California Caucus Says No

As last reported, the idea of a nationwide teachers walkout for full school funding at corporate expense was greeted by passionate cheers on July 2. That was at an NEA forum attended by several hundred delegates just one day before the organization’s four-day Representative Assembly opened in San Diego. And it was after the famous, charismatic, and eloquent author Michael Eric Dyson endorsed the proposal as “beautiful” and the potential impact “extraordinary.” I’m no Michael Eric Dyson.  But maybe a few other factors also account for the very different reception given the idea just down the hall the next morning by most of the nearly 900 delegates in the California Caucus.

First there was the “opposed” position recommended by the California Teachers Association (CTA) leadership, putting this New Business Item (NBI 11) on the defensive right away. The delegation would have to overturn that recommendation in order to support the proposal for a nationwide two-day strike. Second was the $20 million price tag leadership estimated this item would cost; I didn’t want to quibble with that estimate, since the NBI did call for “a massive media campaign” through the months preceding the action. But I did point out that CTA had just spent $10-12 million this spring on a campaign for a very short-term (and short-sighted) fix to the state’s budget problems. The other major objection, though, was that many of our  NEA members live in right-to-work states where striking is illegal. Delegates also pointed out that even in California, locals can only legally strike when their contracts expire and other legal hurdles are cleared.

Debate was short, the vote decisive: the California delegates opposed the proposal for a political strike for full public school funding at corporate expense.

Next: “Educational Transformation, YES! (but…)”

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