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Back to March Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 266 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MARCH 2008

AFT Endorses Clinton; NEA Can't Decide
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The nation's two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, provide massive funding and volunteer support to Democratic candidates each election cycle. The AFT endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton last October, and has campaigned aggressively for Clinton in primary contests. The NEA has yet to endorse either Clinton or Obama, although a few state affiliates made their own decisions in advance of their state primaries and caucuses.

The day after Super Tuesday, the NEA issued a press release reminding both Democratic camps that "the most valuable, and perhaps the most important, endorsement remains unclaimed by either Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The 3.2 million-member National Education Association, the nation's largest labor organization as well as the nation's largest professional association, remains on the sidelines."

The NEA complained that education has played only a minor role in the campaign so far. "There have been dozens of debates but less than a handful of questions about the future role of the federal government in public education," said NEA President Reg Weaver. Under the Bush administration, said Weaver, the teachers union and public schools "have been the victims of top down, manage by mandate federal education policy." He called instead for improvements to the No Child Left Behind Act, and implied that large funding increases would be welcome.

Education Week blogger Michele McNeil hazarded a guess that "the NEA has probably heard enough about the Democrats' education ideas, but is hedging its bets for fear of endorsing a losing candidate. Or maybe the NEA is as divided as the rest of the Democratic Party."

Each Democrat has won an endorsement or two from NEA's state affiliates, although most of the state affiliates have remained neutral. NEA-New Hampshire endorsed Clinton, who won that primary. In a surprising move, NEA-New Hampshire also endorsed a Republican, Mike Huckabee. Some states' union leaders endorsed candidates as individuals, speaking for themselves but not for their state union affiliates. Iowa State Education Association president Linda Nelson, for example, endorsed Obama.

The Illinois Education Association endorsed Obama early in December, and actively campaigned for him. AFT members in Illinois also campaigned for Obama, despite the national union's endorsement of Clinton. The national AFT chose to sit out the Illinois primary, saying it did not expect its members in Illinois to defect from their home-state candidate.

The NEA plans to spend $40 million this year on election activities. The AFT will not disclose how much it plans to spend. (Education Week, 1-30-08)


 
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