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NEA's Representative Assembly Part Four Mopping Up... The Budget; The Left at and After the RA. Coming: Why are Things as They Are?

Publication Date: 2012-07-11

This article is from Substance, the only education newspaper of the resistance, July 11, 2012. Substance exists only through reader subscriptions.

This is Part 4 of Rich Gibson's coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly.
Go here to see Substance reporter Gibson with the Rouge Forum's award winning Arne Duncan poster during the NEA RA.

by Rich Gibson

This will almost conclude Substance's report on the Representative Assembly of the largest union in the United States, the National Education Association in Washington, D.C. The NEA met from July 1 through July 5, with more than 10,000 delegates among those there. You can read the earlier reports on the first days on this Substance Home Page (July 2012).

We left off with NEA Executive Director John Stocks' wowser of a lecture calling for the oxymoronic dodge to build "Social Justice Patriotism." We closed recognizing the problem of corporate state via NEA's nationalist and opportunistic, narrow, craft unionism. More will come on that below as we pick up the after-RA cheers from parts of America’s imitation Left.

Mopping up as the Train Arrives

"I have a feeling that you're riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don't honestly know what kind...." (Holden Caulfield)

First, some mop-up as the "train, the rush to the finish in the last day of the RA, July 5, roared toward the station:

  • one forlorn NBI ("New Business Item") which was defeated.

  • a few smashed because they were so odious, so divisive, nasty, that a delegate rose to “object to consider,” the chair ruled 2/3s of the delegates hated it, and debate was silenced,

  • and some that will enter the morass of the Executive Committee, “referred,” and languish til next year’s cooked up report that says something was done.

  • NBI 85 lost in part because it was poorly crafted (a spelling error, a non-sentence, etc.) but also, if I read the body's sentiment right, because it came from California. People do get knocked out by some of the proposals from the huge California delegation. I made an effort to ride on other delegations' busses to talk to people from the other states and I know old friends I see or can call from Michigan and Florida. California bugs people.

    Resentment comes from three potential angles: (1) the sheer size of the California delegation when, acting in unison, it has a beefed-up voice in the RA. Representing almost 300,000 members, only the big, merged, NEA-American Federation of Teachers delegation from New York is bigger.

    But, California doesn't always act in unison and, to my knowledge, the powerful caucus system which has so constricted debate in the American Federation of Teachers, to date, doesn't rule in NEA. Members are not whacked into place nor expelled from the caucus for voting wrong.

    (2) California does submit material other delegates call, "weirdo". I like California's environmental rules, its smoking ban so restrictive that it's almost impossible to light up anywhere but in your own john, its vast differences in culture north and south, its accommodations for vegetarians and concerns about the disabled, its support for the LGBTQ world, in sum: its weirdness. I know others do not. Additionally, others do not appreciate the deluge of NBIs that typically pour in from the Golden State.

    (3) An email widely circulated before RA, addressed to Dennis Van Roekel (DVR), said, at bottom, "either you promote opposition to high-stakes exams, and opting out, or else." NEA sees all sorts of that, usually from the wacko right (as always, some possessed soul circulated the RA all day, every day, in a big truck covered with American flags and bunting, demanding an end to "public" education). NEA sloughs that stuff off, but maybe DVR was annoyed. I doubt it.

    Here's NBI 85: "The NEA shall publicize in the NEA Today the states which have 'opt out' provisions and highlight stores of educator parents or guardians who have made this decision for their families."

    Rationale/Background: Many parents and guardians do not know if their state provides them the legal right to opt out of high stakes standardized tests. As more parents and guardians make this decision for their children, it is critical that they are provided with legal options for the state they live in. By highlighting where this is allowed in the U.S. and stories of educators who have made this decision" (sentence ends here).

    It was a "NO!" from the floor and down went 85.

    A feel-good moment -- a Winona, Minnesota teacher who was called up to go to war was docked by his school district, forced to pay for his sub at a reported 12 thousand dollars. Out of solidarity (with the man, I hope not the war, but I am probably wrong) delegates raised $13,600 for him. He got my five bucks and best wishes. It is, after all, possible to have sympathy for the warriors, and hate the war-makers as well as the wars.

    A pair of NBI's came forth from By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) coalition members, one from Tanya Kappner and the other from Mark Airgood. Both suffered resounding defeats in RA (about 90% to less than 10%) elections but, to their credit, they took a shot, got their ideas circulated in print to every delegate, and had a chance to address the entire body.

