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NEA Convention 2016: What to Expect

Beginning July 3, we will be bringing you our annual coverage from the National Education Association's annual convention. What's on the table this year? Read on.

A Clinton speech. The apparent Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, is expected to address the NEA at some point. This could be a strictly by-the-numbers speech to a generally supportive audience that she will need to rely on as canvassers during the general election, or it could be the place where she decides to lay out more specifically her plans for K-12 education, which have been in short supply to date.

This doesn't mean that Clinton is going to be well received by all. The union's PAC Committee and board of directors' votes on Clinton were far from unanimous, and there were murmurs of disapproval from Sanders supporters that both the NEA and the AFT endorsed Clinton so early. I wouldn't necessarily expect any open protests, but it is possible we could see a New Business Item seeking to change the endorsement process.

A Push on LGBT issues. The union's major policy statements are expected to include items on supporting LGBT students in the wake of the attack in Orlando, and one from the union's board of directors on the "school to prison pipeline." As with last year's debate on structural racism, it remains unclear what resources the union will put forward to bring these statement out of the clouds and into reality.  

The Friend of Education award. This year, the NEA's Friend of Education Award will go to Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), presumably for their roles in getting the Every Student Succeeds Act to the finish line. Murray is a past recipient of the award from just a few years ago (2013), and she has long enjoyed a close relationship with the union.

But Alexander is a different story. In the 1980s, he waged a long battle with the union's Tennessee affiliate over a career-ladder system he wanted to implement. It left such a sore spot that Alexander brought up the disagreement in the mid-2000s, when the Teacher Incentive Fund, a federal performance pay program, was getting underway. It will be interesting to see if he shows up to collect this thing in person.

(Fun fact: Hillary Clinton won the Friend of Education award in 1999.) 

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