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Delegates Split on Private School Workers

An interesting point came up in the afternoon when the RA took up a bylaw amendment that would open up membership of the national NEA to employees of private preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools.

The issue was hotly debated. "If we approve this amendment, our vision will be blurred and our passion will fade," warned one delegate.

Yet another warned of a division among members—those belonging to the public schools and those from the private.

There were questions about the possibility that such a move could open the door to religion entering public schools—private schools include both the secular and the religious.

Many others, however, spoke out in support of the amendment, such as a teacher who reminisced about a friend she grew up with. Both she and her friend dreamed of becoming teachers. The friend now teaches at a private school but possesses the same values as all public school teachers, the delegate argued.

The union leadership, meanwhile, is pushing hard for the amendment: After all, it would mean thousands more potential members for the NEA.

"If not the NEA, it will be the SEIU, the AFSCME, or the AFT," warned NEA legal counsel Bob Chanin. "These people need union representation."

(SEIU is the Service Employees International Union, and AFSCME is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.)

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