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Teacher participation at NEA annual meeting continues to fall: report

The National Education Association tweeted on July 3, “Nearly 8,000 delegates from across the country gather to fairly and democratically elect officers, approve resolutions and consider amendments, paving the way forward for our union.”

“That’s making ‘nearly’ do some heavy lifting,” writes Mike Antonucci in his weekly report on teachers unions for The 74, of this year’s annual NEA convention.

He breaks the numbers down:

Delegate attendance at NEA conventions has been falling for years, from a high of almost 10,000 at the 1998 assembly to the low 6,000s more recently. Without the need for travel, out-of-pocket expenses or even a brief absence from home over Independence Day weekend, the time was ripe for attendance to improve. The [online] numbers looked good initially, as 6,702 delegates signed up.

But when opening day arrived, only 5,591 logged on. Even this number was inflated when it came to debating and voting. Most votes totaled in the 4,000 to 4,500 range.

Like last year’s meeting, this one was held digitally. Union democracy does not appear to be thriving in that space.

Laws may play some role in that. Officers cannot be elected in virtual conferences, so those votes have to happen by mail. But the slate of items that members could vote on was also drastically reduced:

Delegates submitted 160 new business items in 2019. It wasn’t surprising that a June 15 deadline this year reduced the number to 66. … Of the 66 items, 11 were ruled out of order or withdrawn. Ten were voted down. A full 22 were referred to an NEA standing committee without a recommendation. That left only 23 that were approved. Of those, nine called on NEA to use its print and social media outlets to publicize something.

The “business item” that has grabbed the most headlines was the one where the NEA “called for a campaign to teach critical race theory in classrooms and oppose efforts to ban it.”

Less noteworthy, but also deemed important by Antonucci were the NEA’s advocacy for “decoupl[ing] student assessment from tracking, promotion/retention and graduation decisions” and one unexpectedly “defeated new business item from an Oregon delegate.”

That item called for a new committee to “make recommendations to the labor movement on what role we should play in putting an end to police unions’ ability to protect violent cops, harmful policing practices and racist policies that too often lead to the terrorizing and deaths of our students and their family members.”

Read the whole article.

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