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What to Expect From This Year's NEA Convention

By guest blogger Liana Heitin

If you're a seasoned Teacher Beat reader, you'll know that July marks our annual coverage of the conventions from the national teachers' unions.

First up is the National Education Association's convention, known as the Representative Assembly. This year, the gathering takes place in sunny Denver, starting July 2. (The American Federation of Teachers' convention runs July 11-14 in Los Angeles.)

After six straight years of covering the NEA convention, our resident expert Stephen Sawchuk is handing the reins to me. As a former special education teacher, Teach For America corps member, and NEA building representative, as well as a previous editor for Education Week Teacher, I'm excited to dive in (with Stephen's guidance from afar, of course).

As anyone who's ever been to the RA—which the union bills as the "largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world"—knows, this is no typical teacher convention. It's loud, boisterious, sometimes process-heavy, often colorful, and at times exciting. For a primer on how it all works—from Robert's Rules of Order to the inevitable confetti angels—check out Stephen's Storify.

So what can we expect to go down at the 2014 RA?

Most importantly, it's an internal election year. That means Dennis Van Roekel, who's served as the NEA president since 2008, will relinquish his seat.

Lily Eskelsen García, current vice president of the 3 million-member organization, is all but guaranteed to be voted in as his successor. García's background—she worked in schools as a "lunch lady" before going to college to study education—is likely to be a theme on election day. And, if we're lucky, there's a chance she'll even break out her guitar and sing.

In addition, I'm expecting to hear some chatter about the Vergara v. California decision, which the NEA has called a "deeply flawed verdict."

And, of course, I'm certain the common core will get plenty of air time on the assembly floor, too. The thing to watch for here is whether delegates will introduce, debate, modify, and/or pass a new business item that alters the union's support for the standards. A full-fledged reversal is probably unlikely, but delegates have certainly had very different experiences with the standards in their states. 

I'll also be reporting back on NEA's membership numbers, which as Stephen noted, have dropped by 230,000 in the last three years.

Stay tuned for the ongoing live coverage through July 5. Remember to use the hashtags #NEARA14 if you're following the news on Twitter, and keep your tips, tweets, photos, comments, and thoughts coming our way, to the handles @LianaHeitin, @Stephen_Sawchuk, and @TeacherBeat.

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