NEA On the Way Out?

As usual, Mike Antonucci’s insight into National Education Association union officials’ mindset is laser-like, and priceless.  Denying membership losses while membership numbers continue to decline, teacher union officials are once again “marching boldly in place,” as he commented years ago.  This time it’s about not using the words “education reform,” and calling for more social justice unionism.  But his concluding words are the most important part of the message, so here they are first.

This is not the first time NEA has sought solutions in public relations, nor will it be the last. The one thing the union never considers is that its stated communications strategy might be working perfectly. Perhaps the public understands exactly what NEA does, what it wants, and what it stands for. Maybe that’s the problem.

The report recommends “education improvement” or “education excellence” instead of “education reform.” And it appears NEA has already put these recommendations into practice. During her “cloven-hoofed minions” speech in Ohio last December, NEA president Lily Eskelsen said, “How are we going to talk about our side? We are not going to use the word ‘reform.’ I used to try. Let’s capture that good word back. I’d say we want whole child reform. What we found out from focus groups and polls, whenever anyone uses the word ‘reform,’ they think something is corrupt and needs to be blown up and start all over again. We know that some of the best schools in the world are our public schools that have sufficient resources to do an amazing job.

There is no need to blow up a public school system. So we are going to talk about getting serious about real education improvements for the whole child.”