Years ago, when I attended the NEA Annual Meeting as a local delegate, I started a practice of writing “Notes from Camp”: reports back to friends and colleagues who had expressed an interest in keeping up-to-date with events occurring there. I attend now as a staff member and not a local delegate, but the reaction from various associates continues to be positive. So here’s a report on this year’s NEA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Delegates should feel free to add their own comments: there’s a link to allow you to do that.
–Bill Lavezzi, executive director
Ohio delegates held their first caucus in Columbus on June 5, and they held their first caucus in DC yesterday. But yesterday’s caucus wasn’t held under the pressures of a regular caucus: it started at a “leisurely” 7:30, and afterwards delegates were on their own for the rest of the day. (Most went to the Convention Center to register and see the exhibits there.)
The pace changes today. Starting today, we caucus 7:00-9:00 am and then hurry to the Convention Center for the RA to begin: which means that today’s caucus has a far greater sense of urgency.
You can imagine the irritation, therefore, when the sound system showed up DOA and nearly 400 delegates had to wait until hotel personnel got it working. Nonetheless, President Patricia Frost-Brooks called the caucus to order shortly after 7:00.
We heard from some “visitors,” including several candidates for NEA offices and the former president of the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association, who reported on their adventures dealing with Mitt Romney while he was governor. (Evidently his entire term as governor went without any contact between his administration and any education groups: not just MTA, but the administrator and Board groups as well.)
We also elected Ohio’s six members of NEA’s Resolutions Committee. Each of the nine candidates had an opportunity to speak to the Ohio delegates before the voting, which is done by secret ballot. NEOEA had two candidates in the election: Hasheen Wilson of YSU-ACE was elected to the Resolutions Committee, and Teri Mackey of Wadsworth EA was elected as an alternate.
Ohio’s Steering Committee had studied the first few New Business Items (NBIs), and the Ohio delegation spent much of the caucus taking positions on them. (I mention those positions later.)
At 9:00 most folks mobbed the elevators to make one last visit to their rooms before heading to the RA. This is a holiday week, but today was a workday, and the Metro was busy–made somewhat more irritating by escalator problems at some of the stations we use to get to the Convention Center. But a short while afterwards, we arrived at the Convention Center, greeted by deafening music as we entered the hall. The pre-opening atmosphere typically resembles a sporting event or a gigantic party, but it settled down shortly after President Van Roekel called the meeting to order.
A surprising amount of energy at these conventions is devoted to proposed changes in the standing rules. Delegates had already submitted four amendments, and the Ohio delegates had taken positions on those changes back in June.
Standing Rule Amendment (SRA) 1: to require that objections to consideration be accompanied by a written rationale. OEA opposed, and the RA defeated.
SRA 2: to require that the president offer speaker request forms on a motion to refer before taking the vote on the motion. OEA opposed, and the RA defeated.
SRA 3: to require a one-hour break on the second and Third days of the RA. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
SRA 4: to emphasize that adopted NBI texts may be edited to replace K-12 or pre-K-11 with pre-K-graduate school under specific circumstances. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
Next the RA turned to New Business Items (NBIs). Many observers regard the NBIs as the heart of the Representative Assembly. Any delegate can circulate a petition to submit an NBI, and delegates typically deal with scores of NBIs in the course of the four days of the RA. In fact, the standing rules require that each of the eight half-day sessions (except the first) devote at least an hour to consideration of NBIs. The RA’s reputation for hyper-democracy is probably based on the NBIs as much as on anything else.
Lettered NBIs had been submitted previously by the Board of Directors:
NBI A: Leading the professions. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
NBI B: Misuse of standardized tests. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
NBI C: Fighting for economic justice. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
NBI D: Justice for all. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
Numbered NBIs are the ones submitted by delegates. So far only six had been submitted for today’s session.
NBI 1: Arts education. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
NBI 2: Indoor Environmental Quality survey. OEA supported, and the RA adopted.
NBI 3: List of contributors to super PACs. OEA took no position.
NBI 4: Transforming the UniServ program. OEA supported, but the RA defeated.
NBI 5: Winner of NEA Foundation Award to speak to 2013 RA. OEA took no position.