|NUMBER 294||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JULY 2010|
|NEA Delegates Express 'No Confidence' in Race to the Top|
After a protracted and contentious debate, NEA delegates narrowly passed a "no confidence" vote on the Department of Education's Race to the Top (RTT) grant competition guidelines, and on the use of competitive grants in the upcoming Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. The measure was a symbolic swing at the Obama administration's policies, but stopped short of naming or criticizing President Obama, whom the union spent tens of millions of dollars to elect.
Union leaders say competitive grants like RTT "force local and state agencies to compete against each other for precious funding and resources," as compared to grants that disburse funds based on formulas. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel complained that, "We got a system that creates too few winners and far too many losers. Our members feel betrayed, and so do I." The NEA also objects to the RTT emphases on standardized testing, increasing the number of charter schools, and evaluating teachers on student performance.
Phil Rumore, president of the Buffalo, NY affiliate and author of the anti-RTT vote, scored hearty applause when he said that RTT "brutalizes our students with standardized tests, which in my opinion is like giving someone blood tests until they die." Another supporter suggested the initiative is "a gun with bullets in it to take out teachers, public education, and the union itself."
Despite the impassioned rhetoric of delegates who backed the resolution, others were uncomfortable with the measure. Some worried about the political ramifications of such a public censure of the Obama administration. "I'm not sure that's the way we want to go into reauthorization [of ESEA], throwing punches," said one. Another state representative said the vote communicated a message of "disunity" among NEA members because many of union's state and local affiliates are still pursuing RTT funding. (blogs.edweek.org, 7-4-10)