Education Reporter's Notebook

Teachers’ Union Declines to March on Washington

By Vaishali Honawar — July 11, 2006 1 min read
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In his keynote address, Reg Weaver exhorted union delegates to lobby for changes to the No Child Left Behind Act. "We should be the vanguard innovators of education reform," he said.

Delegates gathered here last week for the National Education Association’s annual convention rejected a march on Washington to show the union’s support for two school desegregation cases from Jefferson County, Ky., and Seattle that are now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The march had the support of several delegates, who said they saw attempts to eliminate the school districts’ desegregation policies as threats to Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that overturned racial segregation in public education. (“High Court to Consider Use of Race,” June 14, 2006.)

But the potential price tag of more than $2 million to pull off the demonstration was too expensive to pass muster. Jeff Hubbard, the vice president of the Georgia Association of Educators, called it a “financial and logistical nightmare.”

Members agreed, however, on filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the cases that would clarify the NEA’s position supporting desegregation.

An attempt to establish an “associate” membership category also fell through at the Representative Assembly, with 48 percent favoring the measure.

The new category would have allowed the NEA to admit as members those who are not employed in schools, but are “friends” of education.

NEA General Counsel Robert H.Chanin said the new category would have helped the union raise more money for its political action committees. Under federal election laws, only members can contribute to the PACs.

The delegates also voted against considering a measure that would have condemned the war in Iraq and supported bringing U.S. troops home.

The national debate over immigration found its voice at the convention, with delegates passing a resolution that would protect teachers and school employees from reporting undocumented students to authorities.

Led by the California Teachers Association, the resolution states that the “NEA will work with state affiliates to assure that any immigration process will protect the rights of all students, support a safe environment, and provide an opportunity to learn.”

CTA President Barbara E. Kerr said the resolution reflects the “horror and frustration” caused when the House last year passed a bill that would make it a crime to help immigrants enter or remain in the country. “This is about a quality education for all children, about guaranteeing human rights,” she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2006 edition of Education Week

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