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Kerry Snubs Teachers


I have composed the following recap of yesterday's events at the NEA Representative Assembly, drawing on my long-ago newspaper journalist skills and relying on several phone
reports from my wife Sylvia, a convention delegate.

Kids come first,
Miles Gullingsrud

* * *

John Kerry disappointed many teachers, and even angered some, by canceling a scheduled speech Tuesday before the huge National Education Association annual convention in Washington, DC.

The excuse given from the podium was that the speech would have conflicted with campaign events linked to that morning's announcement of John Edwards as Kerry's running mate.

There was widespread grumbling among the roughly 10,000 delegates to the what is called the world's largest democratic gathering, known as the NEA Representative Assembly. Delegates are drawn from local teacher union chapters
throughout the country and organized by state teacher associations. Delegates tend to
be more politically informed and active than the colleagues back home whom they represent.

Comments throughout the day at convention venues reflected disappointment and
puzzlement that candidate Kerry apparently did not value the importance of appearing before the year's most significant gathering of professional classroom teachers.

Talk at the convention has centered on the absence of any sort of thorough Kerry platform policy regarding public education, especially in view of widespread dissatisfaction among teachers with the No Child Left Behind
legislation championed by the incumbent Bush Administration, which Kerry seeks to
overturn.

The challenger for months has mostly limited his remarks about NCLB to complaints that Bush has not funded it at promised levels. He has said little about what many teachers see as shortcomings in the legislation -- setting
inflexible standards, demeaning the role of teachers in the classroom, overemphasizing
testing that is not helpful and wastes classroom time and more.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton appeared for a brief speech Tuesday in the spot scheduled for Kerry. She voiced general support for Kerry's campaign and did not touch on education in any substantive way.

It was said that security precautions attendant to Kerry's appearance would have precipitated a three-hour delay in seating delegates that morning.

At the 2000 NEA RA in Los Angeles, Democratic candidate Al Gore, later unsuccessful against Bush, was not scheduled to speak and did not appear.

Delegate comments throughout the convention venue reflected the view that teachers are tired of being taken for granted by Democratic politicians.

This view was especially prevalent among Californians, whose California Teachers Association came to see the administration of the recently recalled Governor Gray Davis as a disappointment.

— Miles Gullingsrud, longtime California teacher


2004-07-07


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