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NEA Braves Republicans, but AFT Plays Coy

The NEA has been a rather busy bee at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul even as the AFT, not surprisingly, has chosen to stay far, far away.

Dennis Van Roekel, the spanking-new president of the NEA, was at a Minneapolis jazz club yesterday where several unions led by the NEA were hosting a labor salute to Republican supporters. He spoke with my colleague Mark Walsh, who is covering the Republican convention in the Minnesota capital. Mark writes that 40 NEA members are among the delegates: a fairly sizeable number given that the unions are always perceived as being strongly Democratic-leaning. But the union did give out nearly $72,000 to GOP candidates during this election cycle, which, although less than 10 percent of what they gave the Democrats, is more substantial than the $1,000 that the AFT gave Republicans.

At the convention, John Wilson, the NEA's executive director, today moderated a "dialogue on policies and practices that would make 21st-century skills a centerpiece of public education."

The AFT, meanwhile, has no presence at all at the convention. A spokeswoman said the union does have Republicans among its 1.4 million members, but the national union is focusing its energy and resources on the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, who the union's membership and leaders endorsed in July.

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