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Allies Question NEA's Legal Strategy, Prefer a Political One

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As I pointed out earlier this week, the National Education Association is using a tactic from the Republican playbook in its legal fight against NCLB.

Some of its key allies aren't playing along.

The American Federation of Teachers decided to stay on the sidelines when the NEA filed its lawsuit claiming that NCLB is an unfunded mandate.

"We took a different tack," Ed McElroy, the AFT's president, told me this week. "We said: 'Let's try to fix it at the congressional level' because we felt we had a decent shot at doing that." McElroy said he remains confident that he made the correct choice.

And a legal advocate who has dedicated 15 years to winning increased funding for New York schools also questions the strategy. In his blog, EdFunding Matters, Michael Rebell writes that he's concerned that "the kids will lose whatever the outcome." If NEA wins, states and districts may use that as an excuse to cut funding. If it loses, the federal government will be emboldened to set policies from Washington that it won't pay for.

"The best outcome here would be a political solution that forces all concerned finally to focus on the critical cost question that has largely been ignored since NCLB went into effect six years ago," writes Rebell, who worked closely with the New York City teachers union to win a lawsuit that has delivered dramatic increases in funding for the city and across the state.

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It seems to be the strategy of the NEA to charge in like the bull in a china shop, if for no other reason, to let the world know they're there and they're unhappy about something.

On the other hand, the AFT seems more tactful, measured, and professional in their deliberations. Their discretion is almost deafening at times, especially relative to the NEA. They're also more open to change/reform and not threatened by working for the best interest of the students as opposed to being all about their constituents (teachers).

The NEA, if it continues with its current strategies, is rapidly on its way to the dinosaur burial ground. And that might not be a bad thing.

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