    BAMN ran and lost. BAMN, a front for the Trotskyist Revolutionary (sic) Workers League (hush, nobody knows), likes to portray itself as THE organization fighting for education as a "civil right." BAMN's often-effective lawyers (one being my own attorney back in the day) file suit on suit in that vein.

    Really, though, are we to take capitalist schooling inside a corporate state as a civil right in which everyone has an interest -- obliterating the core of revolutionary thought, other than revolution itself: class struggle?

    Many cartoonish Left groups believe that people must be walked, baby steps, through one wrong idea to the next, until the light suddenly turns on to a picture of Old Marx himself. It's a pedagogical and practical problem.

    Airgood proposed NBI 65 which calls on NEA to, "reaffirm its support for the Federal Dream Act which includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and will publicize this position through existing media channels in all areas where the NEA is active." 65 was referred to the Executive Committee where it will be a distant memory except as a drum to beat for Obama who, as noted in part 3 of this series, deported more people than any President before him.

    Think twice. The behind-the-scenes revolutionary BAMN wants delegates to back the Dream Act which, admittedly, will solve some citizenship problems for people, but it's also a backdoor draft, designed to supply more cannon fodder for endless warfare. And, where is BAMN's critique of the capitalist state, which Al Szymanski detailed the purposes of government years ago as:

    1. To guarantee the accumulation of capital and profit maximization and make it legitimate.

    2. Preserve, form, and temper, capitalist class rule.

    3. Raise money to fund the state.

    4. Guarantee and regulate the labor force.

    5. Facilitate commerce.

    6. Ensure buying power in the economy.

    7. Directly and indirectly subsidize private corporations.

    8. State sanction of self-regulation of corporations.

    9. Advance the overseas interests of corporations.

    Democracy does not command capital. Democracy submits, atomizes voters to individuals huddled in ballot booths asking capital's favorite question: What about Me?

    A capitalist democracy, in which every aspect of democracy was eradicated in the last decade, is not about to hand out what largesse it has to the poor, ethic, and their language groupings without a quo to go with the quid pro.

    BAMN might want to go back to the books.

    BAMN's Tanya Kappner introduced NBI 75, once again, extraordinarily mild for a radical front group. It too got shuffled away in a referral but is worth a fast critique. BAMN'S lawyers have, in the past, filed a lot of lawsuits backing affirmative action, highlighting their claim to be a civil rights group. That alone made me reconsider affirmative action. Here is NBI 75:

    "Defend K-12 Integration Plans and Affirmative Action in Higher Education: The NEA supports racial integration at all levels of education, including magnet schools and voluntary transportation plans to achieve integration in pre-K through 12, and for affirmative action in higher education. The NEA will investigate writing amicus briefs in support of defending the University of Texas affirmative action plan in Fisher v. University of Texas, and in support of the constitutional challenges to Michigan's and California's bans on affirmative action in higher education. We will publicize this support to NEA members."

    BAMN wants NEA bosses to join Texas bosses to protect minority rights? To beat this dead horse to death -- where is the critique of the capitalist state? Are we to rely on the courts, where the millionaires in black robes sit at the top, the fascistic Supremes, to solve the problem of racism, born in the US along with its twin, capital itself?

    I've been to jail, time and again, for anti-racist, pro-affirmative action demonstrations, building seizures, leafleting, against welfare cuts, and so on. I paid my dues but, over time, was doubtful about the affirmative action side.

    After all, Coleman Young served General Motors, Ford, and other industrialists well, got rich, and helped organize what is now the near-complete destruction of Detroit. Kenneth Gibson (no relation) did the same in Newark. Black cops beat and jail people as much as white cops, prisons are awash with minority guards. Their existence probably tamped down quite a few rebellions.

    Kwame Kilpatrick, recently the completely corrupt (along with his entire family and entourage) was both a victim of racism, and beneficiary of racial nationalism. Indeed, he became the racists' favorite mayor, their proof that black people cannot rule themselves.

    LA's Mayor Villagairosa beats the hell out of the United Teachers of LA. Hell, he used to work for them on staff.

    Then, I ran into Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow. BAMN even lifted her title, used it insistently in their PR work.

    Alexander argues that a new racial caste system is in place in the US, the New Jim Crow, fostered into being through the fabricated drug wars and the incarceration of two million plus people whose rights are stripped from them, who live in a nether world of sub-humanity; tagged to be bagged again.

