In Partnership with 74

California Teachers Association wields outsized influence over national teacher union policies

Mike Antonucci | July 10, 2018

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The National Education Association held its annual Representative Assembly in Minneapolis 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 2018-19 school year.

Each year the delegates amend NEA’s constitution and by-laws, federal legislative program, resolutions, and policy statements. They also submit new business items, which direct the national union to take specific actions over the coming year. These new business items cover a wide array of issues — some only vaguely related to education and labor.

The California Teachers Association comprises about 12 percent of NEA’s total membership, but CTA delegates were responsible for almost 40 percent of the new business items submitted and 45 percent of those that were approved. Here are just a few of the actions NEA will take in 2018-19 because of CTA ideas:


No. 9: The NEA Representative Assembly directs NEA to support, in ways it finds appropriate and within the budget, the removal of the names of Confederate leaders from public schools.

No. 22: NEA will not accept advertisements from businesses that use profits to privatize public education.

No. 38: NEA will support a strategy of postponing confirmation of a Supreme Court justice until after the midterm election, holding Congress to the same standards set forth by the Senate after the death of Antonin Scalia in 2016.

No. 65: NEA will use existing media to educate members about the perils of co-location of privately managed charter schools and traditional public schools. In states where there are laws that require co-location, NEA will use existing legislative staff to lobby against it.

No. 73: NEA condemns the Supreme Court decision upholding Trump’s Muslim ban and demands its reversal as soon as possible.

No. 120: The NEA Representative Assembly directs NEA to support, in ways it finds appropriate and within the budget, the removal of “R-skins, Braves, Indians, and Warriors” mascots and the imagery associated with each from public schools.


Not all of CTA’s proposals were accepted. Here are a few of the 11 that were voted down by the delegates:

No. 25: NEA will select 10 or more racial and/or class segregated publicly funded public schools at random and petition the IRS to drop these selected segregated public schools from their IRS tax exemption status.

No. 66: Using existing resources, NEA will educate its members about neoliberalism — what it is an what it does. This would include how “neoliberal reforms” have been applied in many countries with disastrous results for working people. In the public education area, neoliberal reforms promote privatization and create a toxic environment.

No. 68: In an alliance with the nurses union and other organizations, NEA will draft a proposal for a universal health care system.

No. 98: NEA will ask delegates not to use automated cashiers or robot ordering stations. These non-human checkouts take jobs away from people. Walmart, Target, Ralphs, Home Depot, Lowes, Albertsons, Vons, etc., all have these non-human checkouts. Additionally, NEA will ask delegates to ask colleagues, friends, and families to do the same.


NEA’s leaders also ruled this item out of order because it directed the union to take an illegal action.

No. 58: NEA will collaborate with local border issues organizers to plan at least one action to shut down an immigration detention center, a Customs and Border Patrol office, or an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office and recruit at least 500 educators (including retired educators) to participate in the action who are willing to be arrested and not bail out of jail for a week.

With all public sector union members now free to drop their membership without paying an agency fee, it will be interesting to see if CTA’s strength within NEA weakens, grows, or remains the same. The outcome will certainly determine the direction of the national union’s policies in the future.

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