NEA Disapproves of and Supports Obama

Anyone who keeps abreast of education issues knows that teachers are not particularly enamored with President Obama’s education reform: Race to the Top (RI Ed. Commissioner Deborah Gist certainly takes heat for her local championing of this national policy), school turnaround models (think Central Falls) or expanding charter schools are just a few policies that rank-and-file teachers regularly castigate in comments sections at various blogs (education or political) or newspapers, for instance.
That’s why it was no surprise when, in a recent address to the national convention of the NEA, Vice-President Biden was greeted with loud applause when he stated that, according to the AP, “there’s widespread unhappiness among teachers for the Obama administration’s education policies.”
That’s the same AP story explaining that the NEA has already endorsed President Obama for re-election. (No word yet if the RI tactic–tacitly endorsed by the silence from NEARI leadership–of having six-figure union leaders harass and bully* political opponents will be part of the national effort of the NEA).
I suppose the argument is that the NEA has no where else to go, right? It’s too bad the rank and file have put themselves in the position of removing half of the electorate from political consideration. You’d think an organization composed of people who deal with all types of kids and their parents would be a little less inclined to have such an attitude. Maybe be a little more open minded. After all, conservatives are generally the ones who support more local control for education (instead of the imposition of, we’re oft told by teachers, unrealistic, idealistic education mandates from above). Federal guidelines are inherently less flexible than those controlled locally. Local entities can more easily put pressure on local politicians and bureaucrats to effect change (for good or ill), whether that pressure is applied regarding teacher pay and benefits or the more important education quality and student-centric issues.
But it’s pretty obvious that pedagogy and policy really are second-tier concerns. Actions indicate that the real concern of the rank and file–as the binding arbitration legislation shows and no matter the “for the children” gloss that is put out–is pay and benefits (not surprising nor meant to be damning–we all have our fiscal self-interests). I guess the NEA leadership is banking that the Democratic Party still provides the best chance for being “taken care of” as far as monetary compensation while “job quality” issues (ie; federal mandates and student-centric reform) take a back seat. The lack of dissent amongst the rank and file regarding the Obama endorsement indicates the NEA leaders’ political calculations are correct.
*Incidentally, remember the big anti-bullying push in schools this year? Glad NEARI is setting an example.

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