Teachers Should Know Better – NEA Presidential Endorsements

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Teachers should be familiar with how the National Education Association (NEA) uses dues money to endorse presidential candidates and supports them monetarily. Especially those who are forced to support the NEA.  Mike Antonucci has the story in the74million.org.

The officers and elected representatives of the National Education Association are rarely at odds with one another on major issues. A conspicuous exception to the rule has been the recommendation of candidates for president of the United States and the union’s process for making that choice.

The 2016 primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was the source of much internal anguish, prompting groups of NEA activists to propose sweeping changes to how the union makes its recommendations. The common element of these plans was to open up the endorsement process to larger groups of members. But it has been an uphill fight, and next month will determine whether the rank and file will get an increased say, or if the top echelon of NEA leaders maintains its hold.

The current system goes like this: NEA sends questionnaires to all announced candidates. The NEA president interviews all candidates who complete it. The NEA president then makes a recommendation to the union’s Political Action Committee Council, which consists of representatives from each state affiliate and internal caucus. If a majority concurs, the recommendation is presented to the NEA board of directors for a vote. A majority of at least 58 percent is needed from the board.

In a primary, that’s where the process ends. The chosen candidate can now receive funding and other resources from the union. In the general election, NEA’s annual representative assembly, comprising some 7,000 delegates, must also concur.

As you can see, the NEA president has an awful lot of control over the process. No one can be endorsed except the candidate he or she chooses.

NEA didn’t want a repeat in 2016, so it greased the wheels for Hillary Clinton. The Wikileaks release of hacked emails to and from John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, demonstrated that the union’s leaders were coordinating their endorsement strategy for Clinton even before sending out questionnaires.

Had Clinton become president, all this would have dissipated. They proposed two measures at the 2017 NEA Representative Assembly.

Opponents of the status quo have one last Hail Mary to throw. They proposed a constitutional amendment that will be voted on by NEA delegates in Minneapolis next month. It adds to the list of functions of the representative assembly that it “recommend, endorse, or actively choose not to recommend or endorse a candidate for president of the United States during both the primary and general election process.”

After the November 2016 election, I wrote:

“With the same people making the decisions, and the ability to amass vast war chests of political cash without organized opposition, there is no reason to expect the teachers unions to change course. Once the pain of this election subsides and they run up against the imperative of preparing for the next cycle, union officers will ultimately determine that they need to do the same thing as before, just on a larger scale.”