    She makes a good case that this caste system is made possible, palatable, in part because of an "exemplary" group of people (Obama would be The Big One) who make it; picked off they are propped up in powerful or symbolic positionsâ€"proof that anyone can make it: one of Obamas favorite lies, drilled into school kids everywhere, by NEA's teachers who actually believe it (Alexander,p234).

    NBI 74: (note that in the online "NEA RA Today." report on the NBI's, etc., the text of many items is deletedâ€"nothing remains). Whacked! "Object to Consideration." NEA will have no debate about this obnoxious trick.

    This motion, nationalist to the core but still too much for NEA's third-tier leaders, suggested that the union "should join many other unions, faith, and community organizations, and the US Conference of Mayors to strengthen...national security thru (sic) ending the wars, job creation, expanding social programs, and progressive tax reform."

    Over the top! Submitted by Elise Robillard of OK, and the Peace and Justice caucus, this was too radical by far.

    With more than 700 American military bases scattered around the planet, making the people of the world hate the USA more each day as drones blow up their wedding parties and 18 year old Americans with big guns and Humvees shoot them, rape them, and run them over, NEA, the biggest union in the nation, representing tens of thousands of laid off teachers and support personnel, does not want to discuss the war expenditures and the incompatible possibility that the money being exploded, used for bribes to corrupt dictators, and spent on promoting the drug trade to partially fund these adventures, sucking up about half the US budget, a war program ten times the size of the next ten war makers of the known universe, might be better spent on children, libraries, the sick, elderly, homeless, imprisoned, or even the returned troops care.

    Shut up. We wave our hankies at this disdainful Peace and Justice caper that might embarrass our main dude, Obama, who will save us yet. Silence! Go vote Democrat. WE EDUCATE AMERICA!!!--but not about that.

    "People always clap for the wrong things."-- Holden Caulfield

    I see the fat millionaire Michael Moore countermanded his earlier thin criticism and told you to Obama yourself. You can do it with one hand.

    So will the messianic line-shooter Chris Hedges, as has the leftover Students for a Democratic Society merry-andrew Tom Hayden, and you can bet on the former liberal with a bomb, now grant-sucking liberal, Billy Ayers, who made a life's work out of opposition to mass class conscious movements, replacing them at every turn with ego. Forget the system of capital and imperialism. Fight the haunts! Bad guys are closing in! It's Mitt! Newt!

    Quit thinking about General Petreus, or LIBOR, or Lockheed Martin, repress those poor children in South Africa, America's favorite affirmative action ally, kids dying of starvation, cholera and aids, by the thousands, because the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela got rich and abandoned the unsafe ideaâ€"Equality!--and especially about exploited laborâ€"the heart and mind of capital.

    We aren't exploited. WE EDUCATE AMERICA! We vote! (and we are responsible for much of this).

    Let's leave this mindless RA floor whitewash and get to the budget where, we will remember, Joe, "Blow Me," Biden taught us, in peak yowl, “I SAY SHOW ME WHERE YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY AND I WILL SHOW YOU YOUR VALUES!"

    Bet on that.

    Joe knows. He and Obama breast-fed on nearly a billion dollars in contribution so far. Obama set the pace four years ago when the demagogue rejected public funding and took to the nipples of the rich.

    Or, as Watergate taught every journalist, "follow the money" (just as Monica taught every young lady, "save the dress").

    NEA didn't make that easy this year.

    "Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell."-- (Holden Caulfield)

    Last year, at the 2011 RA, the budget projecting forward to July 2012 and looking back 18 months, was just that: a straightforward, easy to decipher, budget.

    This year, the cut-back budget, a retreat I don't remember happening as far back as 1983, is mixed with NEA's "Strategic Plan."

    There shouldn't be anything wrong with that, indeed, it would make better sense. However, in this case, the facts and figures a member would want are buried in hopeful "strategic plan"(really, it is all tactics, there is no grand strategy, and hence no real strategy, but every union runs like that).

    As I wrote in Part 1 of this series, I do not believe NEA lies about its money and even though every accounting firm in the country bankrupted its reputation in September-November 2008 (and before that Savings and Loan, Enron, and now Barclays), I trust most of the NEA figures, certified by Price Waterhouse are true, or very close to it. The cheating happens between the lines.

    Let us start big, then work our way down.

    -- NEA's Total Budget for 2012-2013 was $346,945,700.

    -- Projected for 2013-14= $338,986,300. (page 59, Strategic Plan and Budgetâ€"SPB).

    -- Down about $8 million. But wait, there is a lot more.

