Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


NEA, AFT Delegates to Campaign For Obama, Despite Differences

By Alyson Klein — September 04, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Charlotte, N.C.

Unions have always been a huge part of the Democratic get-out-the-vote machine. But will volunteers really knock on doors and make phone calls for the president who pushed teacher evaluation that relies on standardized testing, expanded charter schools, and put in place a school turnaround plan that calls for getting rid of teachers?

Yes, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers leaders and delegates here say. Why? Partly because they think Mitt Romney and the Republicans would be way worse.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said Linda Myers, who recently retired from her role as a campaign consultant for the Michigan Education Association, an NEA affiliate, said of Obama’s education record. “But he’s willing to listen. With our options, he’s the best guy for the job.”

Obama’s embrace of policies like merit pay and teacher evaluation have been a bit of “a problem” in recruiting folks to campaign for him, she admitted. Still, cuts to benefits and pay at the local level, brought on by the GOP in her mind, will get plenty of troops out, she assured me.

And Republicans’ push to dismantle collective-bargaining rights in a number of states (most famously in Wisconsin) are also likely to fire up volunteers.

“Without collective bargaining, the rest of it is mute,” said Melissa Cropper, the president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, an AFT affiliate. “If Romney wins, there won’t be room for discussion at all.”

Jeff Freitas, the secretary-treasurer of the California Federation of Teachers, another AFT affiliate, said he thinks the administration may even be softening a bit on some of its polices. He noted, for instance, that the words “Race to the Top” never appear in the Democratic platform.

“I think they’re moving away from it,” he said. (Politics K-12 readers: Do you agree with that interpretation? Comments section is open.)

At first, he was a little worried that some folks in the union wouldn’t come out to help Obama get re-elected. But now he’s a lot less concerned. People “see the dangers of losing this election,” he told me.

Of course, delegates here also say they’ve found plenty to like in the administration’s agenda, including the fact that Obama poured billions of dollars into education, saving hundreds of thousands of teachers jobs, according to the administration’s estimates.

“I think his heart is definitely in the right place,” said Wanda Clemmons, a special education teacher from Los Angeles. She’s excited to go out and campaign for Obama again. “He’s had a balanced approach on education.”

Not Obama’ Fault?

In fact, some union delegates I talked to don’t seem to blame the president himself for some of the policies closely associated with his administration.

Michael Zagrobelny, a teacher from Pottsdam, N.Y., said he blames “anti-public education groups,” including StudentsFirst, which was started by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, for the proliferation of policies, like merit pay.

I asked Deborah Barnes, a teacher from the North Clackamas district in Oregon and a delegate to the convention, what she thought of Obama’s expansion of charter schools, something the administration encouraged through its Race to the Top competitive-grant program.

He didn’t do that, she told me. That was U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, not Obama. “I think Duncan has his own agenda.”

(Readers: Agree with the idea that you can distinguish Obama and Duncan? Or do you think the president and secretary work together?)

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP