NEA Obama Rally Takes a Swipe at Romney

Back to August 2012 Ed Reporter

NEA Obama Rally Takes a Swipe at Romney

The National Education Association’s Representative Assembly took place July 1-5 in Washington, D.C. this year. The union’s 9,000 delegates spent the week discussing new resolutions, like the push to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the passage of a federal statute to protect “sexual orientation” rights, and the “confirmation of Supreme Court Justices and federal judges who support civil rights.”

They also spent a lot of time and energy discussing ways that individual members could work to support President Obama’s re-election campaign. Support for President Obama is lower than you might expect at this event, but that didn’t stop the Democratic Caucus from urging teachers to remember that:

Our thoughts and efforts must be on re-electing President Barack Obama. . . . We must contribute what we can to the Democratic Party and to Democratic candidates. We must volunteer for the campaigns. If we can’t outspend the Republicans, we can out-hustle them.

Last year’s early endorsement of the President’s campaign was approved by 72% of NEA delegates — an historic low for NEA Presidential endorsements. The past year has done little to improve the union’s opinion of the President. reported:

If it seemed like the National Education Association’s advocacy for the re-election of President Obama during last month’s Representative Assembly was a bit forced and anxious, it’s probably because the union’s internal polling shows a genuine lack of enthusiasm for four more years of the current federal education and labor policy . . . the union is worried that even its activists aren’t planning on being very active. Only 10 percent of the rank-and-file and 13 percent of the activists were “very likely” to join Educators for Obama, the NEA PAC volunteer group. Twenty-four percent in each group were “not likely at all” to do so. And even among those likely to join, large percentages wouldn’t talk to the media, recruit others, or volunteer for two hours a month… while a significant majority of NEA members supported the re-election of the President, “they are not energized for the election.”

Neither are the delegates energized for a Republican candidate, however. The organization has never endorsed a Republican for president, and several delegates who said they were Republicans told the Associated Press (AP) they felt marginalized when they wouldn’t support the Obama re-election campaign. Maureen van Wagner, a teacher from Anchorage, Alaska, told the AP, “What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama.” Others spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared the way their colleagues might react if they added their names to their concerns.

NEA members were urged to offer their homes for house parties to encourage their friends to vote for Obama. This was an effective tactic in 2008, and it’s no surprise that NEA leaders were urging their people to use it again.

Some delegates did find the direct anti-Romney sentiments surprising, however. One Republican teacher speaking in support of Mitt Romney was booed off a stage. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel intervened, saying that everyone had the right to speak, but this was not the only incident in which Republicans were ostracized. Some complained that they’d been asked to wear NEA t-shirts emblazoned with Obama’s name, and felt as if they had to choose between their careers and their politics. Chris Cvijetic, a teacher from California, told the AP, “I’m not here representing myself, I’m here representing other teachers. That’s the only way I can get through the day.” Davina Keiser, chairwoman of the NEA’s 160 member Republican Educator Caucus, agreed. “For Republican teachers, its almost like we’re stepchildren in the NEA, and then in the Republican Party we’re also stepchildren, because we’re public schoolteachers, and that’s not part of their focus,” she told the AP.

Vice President Biden addressed the convention, telling delegates:

There’s a pretty uniform view held by Mr. Romney and the Republicans in the majority in Congress today — they criticize and they blame you, they make you the fall guy. They should be thinking of ways to make your job easier, not more difficult. Instead they hector, they lecture, and they blame you. I can’t think of a candidate for president who’s ever made such a direct assault on such an honorable profession. . . . You guys — educators, teachers, you are under full blown assault. Romney, Romney, Governor Romney and his allies in the Congress — their plan for public education in America is to let the states use Title I dollars to boost enrollment in private schools. . . . I think we should have just a straight honest-to-God talk about the difference between how President Obama and I view education and how our Republican colleagues today view it . . . this ain’t your father’s Republican party. These guys have a different view of how to move America forward.

President Obama did not attend the convention himself, but he did call in by phone. Education union watchdog Mike Antonucci reported:

The President emphasized the funding for teachers’ jobs in the stimulus bill, and the additional funding in the follow-on “edujobs” bill. He didn’t mention Race to the Top, Arne Duncan, charter schools, performance pay, or really any policy issue. And he took a swipe at Mitt Romney, saying, “My opponent mocks the idea that we need more teachers.” . . . The President signed off with “I’m looking forward to seeing you guys on the campaign trail.” To which NEA president Dennis Van Roekel responded, “We’re behind you all the way.”

The Presidential election was just one of many issues discussed at the convention that had nothing to do with educating students. The union’s Legislative Program included the usual selection of pro-feminist, pro-homosexual decrees, along with anti-parent and anti-school choice measures. Other resolutions passed included a condemnation of home schooling, a call for “plans, activities, and programs for education employees, students, parents/guardians, and the community . . . to identify and eliminate discrimination and stereotyping in all educational settings,” and a resolution on family planning, which “urges the government to give high priority to making available all methods of family planning to women and men unable to take advantage of private facilities.” The association also urged “the implementation of community-operated, school-based family planning clinics that will provide intensive counseling by trained personnel.”

Absent were any resolutions that might actually improve educational outcomes, by lowering spending, restoring parental control, or encouraging local control over educational decisions.

Billions of dollars have been spent in an attempt to raise test scores and to close the gap between students of differing income levels, but these goals have not been achieved. The NEA has made sure of this through their political practices.