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What Happens After NEA Approves "New Business" ?

I've gotten a few queries over the last couple days about what happens to all those items and resolutions that the National Education Association passes over the course of its annual convention.

Last year, for instance, the union passed an item that intimated that Teach For America contracts were being used to "bust unions," and another that was basically a laundry list of all the NEA's disappointments with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

As it turns out, the union publishes a report each year about implementation of the previous year's new business, as well as what happened with all those items that got referred to its committees.

Let's take a brief look at a few of them.

• Within weeks of the "we don't like Arne" item passing, NEA renewed efforts to encourage the ED to include teacher perspectives when developing policy. The report takes credit for influencing some new initiatives, such as the proposed RESPECT program for improving teacher professionalism. It's an open question, of course, of how much sway such communications have truly had on the administration.

• The Teach For America item that got so many headlines last year, as Mike Antonucci has already reported, didn't end up having much basis in reality. The union's staff found that "no evidence suggests TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions." It found that most union locals had no issues with TFA in their districts. Only five school districts, the union reported, had a TFA contract where there wasn't a teacher shortage, and only in two instances did an affiliate request that NEA send a letter to the district opposing that practice.

• A remarkable number of initiatives never go anywhere after they are passed or referred. For instance, recommendations on delegate hotel section and internal election voting hours were essentially deemed either too expensive or unfeasible to implement. One particular item stands out. Last year, delegates referred an item calling on the union to boycott products produced by Koch Industries and Georgia Pacific. But the union's executive committee decided to reject the item.

The report also gives a terrific summary of the NEA's lobbying activities on things like last year's congressional attempts to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—in some instance, down to the name of the representatives and senators through whom the union advanced its various tweaks to these proposals. If you're looking for a really nice, clean summary of the NEA's legislative fingerprints, this is the document to read.

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