Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why I oppose @NEAToday early endorsement of @HillaryClinton

Without unions, workers will lose many of the protections against abusive employers. Wages for all will be depressed, even as corporate profits soar. The American Dream will be destroyed for millions. And we will have a government of the corporations, by the already powerful, for the wealthy.
              ~ Kenneth Bernstein, teacher, author, education activist

Change your social media profile pic if you agree
Teacher, education activist and blogger, Fred Klonsky, posted this yesterday
What has been rumored for several weeks is now pretty much a sure thing. The NEA board of directors are meeting next week and they will go through the motions of taking a vote. But an endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primary race is all but assured. (emphasis mine)
What's particularly troubling is that because this is a primary endorsement, many member voices simply will not be heard in this process. Steven Singer writes:
[S]ince this is only an endorsement for the primary election, the matter would not need to go before the Representative Assembly (RA). In effect, the move could sidestep the voices of the RA’s 8,000 delegates representing state and local affiliates, student members, retired members, and other segments of the united education profession. 
The decision would be made by a handful of leaders and the PAC council. Though there are thousands of PAC council votes, they are distributed by the amount of money raised by each state’s members. This means that little states like Delaware – where members donate greatly – have a larger vote relative to their membership than other states. 
The voices of the great majority of members would be silenced. (more on this below)

Even though I want a woman president, and I know I will see that happen in my lifetime, I don't want a president—man or woman—who does not stand for the views and values of public education as supported by the vast majority of hard-working NEA and AFT members in this country. 

The NEA should not endorse this early in the campaign. AFT did it this past summer and got substandial pushback from its members including a petition calling for a re-call of the endorsement and thousands of angry posts on the association's Facebook page. AFT President Randi Weingarten is good friends with Clinton and sits on the board of Priorities USA, a pro-Hillary super PAC.

Follow the money

If you're reading this post, chances are you've seen this meme floating around social media:

Social media memes say that Clinton’s top 10 donors are mainly "banks, corporations and media," while Bernie Sanders’ top 10 donors are labor unions. This contention fits quite closely with campaign data from the Center for Responsive Politics. However, it’s worth noting that this data refers to cumulative donations as far back as the 1980s, rather than just donations to their current presidential bids. The statement is accurate but needs clarification, so we rate it Mostly True. (emphasis mine)

Donors must disclose their place of employment when making campaign contributions, so it is entirely possible that some of these contributions could be comprised of individual donations from company employees rather than a few large checks from that organization.

According to the most recent report from The Center for Responsive Politics, so far in this election cycle Clinton's campaign has raised over $47.5 million while Sanders has raised almost $16.5 million. This does not include PAC contributions. But while 70% of Sanders' money has come from small, individual contributions, 82% of Clinton's has come from large, individual donors. And that's a big, red flag. Don't forget, President Bill Clinton signed the New Market Tax Credits bill into law that opened the floodgates for hedge fund investment in urban charter schools. And who has lots of money these days and is spending it on education 'reform'? Hedge fund managers, among others. Wall Street money.

Will history repeat itself?

Remember this? Obama vs. Romney in 2012:
NOTE: The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations' PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Look at what that $815K from Microsoft employees has cost us as a nation. I remember sitting on the floor of the 2012 NEA RA and the buzz going around that convention center when, not President Barak Obama, but Vice President Joe Biden addressed the delegation. A lot of people were very angry—but not at Biden. While President Obama did address us via phone, it felt to many of us like he was afraid to face us, and rightly so. While I voted for him twice, the second time I held my nose because he was the lesser of two evils. The Obama-Gates-Duncan education policies have brought US public education to its knees—and I never, ever thought I'd say that about a Democratic president.

President Obama sold public education and our students to the highest bidders: Wall Street, Gates, Pearson, Eli Broad, The Walton Foundation, and everyone else who is profiting in the Gold Rush Education Rush of the 21st Century. We have no proof whatsoever that Clinton—or any of the candidates—will put an end to this madness, so why should we write them a check this early in the game?

