It’s been fascinating to watch what a well-orchestrated, well-directed show these NEA leaders put on. They know how to set the mood.
On Tuesday, after a morning session of “new business items,” the house lights were dimmed, spotlights started dancing across the arena, and the beat of the music started to pound. As if on cue, the audience began to wave preprinted signs, and President Reg Weaver’s voice took on that rhythm of a Southern preacher’s.
The rally and march against California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s education spending plans had begun.
“Promises made, promises not kept,” was Mr. Weaver’s refrain, which he repeated in between the speeches made by state affiliate presidents about the budget shortfalls for schools in their states.
The finale was California Teachers Association President Barbara E. Kerr being embraced and escorted by Mr. Weaver to the podium, where she continued to give the crowd something to scream about.
“The governor borrowed $2 billion from our education budget and now he’s refusing to pay it back,” she said, as delegates streamed toward the stage to drop postcards of support in a mailbox prop. “With the support of 2.7 million NEA members, not even the Terminator is going to survive.”
With that, she took off down the aisle, and was followed by 300 protesters chosen from across the country to walk almost two miles to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Los Angeles office. Apparently, 300 participants were all the city’s permit would allow.
So in exchange for the chance to enjoy L.A.’s sunshine and comfortable temperatures, visiting NEA delegates helped out their California colleagues by hoofing it through downtown.
Apparently, the NEA also plans to dispatch some staff to California—and spend some money—to help fight the governor’s initiative to suspend Proposition 98, which guarantees minimum funding levels for schools, in a special election this November. But Mr. Weaver told a reporter that how much hasn’t been determined yet.
The marchers were expected to deliver resolutions against the governor signed by the 50 state NEA delegations.
John Borgeson, a delegate from New Jersey, told me he was marching “to support the teachers and to support the kids.”
I watched them head north on Figueroa Street, shouting “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho—Schwarzenegger has got to go!”
Drivers in their cars on Pico Boulevard, blocked by police cruisers, began to honk their horns, but I couldn’t tell whether they were doing it in support of the marchers or just because they wanted to get through the intersection.
A version of this news article first appeared in the NEA blog.