Teaching Profession

GOP Notebook: Republican Convention

September 08, 2008 4 min read

NEA Reaches Out to Gop Members

Every four years, it is a surprise to some people that the National Education Association has a presence at the Republican National Convention.

After all, the nation’s largest teachers’ union has never endorsed a Republican candidate for president. This year, the union is again backing the Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

What’s more, the union is a regular punching bag for many Republicans and conservatives.

But the NEA always has members who are delegates at the Republican convention, though far fewer of them than at the Democratic convention.

This year, there are 40 NEA members among the almost 2,400 delegates at the GOP convention. At the Democratic convention, 200 NEA members were among the more than 4,000 delegates.

“We want to encourage our Republican members to be active in their party,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in an interview on Sept. 1, his first day as the top officer of the 3.2 million-member union.

At a downtown jazz club, the NEA and other unions threw a party for their members who are GOP delegates and other Republicans who support unions.

Days before the start of the convention last week, the NEA invited about 200 of its Republican members—four from every state—to a conference in Minneapolis to train them in political activism.

One of the participants in the leadership conference was Jerome Hoynes, a social studies teacher at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Ill. At the labor luncheon, he was wearing an “I am the NEA” button.

“I am proud to be an NEA member, proud to be a teacher, and proud to be a Republican,” said Mr. Hoynes, who is not a convention delegate but said he would be an elector for Sen. John McCain should the Republican win Illinois in November.

Mr. Hoynes said he will vote for Mr. McCain because of the Arizona senator’s “lifelong track record” and his status as a war hero. The teacher was less enthusiastic about the nominee’s support for private school vouchers.

“I’m sure that when he’s elected, John McCain will be the type of president who listens to us,” Mr. Hoynes said, meaning NEA members.—Mark Walsh

Gingrich, Sharpton Share Agenda

President Bush isn’t the only Republican who believes in high academic standards and aggressive school accountability. That’s the message that came across at a Sept. 2 event here put on by American Solutions for Winning the Future, a nonprofit organization founded by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich’s group used the issue of global competitiveness to seek support for such policies as alternative systems of teacher pay and rigorous curricula benchmarked against international standards. For education redesign efforts to succeed, they will have to be championed by Republicans, Democrats, and independents, Mr. Gingrich said.

“If you’re going to get this to scale, it’s going to have to be a tripartisan effort,” the former U.S. representative from Georgia said. “What we’re going to have here today is some people you’ve probably traditionally thought of as Democrats and some you’ve probably thought of as Republicans.”

Mr. Gingrich seemed especially pleased to share a stage with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the longtime civil rights activist who co-chairs the Education Equality Project and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. Mr. Gingrich made sure that the two posed for a photo with the other panelists: U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; top McCain education adviser Lisa Graham Keegan; and Democrat Roy Romer, the chairman of Strong American Schools, a Washington-based effort to raise the profile of education in the 2008 race through its campaign known as ED in ’08.

“Most of you didn’t come here so that you could go home and tell your friends how much Al Sharpton impressed you,” Mr. Gingrich joked.

Mr. Sharpton’s speech garnered loud applause from the largely Republican crowd, particularly when he emphasized parental responsibility and took teachers’ unions to task for what he perceives as their failure to embrace accountability. He and other members of the Education Equality Project voiced similar complaints about the unions at an Aug. 24 event before the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“You cannot say schools must be improved, but that we cannot judge the performance of teachers,” Mr. Sharpton said. “We cannot have any sacred cows in the room when our children are behind in math and science.”

In his speech, Mr. Romer subtly urged the conservatives in the Republican Party to embrace the idea that, early in the next administration, state schools chiefs, governors, and members of the administration should sit down together to craft high standards. The former Colorado governor said that presidential candidates are often afraid of talking about education policy because they’re worried about offending proponents of local control.—Alyson Klein

Republicans Say English Should Be ‘Official Language’

While the Republican platform didn’t offer specifics on several education policy issues, it made an unequivocal statement that English should be the “official language” of the United States.

The platform also stressed the need for schools to focus on English for children from immigrant families.

“To ensure that all students will have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ future potential,” it says.

But the teaching of English should go beyond what happens in language arts classrooms, it says.

“It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children,” the platform says. —Mary Ann Zehr From Bethesda, Md.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 2008 edition of Education Week as NEA Reaches Out To GOP Members


School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
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.
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
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
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

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

Teaching Profession Juliana Urtubey, an Elementary Special Educator, Is the 2021 National Teacher of the Year
Known as Ms. Earth for her work with school gardens, Urtubey is a National Board-certified teacher in Las Vegas.
3 min read
Juliana Urtubey
Juliana Urtubey
Courtesy Photo
Teaching Profession 4 Ways Districts Are Giving Teachers More Flexibility in Their Jobs
After a year-plus of pandemic schooling, some experts are seeing momentum for district leaders to reimagine what teaching can look like.
11 min read
Teacher working at home in front of camera.
Teaching Profession Why Teachers Leave—or Don't: A Look at the Numbers
New EdWeek survey results reveal why teachers consider leaving the profession, and how the pandemic has changed their decisionmaking.
6 min read
v40 32 Teacher Retention INTRO DATA
Stephanie Shafer for Education Week<br/>
Teaching Profession We Asked Teachers How They Want to Be Appreciated. Here's What They Said
All they need is respect, independence, a break, and a heartfelt word of thanks after a difficult year.
3 min read
Image shows a teacher in a classroom.