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.

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Political Strike for Equal, Quality Public Schools… A crazy notion?

Michael Eric Dyson speaking 7/2/09

Getting fifty signatures to qualify New Business Item 11 for a vote by the NEA Representative Assembly was slow going at first. (The text of NBI 11, calling for a  48-hour nationwide strike  for full funding of public education at corporate expense, is in the previous post.)

When I passed the form for the NBI down the row at our early-morning meeting of the California delegation, most looked at the proposal and passed it on to the next person. After getting a “critical mass” (20 or so) signatures, mostly by talking with people one-on-one about it, the signatures came much more easily. That was interesting in itself. One reason many people initially dismiss the idea of an unprecedented mass action such as this is the assumption that nobody else will support it, so it seems ridiculous.

In fact, author Michael Eric Dyson pointed precisely to that fear, when I asked what he thought about this proposal.

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From the NEA Representative Assembly – first post

We’re about to begin the third day of the NEA’s Representative Assembly(RA) And meetings for each of the state caucuses began earlier on July 1, so it’s a little late to be putting up Post #1.  I’ve been very busy getting support for a motion —   here called a New Business Item — qualified for consideration by the RA. I’m going to begin catching up by sharing the wording of the NBI as it was first submitted, before a slight modification.  (The thrilling story of the modification will come later.)  The language of the NBI appears first and then the rationale; you’re allowed a maximum of 40 words for the rationale.   Here it is:

NEA will launch a massive media campaign this summer and fall, paving the way for a 48-hour locally-initiated, nationally-coordinated political strike and teach-in at strike schools in January 2010.

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Oakland’s Experience with “School Reform”

Oconnell_Gallo_Local Control
State Supt. hands Oakland "local control" and $80 million debt.

While Real School Reform will take a broad, national view, it will do so with a distinctly local perspective. “Local” means Oakland, California, where I’ve taught high school social studies since 1990 and have been a union activist for most of that time.

So shortly I’ll begin posting as a delegate from the National Education Association’s annual Representative Assembly in San Diego, but first the latest big news from Oakland: our district allegedly regained local control June 28 after six years of state administration.

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