Taking it Easy on the 4th

For most Americans, the 4th of July means fireworks, backyard BBQs, and desserts shaped like American flags. For education-y types, it means all these things–and also the NEA’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly, held this year in New Orleans. (The American Federation of Teachers holds their annual convention in Seattle starting July 7).

The NEA meeting has been getting some press for a divide seemingly on display between the union and the Obama administration’s education policies: No major Obama administration officials spoke at the meeting, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s speech strongly criticized the administration’s education approach–going so far as to say Van Roekel and NEA members felt “betrayed,” and on Sunday, the assembly passed a “no confidence” vote on Race to the Top. All against the backdrop of both the upcoming November elections and conflict in Congress over efforts–opposed by an administration SAP and backed by both NEA and AFT–to transfer funding from Obama-supported reform initiatives RTT, TIF, and the federal charter schools program to teacher layoff prevention.

But the story’s actually a bit more complicated than some press accounts suggest: As EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuck notes, the “no confidence” vote passed by only a “razor-thin” margin, and the contingent from Colorado introduced a new business item calling on the NEA to ““offer technical and expert assistance to continue to support state affiliates participating in the Race to the Top process to ensure a positive implementation that protects education employee rights and jobs, guarantees educator and affiliate participation, and promotes the best practices in education to guarantee that all children have access to a great public education.”

Both Sawchuck and long-time teachers union watcher Mike Antonucci are reporting live on the NEA meeting on their respective blogs (Sawchuck will also be in Seattle with AFT later this week–not sure about Antonucci), providing strong reporting–in very different styles and flavors–well worth reading for nuance and details both substantive and silly.

–guestblogger Sara Mead

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