Teaching Profession

A Look at NEA’s New Business Items

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 03, 2012 2 min read
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Here at the NEA Representative Assembly, we’re now deep in the weeds of the “new business items” submitted by delegates. These items range from deeply policy-relevant statements on things like parent-trigger legislation, to the discussion of somewhat tangential issues (as I write this, delegates just moved to toss out an item on mortgage modifications).

The majority of the NBIs have been submitted by California’s delegation. This makes some sense when you consider that it takes 50 signatures to get one to the floor of the RA, and that California has the greatest number of delegates to the RA. California’s Oakland educators are traditionally the sponsors of some of the more outré items.

Among other things, the union’s delegates have approved:

• Two items regarding the removal of the entire Miramonte Elementary staff, in Los Angeles, following a sexual-abuse scandal. One called on NEA to investigate this action, and another to write a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan regarding the “mishandling” of it.

• An NBI expressing support for the Chicago Teachers Union, which recently conducted a strike-authorization vote.

One interesting NBI provided a glimpse into the national union’s recent elimination of about a dozen NEA managerial positions. Apparently, the employees holding these jobs were notified about the eliminations by phone. NBI 10 would have required employees in this situation to be notified in person, but the item was ruled out of order.

Finally, there are some upcoming items sure to generate some hot debate. Of greatest interest is NBI 52, which would provide affiliates with tools to “actively combat” the use of Teach For America in district contracts. The rationale says the national organization “undermines public education and our teaching profession.” It also asserts the national organization is a for-profit body, which is factually incorrect; it’s a nonprofit.

A similarly themed NBI passed last year. But according to Intercepts’ Mike Antonucci, few NEA leaders truly share this sentiment. And NEA President Dennis Van Roekel has doggedly tried to patch up the union’s relationship with TFA, going so far as to pen an op-ed with TFA leader Wendy Kopp.

This is a good example of an issue on which rank-and-file educators appear to have a very different opinion from the union’s leaders. It isn’t clear what’s causing the disparity, but it looks like this issue will once again be in the spotlight.

Follow along and view the NBIs here.

Updated, 7/3, 5:26 p.m.: The Representative Assembly just approved, narrowly, a measure to refer a whole whack of new business items to the appropriate NEA committee. The referral means that they’ll be handled internally rather than publicly debated on the convention floor. Among the referred item was NBI 52, which means that NEA has effectively averted more headlines about its difficult relationship with Teach For America. (I am sure that there are some very happy NEA staffers right about now.)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.