See for yourself

Here are the videos of the three Democratic presidential candidates that were shown at the NEA RA in July. Watch for yourself:

Hillary Clinton:

Bernie Sanders:

Martin O'Malley:

There is nothing in Hillary's speech that screams, "We must elect this woman!" Quite frankly, there's nothing in any of the speeches that screams that. And while Sanders' speech isn't as passionate as I've seen him in the past, in Klonsky's post above, he goes on to say this:
In her talks with state union leaders around the country [NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia] has admitted that Bernie Sanders and the NEA are more often in 100% agreement on education issues but that Hillary is more electable. (emphasis mine) 
Do we want to support a candidate that's electable? Of course. No one wants to back a loser. And although my personal position is in support of Sanders, I don't want to see NEA endorse any of them yet. There are too many unknowns. If our national association does not first and foremost support our students, our profession and our public schools, we might just as well line up at the door of the local charter school to apply for a job because pretty soon that's all that will be available. 

We have been playing nice for too long. Public education is being bulldozed into the ground. Democracy is being trampled in the name of 'choice'. Our schools are grossly underfunded; our students over tested; our professionals subjected to McCarthy-era witch hunts; and our neediest, poorest students of color are being segregated in numbers not seen since before the Civil Rights Movement.

Time for action!

It's time our association stood up and carved that canyon in stone. With 'reform'-style politicians on both sides of the aisle screaming for accountability within our ranks, when do we start holding them accountable? You want our money? You want our endoresment? You want our votes? Then prove yourself. Otherwise our association is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and we will be weaker for it.

Anthony Cody writes:
NEA members will be active regardless. If NEA endorses Clinton or any other candidate without an adequate process that actively involves and engages their membership, and without clear answers to the vital questions we have regarding the Department of Education and Democratic party support of corporate reform, then teacher activism will take place outside of the NEA. That will leave the organization weakened, and make the endorsement far less powerful than it could be. An endorsement that is the process of real member participation will then unleash that energy into a grassroots campaign in support of the chosen candidate. A top down endorsement will yield some millions of member dollars, and some union leaders on the podium for photos, but much less in terms of on the ground support. (emphasis mine)
In his open letter to Lily, teacher/blogger Peter Greene posted earlier this morning:
Teachers are tired of having their voices silenced and ignored. We have been silenced and ignored by political leaders, corporate leaders, virtually every big name in the last fifteen years of education reformy fiasco. To ask us to accept the same from our own national union is just too much. The democratic process is under attack in our country; we do not want to see it under attack within our own union. 
It is a mistake on the larger scale as well. The early endorsement is just another attempt to circumvent the democratic process, to say, "Well, it looks like the voters at large might make a choice we don't like, so we are going to take steps to keep that from happening. We can't just be letting the Democratic Party make these choices based on the will of the voter. We need to tip the scale." This does not say, "We have faith in the American voters." It says, "The American voters are boobs, and we need to push them where we want them." 
It won't work. The howls from NEA members will be loud and palpable, and the whole mess will feed the narrative that NEA is NOT the voice of three million teachers, but a group of political operatives who try to harness those voices for their own purposes. 
Democracy is under attack. The voices of ordinary citizens are being ignored and silenced. NEA must not become one more big organization saying, "Some peoples' voices just don't matter." (emphasis mine)

If you agree, and you are a member of an NEA state affiliate, consider changing your social media avatar to the meme above. Then, contact your state affiliate's elected leaders and tell them you do not support this early endorsement; tweet Lily at @Lily_NEA and @NEAToday; share on Facebook and post on the NEA Facebook page; and engage your fellow members to join the chorus of voices rising up to stop this.

Special note

Last week the NJEA PAC Committee took a position of 'no endorsement at this time'. Our members felt there was not a strong enough case for an early endorsement because Clinton has not come out strong against the corporate takeover of public education. Since NJEA is one of the top PAC fundraisers in the NEA, our vote will carry more weight at that meeting next week. 

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