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NEA Takes a Stand on Institutional Racism

Orlando, Fla.

Delegates to the National Education Association's just passed an item directing the union to do more to combat institutional racism. 

The New Business Item, submitted by the union's board of directors, calls on the union to provide technical assistance to affiliates to develop "plans of action," partner on campaigns to fight against racism, and "redirect" resources to support affiliate projects to develop community schools, end the "school to prism pipeline," and support professional development in cultural competence and social justice. 

Probably the most important implication of this item is that it requires the union to "research implications" for the union's 2016-18 budget, possibly a sign that the union will put more cash behind anti-racism initiatives in the future. That matters, because NBIs only last for a year. The budgetary requirement suggests that this one could evolve into a more long-term program. (Behind the scenes, at least, that was one of the selling points this item's proponents were making to the union's state caucuses, which control the voting.)

What's interesting here isn't so much the debate on the item itself, which easily passed by a voice vote. Instead, it's the timing: Until now, the union hadn't really been at the forefront of the discussion over racial inequality in schools. In fact, other groups—such as the EduColor coalition I wrote about not long ago—have taken NEA and the AFT to tasks for not doing more in this area.

Whether this new initiative will amount to a significant change in priorities will be something to watch. 

This item carries a $277,000 price tag.

Some early reaction:


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