    -- In the Financial Report (FR), distributed to delegates in 2011, the "actual budget" was $352,989,632.

    NEA is big bucks.

    NEA has big obligations. For example the FR shows a retirement obligation of $697,844,057 as of January 2011 (p46).

    NEA is deeply embedded into the capitalist world. The 2011 FR shows $30 million of member money invested in energy, industrial, corporate, financial, IT, and other stocks as well as mutual and money market funds. That's just less than ten percent of the Total Budget and will effect any managers’ thinking, especially when their wages and retirements are in play--as they are.

    Additionally, to function, NEA took a line of credit for "$30 million with Bank of America" in 2011 with a (famous now) Libor interest rate of 1.5%. Big bucks!

    NEA is heavily involved with corporations that many, if not most, members despise: Microsoft, the Gates Foundation, the Pearson Foundation, GE, all backers of the NEA Foundation Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

    The Foundation works counter to most members' goals.

    "The NEA foundation supports educators and unions that hold themselves accountable for student success. The NEA Foundation has invested $9 million to support (that effort) in seven communities..." (SBP p62). "Hold themselves accountable," sooner or later means merit pay. As a rational for this behavior, NEA always says it's important to "have a seat at the table," and allows the rank and file to become lunch.

    When the lamb lies down with the lion, the lamb goes inside the lion. [emphasis added]

    Officers, the Executive Committee, and the Board of Directors are treated well.

    Total expenditures for the Executive Committee for one year are $3,382,359; for the Board of Directors, $3,273,985.

    These people, most of them honest enough in their own eyes, if opportunists, live well on their connections with NEA. They get great expense accounts, perks like travel bags, luggage. They collect airline miles and can often, then, go first class. They take the top rooms in the best hotels--in the case of the Board, the Presidential Suites. Probably no more, or less, promiscuous than NEA RA delegates, they do what they do, but sex has to be recognized as a big part of NEA, and the entire RA, reflecting the repressed, and not successfully repressed, sexuality of all schooling.

    When Democrats come into office, the Department of Labor moves to obscure the salaries of labor bosses, a crumb to the tops rather than given them check-off in every state, the ESEA. Republicans, in turn, highlight those plum paychecks.

    The Department of Labor has, in the past, listed DVR's total paycheck at $465,000 (and, noted earlier, former NEA boss Reg Weaver at $686,949 for his last year in office).

    NEA's SBP of 2012-14, disingenuously shows DVR at $274,878, VP Eskelsen at $241,642, and Secretary Treasurer Pringle at $241,642. Executive Director Stocks' salary is not listed, hidden. I say that's the only thing in this budget that I see as border-line dishonest. (You can find the SBP online atâ€"psych! No you cannot).

    Note, though, in this era of "you must make concessions to save jobs," none of these people took a pay cut and none is proposed for them in the future--these people mainly responsible for losing thousands of members as their Foundation backs up maneuvers that go directly to merit pay.

    A grabber: The 2011 Financial Report, page on page of well-charted numerical details, says Education International (see earlier in this series but read as Central Intelligence Agency, et. al.) was projected to receive $4,941,804 but actually got $5,083,348. That's about a $142,000 surprise bonus. I recognize that this was for EI and "other international organizations and partners." Just who in the hell are these people?

    If, as an aside, we compare the $5 million plus for EI with a line item above, we can see, "increase the capacity of NEA governance, members and staff to advocate for all members through a greater use of campaign tools and resources and partner with affiliates to increase PAC participation," (one of the main things NEA does); that is funded at an actual level of $2,855,258. It's an indicator of what are, or were, NEA's values regarding international work.

    Or perhaps not.

    The 2012-2014 Strategic Plan and Budget, the somewhat muddled follow-up to the Financial Report, Education International exists on but one page (55).

    EI "affiliates and other national teacher unions (being NEA's tops' continuing scheme to link up with the bankrupt and fully corrupt AFL-CIO), global labor federations, and international organizations and networks to advance NEA's brand and influence global education debates that have domestic effects."

    This is budgeted at $1,019,940!

    What? A $4 plus million cut to EI, et al?

    That, I do not believe. EI is not the kind of group you would want to shortchange by 80%.

    So, I think that money is hidden somewhere else and if you can find it, I will send you a postcard with a lovely "The Education Agenda is a War Agenda," graphic on it.

    Well, I do have a notorious NEA "hidden money," trick story. . . .
    For the rest of this report, go to Substance

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