House Republicans and the NEA: Unlikely Allies

Yesterday the House ESEA rewrite squeaked through with just enough votes to pass. Yet there was much less debate over an opt-out amendment presented by Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican from Arizona. Surprisingly, Salmon’s amendment looks a great deal like a business item approved at the NEA convention earlier this month.

After some back and forth, the NEA Representative Assembly approved a proposal to support the opt-out movement. But the nation’s largest teachers union didn’t stop there. Another approved business item requires the NEA to highlight what affiliates are doing to inform parents of the “negative effects of testing” and their ability to opt out their children. And there’s yet another approved proposal related to opt-out that requires the union to recognize parents who decide to opt their students out of standardized assessments. If you ever questioned how the NEA feels about the opt-out movement, you now know.

These were just a few of more than 15 anti-testing proposals debated at the 2015 NEA convention. Another directs the union to campaign to end the assessments created by the PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortia, as long as they’re used for teacher evaluation and school ratings. Others have the NEA taking part in everything from lobbying state legislatures to oppose cut scores on Common Core assessments, to providing talking points on the history of standardized testing.

As Stephen Sawchuk pointed out, these NEA proposals are just that, proposals—they direct the union to do something for a year, but aren’t resolutions or longstanding declarations. However, they signal where the union is headed.

In an increasingly partisan world, it’s striking when parties on two separate sides of the aisle agree to buck the federal government and protect the interest of adults.