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GOP teachers balk at Obama-centric NEA convention

July 7, 2012

GOP teachers balk at Obama-centric NEA convention

I don’t begrudge anyone their political views, truly…I don’t.  But, I do believe that there ought to be a modicum of common sense to voting these days.  Voting against your own job security, voting against common sense student assessment, voting against the people who support your career and pension security plan…well – all of that is insane to me.

I have worked with a few Republican teachers, and the funny thing is…we get along great.  I am basically fiscally conservative but socially liberal.  Having said that, I could NEVER cast one single ballot for ANYONE in the Republican Right-Wing-Tea-Party-Insanity Party…NEVER.  I could have potentially voted for a sane Republican like George Bush Sr., but that is about it.

If you are a teacher and you are thinking about voting Republican…think about what is on the Republican Agenda: Crushing Teacher Unions, gutting the middle class, increasing testing, pushing for MORE privatization of public schools.  Have you lost your mind!???  Or, if you are a Republican teacher are you just so ideologically clouded that you are confused?  Maybe you watch Fox News all day and you are one of the “low-information” voters who make up their viewership.  My advice…turn off the television…read some news…seek out good sources…follow this blog…I will inform you as much as I can.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It had all the trappings of a re-election rally: thousands packing a convention center, Barack Obama T-shirts, videos celebrating the health care law, and a wall-size banner with encouraging messages to the incumbent president.

“You are our knight in shining armor — Sarah C., Norman, Okla.,” read one inscription.

But this Obama love fest in Washington was not a campaign event. The nearly 9,000 gathered were teachers in town for the National Education Association’s weeklong annual convention.

For the Republican teachers in attendance, the digs at their political views were impossible to overlook.

“What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama,” said Maureen van Wagner, a special education teacher from Anchorage, Alaska.

In interviews with The Associated Press, roughly a dozen teachers who identified themselves as Republicans said they felt pressure from union leaders and the rank-and-file to support Obama’s re-election — and felt marginalized when they wouldn’t. Some interviewed said they were so worried about retribution from their colleagues that they wouldn’t provide their names for publication.

National unions such as the NEA — it’s the largest teachers union in the U.S. — have long been stalwart supporters of Democratic candidates, and to be effective, they must speak with a unified voice. But teachers, like other professional groups, are not monolithic in their political views, prompting inevitable tensions when the union mobilizes its political machine.

NEA leaders have been urging members to hold house parties to educate their friends about why Obama, who addressed the convention Thursday by telephone to thank teachers for their support, deserves a second term. So it wasn’t really a surprise that the union showed its support for Obama so overtly at the convention. After all, 72 percent of delegates at last year’s NEA convention voted to endorse Obama for re-election — the earliest the group has ever endorsed in a presidential election cycle.

But what did take Republican teachers off guard was the criticism they received for expressing support for Mitt Romney.

A Republican teacher speaking at the convention was booed for doing just that. The incident prompted NEA President Dennis Van Roekel to intervene, saying that everyone had the right to speak. And when the union invited delegates to the Democratic National Convention in September to a special meeting, no such invitations went out to delegates to the GOP convention until a Republican teacher complained to Van Roekel — an error the union said resulted from a missed newsletter deadline.

Then there were the T-shirts. Some Republicans said they were presented with NEA T-shirts featuring Obama’s name — and that it felt like being forced to choose between their profession and their politics.

“I’m not here representing myself, I’m here representing other teachers,” said Chris Cvijetic, a first-grade teacher and Republican from Palm Springs, Calif. “That’s the only way I can get through the day.”

NEA officials said the union, which has never endorsed a Republican for president, makes every effort to ensure all its members feel welcome. The union holds a Republican Leadership Conference the same week as the annual convention. Union dues are kept separate from the NEA’s political action committee, which spends donated funds to promote candidates such as Obama. And the NEA has endorsed GOP candidates who are pro-public education.

Despite the complaints, the NEA has no plans to shy away from a full embrace of what Mary Kusler, the union’s director of government relations, called “the incredible legacy and vision of this current administration.”

That’s not stopping NEA members who disagree with Obama from making their voices heard.

In the convention center’s basement-level expo center, squeezed in between the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teacher’s caucus and a stall selling designer handbags of questionable authenticity, sat a small, two-person table for the NEA’s Republican Educators Caucus. The group has about 160 members, although it has seen its ranks grow in recent years, said Davina Keiser, the caucus chairwoman.

“For Republican teachers, it’s almost like we’re stepchildren in NEA, and then in the Republican Party we’re also stepchildren, because we’re public schoolteachers, and that’s not part of their focus,” said Keiser, who teaches high school math in Long Beach, Calif.

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2 Comments
  1. bookquilt permalink

    Teachers who dissent from the pro-Obama view are deserving of courtesy and the time to express their sincerely held beliefs. Knowing how the Republican/Libertarian/Tea Party axis wants to destroy public education, we really have no choice but to vote for Obama. He leaves much to be desired; given the worse option, I will hold my nose and vote for him. I have never failed to vote in an election at any level, will not change that now. And then I will work like hell to dump Arne Duncan in the Potomac!

    • I do agree with you that everyone’s voice should be heard, and I also agree with you and have blogged on the topic of Arne Duncan being a horrendous Education Secretary many times. I feel that Linda Darling-Hammond should have been the choice for Ed Sec., and…yes…there really is NO other option than to vote for Obama, and I would say the entire Democratic ticket beneath him. More Dems need to be elected to state and federal posts, we have seen what happens (Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan) when Republicans gain control of state government…it ISN’T teacher friendly, that is for sure.

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