. The final sentence of NBI 56 reads: “The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade.”

The measure doesn’t really signal a change in NEA’s lobbying or legislative efforts, but it will make it more difficult for the union to paper over the issue with prospective members who oppose Roe v. Wade.

Despite these CTA victories, other California proposals went down to defeat. These included directives to:

• Not schedule future conventions in right-to-work states.

• Support the impeachment of Donald Trump.

• Require that all candidates seeking NEA political endorsement “publicly state their opposition to all charter school expansion.”

• “Initiate legal action when necessary against charter schools’ managers and responsible agencies that have participated in acts of corruption, scams, and fraud with public school money.”

• Raise the alarm over the control that Internet companies have “over all citizen’s (sic) personal information, and public students, in particular.”

• “Start a campaign using its logistic resources to counter the dominant ideology that has been enabling corporate reformers to dismantle and privatize our public school system.”

• Promote the creation of a state bank in every state.

• “Support organizing a demonstration at the Iraq embassy and help fund buses to that demonstration to demand that Iraq cease issuing 24-hour travel documents to make the deportation of Iraqi refugees by the Trump administration possible.”

NEA has often struggled over its place in the broader liberal political movement. As you can see, the California delegation wants the national union involved in a wide range of issues, many with no connection to public education. Others complain that NEA has become “The National Everything Association” and is losing its focus.

The tug-of-war will continue. Last year, CTA got 33 of its 50 NBIs approved. This year that fell to 28 of 61, but these reverses are usually temporary. It wouldn’t take much for a surge in the other direction.

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