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Stephen Sawchuk
Confusion at the NEA Over Teach For America

There seems to be an awful lot of confusion among the 9,000 delegates at the
National Education Association's Representative Assembly over how the Teach
For America program works.

The catalyst for this discussion: A new business item that would have directed
the NEA to encourage TFA to increase its corps members' commitment from
two to three years and to require such members to complete a certified
teacher-preparation program.

Nearly 45 minutes of discussion ensued. Some delegates asserted that the
program contained a loan-forgiveness element, and NEA Executive Director
John Wilson had to step up to the microphone to tell them that participating in
TFA has nothing to do with loans.

Other delegates wanted to know the retention rates for corps members after
their two-year commitments were up. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel put the
figure at 33 percent, attributing the figure to TFA founder Wendy Kopp. (Can
someone from TFA let us all know if that's correct?)

Another interesting tidbit: A Delaware delegate said that districts in his state are
laying off teachers and hiring TFAers. I wrote about a similar situation in North
Carolina, but hadn't heard anything about Delaware. Have you?

The item, in any case, failed to pass.
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Rumblings of Discontent in NEA's Georgia Affiliate
Stephen Sawchuck
July 04, 2013

I got to the Representative Assembly a bit early this morning to avoid the coffee
line and was promptly handed a bunch of yellow fliers from some staff from the
Georgia Association of Educators.

"Fair Play!" it reads. "While the [Georgia Staff Organization] staff fights every day
to insure fairness and professionalism for GAE members, the GAE Executive
Director said not for his staff."

Apparently, GAE management and its unionized staff organization cannot reach a
new contract after about a year of bargaining. Sticking points, the staff
organization says, include salary, insurance, and seniority.

It's a good reminder that each NEA affiliate's staff is unionized, putting its
executives in a shoe-on-the-other-foot position when renegotiating staff benefits
and perquisites. Whether you view this as a shining example of the principles of
unionism at work or merely ironic probably depends on where you stand
politically. But it's in any case historically led to a few odd instances of the union
picketing the Union. (NEA National narrowly avoided a similar situation during a
period of reorganization last year.)

And that isn't all the beef out of Georgia. According to the list of upcoming New
Business Items, one apparently submitted by retirees wants the NEA to appoint
an independent investigator "to correct all the injustices and disenfranchisement
incurred to GAE-Retired in Georgia."

(As I publish this,
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel is ruling the Georgia NBI
Out of Order, saying the issues must be handled through the union's constitution
and bylaws).
NEA President

Lily Eskelsen García

Formerly: Dennis Van Roeke
Union Watch--Not all Democrats support
NEA's efforts to avoid effective teacher