Who In The NEA Supports Hillary?
On Oct. 3, the 3 million-strong teachers union known as the National Education Association (NEA) endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. With the American Federation of Teachers endorsement and the NEA endorsement Clinton has almost half of the nation’s union members support, 6 million of about 14.6 million. The NEA decided to support Clinton early in the 2016 election cycle in an attempt to make themselves a competitive political entity leading into the primaries and caucuses; in 2008 the NEA did not endorse a candidate before the primaries and many members thought this limited their influence in the race and policies of the winner.
However, this endorsement has caused uproar from the union’s rank-and-file members who feel it is too early to endorse a candidate and feel that they are not being represented well by their PAC. Clinton’s endorsement came from 75 percent of the NEA’s 175-member board after a closed-door meeting between the board and Clinton herself. In an Oct. 3 press release Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA president, supported the endorsement of Clinton citing her four decades of advocacy and work to benefit education and educators in America. To read the NEA’s press release announcing their support of Clinton click here.
The NEA has an independent website titled Educationvotes.nea.org that serves as a recruitment and engagement tool for education advocates. On this website a more detailed explanation of the NEA’s endorsement process is explained. After reaching out to all candidate’s running for president only the three Democrats, Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, responded. Since the NEA has never endorsed a Republican it is not surprising no Republican wanted to participate. The comment section of this article is enabled and it has just exploded with both support and disdain for the NEA’s decision. The majority of commenters appear to feel disillusioned with the lack of input from union members prior to supporting Clinton; a large portion also seem to be supporting Sanders.
Conveniently located at the bottom of the article is a link to the NEA for Hillary website aptly titled, strongpublicschools.org. This page includes information on becoming a delegate for Clinton, a page to commit to support Clinton, and a page about her policy stances. Under the “get informed” tab on the page is a candidate comparison; Clinton is obviously at the top of the page and below her information is comparable information about 10 Republican candidates. The information included is a short summary of their stances on education policy, education funding, and workers’ right. The issue with this page and information is how much is left out; where are the other candidates? Especially the Democrats, which educators often support; are there such few differences that they don’t deserve a spot on the page or is it simply a move to make Clinton appear to be the only candidate supporting education? In fact the entire website pays no attention to the other Democrat candidates for president and even has candidates that have dropped out of the race listed. Altogether to the politically informed eye the page is pretty standard propaganda, making their candidate look spectacular and presenting others as negatively as possible.
Even though many NEA members are unhappy about the early support for Clinton they do have an opportunity to make their voices heard. July 4 at the annual NEA convention, here members have the opportunity to vote on a candidate to support in the general election. However, at that date the nomination process will be almost complete. The Republican National Convention is being held July 18-21, and the Democratic National Convention July 25-28.
Bruegger is a graduate student in the School of Education pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Studies Education. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Iowa and talks to her two cats way too much. Follow her on Twitter.