Tag Archives: National Education Association

Hillary Clinton’s Missed Opportunity

Last week, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received an endorsement from the National Education Association. Before that, she met with the NEA’s board of directors, and blogger Mike Antonucci posted Clinton’s responses during the meeting. Clinton talked about ESEA reauthorization, testing, standards, and college affordability. But what Clinton chose not to talk about in a meeting with a room full of teachers is just as instructive as what she did talk about.

Seeking the support of the nation’s largest teachers union would have been a great time for Clinton to discuss her plans for improving the teaching profession, but she declined the opportunity. The closest Clinton got to discussing how she views the profession happened when she touted her New College Compact proposal—a college tuition assistance program. While talking about the proposal, according to Antonucci, Clinton said, “If you do public service, and I consider teaching public service, you will have a lot of debt forgiven depending on how many years you serve as a public school teacher.”

This framing of the teaching profession contrasts with the Obama Administration’s work, which has influenced states and districts, and by extension, the general public, to reconsider teaching as less of a public service and more of a true profession. Through Race to the Top, ESEA waivers, TIF and other programs, the Obama Administration set forth an ambitious path forward to reshape the teaching profession. Under these policies, teachers are held accountable for student achievement and paid handsomely when they lead students to academic success and take on leadership roles that improve overall school performance.

As many districts, big and urban to small and rural, struggle to fill teacher vacancies, treating teaching like a charity role is not the kind of policy that is going to attract and retain the professionals needed in public education. To be sure, Clinton has many more months to unveil her full education policy platform. Her remarks to the NEA’s board of directors were just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully Clinton will not stay silent on pressing teacher policy issues for much longer.

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.