Sunday, July 4, 2010

Notes from Camp: July 4

Delegates "Turn Hope into Action"

"Turning Hope into Action" was set months ago as the theme for this year's Representative Assembly. The phrase has a double meaning: "hope," of course, was a theme of the Obama Presidential campaign in 2008, but as the Obama administration approaches its halfway point, running through deliberations this week is a feeling that so far some of the adminstration's actions haven't been the right kind.

Today's Ohio caucus began with the usual Fourth of July sights: delegates in patriotic-themed hats, glasses, vests, pants, and jewelry in honor of the Independence Day Holiday.

The pace of caucus activity picked up a great deal today, as Ohio delegates continued recommending positions on New Business Items. Ohio delegates today got through NBIs up to NBI 36: forty New Business Items including the four lettered NBIs submitted by the Board of Directors.

Once at the RA, delegates began going through the New Business Items, of which 52 had been submitted before the day began.

Delegates had already passed NBI A (mentioned in yesterday's post), which was a pretty strong criticism of some characteristics of the Race to the Top, and NBI B, which set forth some expectations for repairing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

However, delegates fiercely debated NBI 2, which goes somewhat further. The entire text: "While the National Education Association Representative Assembly supports and appreciates the significant increase in federal funding for education, the NEA takes a position of no confidence in the US Department of Education's Race to the Top competitive grant policies and guidelines, the use of competitive grant policies and guidelines as a basis for the reauthorization of ESEA, and similar initiatives and policies that undermine public education." Some delegates argued that this is an intemperate position that doesn't reflect political realities, while others argued that members' loss of confidence in the Department of Education is hard to deny. Even in the depths of the Bush administration, NEA never took a no-confidence vote on the Department of Education; opponents of NBI 2 argued that our enemies would seize on this statement to attack the Obama administration on education issues.

In the end, NBI 2 passed. While the margin wasn't close enough to require a counted vote, it was still pretty narrow: I'd estimate the margin to be no greater than 55%-45%.

Still, delegates turned down some more action-oriented proposals. Delegates defeated NBI 12, which called for a "national day of action to protect and improve public education," and the NBI 17, which called for NEA to "organize an educators march on Washington, D.C. to highlight the frustration surrounding NCLB, ESEA Reauthorization, Race to the Top, and the constant anti-teacher rhetoric in the name of public education reform."

Evening saw NEOEA delegates headed to Mulate's for a Cajun dinner and, in many cases, from there to the Riverwalk for fireworks over the Mississippi.

Two days of the RA down, and two more to go!


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