I've been following a Twitter exchange for some time now. Apparently someone who works for NEA wants parents to have non-voting status in NEA, and a few Badass Teachers have actively lobbied against this notion. I'm not sure why.
As a teacher, as chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, and as an NYSUT-NEA member, I've long had non-voting status in NEA. In fact, NEA has just elected a new President who's a strong supporter of Common Core, and no one ever asked me or a single person I represent whether or not we wanted to be represented by a CCSS proponent. I say, if we're not asking teachers what they think, why not follow by not asking parents either?
Parents have as much right to be ignored by union leadership as we do. If NEA and AFT are going to not represent members, can't they also manage to not represent parents? It's pretty clear to me that both parents and teachers in NY State oppose Common Core. As long as leadership doesn't give a crap what teachers think, why not extend public school parents an olive branch by letting them know they don't give a crap what they think either?
I've been teaching for almost 30 years, and I say there's no reason to be overly possessive of our lack of voice in union. Those of us in the United Federation of Teachers know better than anyone what it is to have no voice, so I feel particularly qualified to opine on this. In fact, every single representative we have in NYSUT, NEA, and AFT has signed a loyalty oath to represent leadership rather than rank and file, so it doesn't matter at all what members think. Our reps will do as they're told.
To make sure they do, we've done away with quaint notions like secret ballots. Anyone who raises their hand or fills out a ballot knows that leadership can check to make sure they voted the right way, and anyone who doesn't can be ejected instantly from the elite, invite-only Unity Caucus. This is a time-honored tradition that goes back to Albert Shanker tossing people out for opposing the Vietnam War.
As teachers, we're all about differentiation. We can't just treat everyone in the same way. But I have faith in our leadership. They ignored us when we had reservations about mayoral control. When it proved an unmitigated disaster, they ignored us again and supported it. When Bill Gates asked our help in a VAM experiment with no verifiable basis in objective reality, leadership ignored us and plodded ahead. When VAM became law, leadership ignored the fact that it's junk science and helped write it into both law and contract all over the country. When Common Core came around, despite the fact there was no research to suggest it had any validity, leadership ignored membership and supported it anyway.
Our leadership has considerable experience ignoring membership. Our local leadership, in particular, deserves credit for managing to shut out rank and file almost completely to support pretty much every nonsensical corporate reform notion that's come down the pike. In fact, though we supported mayoral control over Bloomberg, we managed to fail to fight for it when it was stripped for de Blasio's desire to slow down charters.
So I say, with no reservation or hesitation, if parents wish to share our non-voting status in national union, let's not bicker over it. I have no voice whatsoever in UFT, NEA, AFT or NYSUT, and I'm perfectly willing to share that status with parents, or indeed anyone who covets it. And I have faith our leadership, with a little practice, will find a way to ignore them every bit as effectively as they ignore us.
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