Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Notes from Camp: July 6

Delegates Finish Packed Agenda

Ohio's 332 tired delegates met at 7:00 for their last caucus of this Representative Assembly. They actually managed to finish considering positions on all New Business Items presented to the RA. The caucus ended with congratulations and thanks to the many delegates who had worked in significant volunteer positions, and a special thank-you by Lakewood delegate Kim Vivolo to retiring Ohio NEA Director Nanci DiBianca, who was warmly acknowledged by the delegates.

Yesterday's posting mentioned some of the NBIs that dealt with issues only marginally connected--if at all--to education topics. Today brought discussion of another, NBI 55, from a Florida delegate, which would have had NEA "support state affiliates' efforts to pass state legislation banning the use of hand-held call phones while operating a motor vehicle." And, with a modification, this one passed.

After the first 90 minutes of new business consideration, delegates honored NEA's 2010 Friend of Education, Diane Ravitch. The education historian, who served as Secretary of Education under President George Bush (41) and continued to influence federal education policy under President Bill Clinton, was a strong proponent in the nineties of school choice, high-stakes testing, and institutional reforms. In 2010, Ravitch published The Death and Life of the Great American School System, in which she explains how she came to realize that these three items were actually damaging American public education.

In her acceptance speech, she emphasized the importance of teachers defending their profession: "You know, a lot of teachers don’t pay attention to the national scene. They are busy teaching kids. They don’t pay attention to what’s happening in Washington. But when the Central Falls staff, the entire staff, was fired without a single teacher having an evaluation, the message went out that there is a new game of punishing teachers. And the message also went out when this was endorsed by Secretary Duncan and then reaffirmed by President Obama. This is not a good message."

Ravitch blasted high-stakes testing, saying it might lead to higher test scores but not to real learning. She attacked merit pay because it undermines team work and has no support in education research. She warned that public school choice and more charter schools could split the public school system into one system for haves and one for have-nots, because many charter schools skim the best students.

To these comments, she added remarks about the value of teacher unions: "Teachers have a right to a collective voice in the political process. It’s the American way. I don’t see the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or the pundits complaining about the charter school lobby. I don’t see them complaining about the investment bankers lobby, or any other group that speaks on behalf of its members. Only teachers’ unions are demonized these days."

After Ravitch's speech, it was time for more New Business, then a brief break, and then still more New Business. By comparison with the amount of time spent on NBIs, the Legislative Policies, Resolutions, and amendments to the organization's Constitution and Bylaws, delegates took only a few minutes to approve the organization's strategic plan and budget, and by that time the RA was almost concluded.

After a few more traditional events, including a "welcome" video about Chicago, the site of next year's RA, and acceptance speeches from officers elected at the RA, it was time for the RA to conclude. This year's RA was officially adjourned at 7:24 PM.

A few numbers:

  • Of NEOEA's 192 locals, 42 sent delegates to the RA (22%).
  • Those locals include 12,970 of NEOEA's 33,275 members (39%).


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