(Almost) Live Reporting from the AFT Convention in Los Angeles: Day 2

Teaching can be lonely job, in too many schools teachers spend the entire day with their kids, no collaboration with colleagues and unfortunately have to listen to edicts from supervisors who rarely enter a classroom and rarely have anything encouraging to say.

Entering the convention hall, thousands of teachers (and health professionals), colleagues, enthusiastic, waiting to tell their stories, from every nook and cranny of the nation is enormously invigorating.

The second day of the convention was a combination of speakers and videos and the business of the convention, debating the resolutions sent to the floor from the members of the thirteen committees that reviewed the 91 submitted resolutions. The delegates choose the committee to which they want to be assigned. The committees range from educational issues (the most popular), political issues, human and civil rights, nurses, higher education, international relations and so on. The committee members debate the resolutions, amend if they choose, vote concurrence or non-concurrence and select the top three to be debated in the first round. It is unlikely, due to the number of resolutions that there will be a second round and the resolutions not discussed on the floor will be referred to the Executive Council for action.

Afterwords is a summary of previous day’s proceedings.

The speakers included:

Asean Johnson, an eleven-year student in the Chicago Public School addressed the convention: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS7eUMayPJQ&list=PL-T5PpTCIN8C0OHiI0akloVYQWw1YjXLt&index=2)

Tom Torlakson, the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, addressed the convention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJsyKvtww1s&list=PL-T5PpTCIN8C0OHiI0akloVYQWw1YjXLt&index=8), in California the Superintendent runs for office in November in a state-wide election. Torlakson’s opponent, you guessed it, is a hedge fund gazillionaire with no school experience whatsoever, opposes tenure, supports “choice,” aka the widespread expansion of charters and the entire range of the (de)form agenda, and, has limitless dollars to spend. Troubling.

Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union introduced Tracy Conny, a health aide who spoke about the impact of Harris v Quinn, the Supreme Court decision that may limit the ability of unions to organize some classes of employees. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8EUFLyYV0M&list=PL-T5PpTCIN8C0OHiI0akloVYQWw1YjXLt&index=6)

The business of the convention began: the debates and votes on the constitutional amendments and resolutions.

The process is fascinating: 3,000 delegates, all of whom have the right to walk up to one of the eight microphone stations around the floor. The debate continues, speakers have three minutes; however, there are no limits on the debate time for any resolution. The debate continues until there is either a motion to close debate (requires a 2/3 vote), or, there is no one at a microphone.

On day 2 there was no real opposition to the substance of the resolutions, the room is filled with teachers, there were many motions to changes words or phrases. For many of the speakers the convention is a chance to highlight an issue that is crucial to the local. For example Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), nurses with advanced training, were asking the AFT to support legislation to allow the APRNs to practice independently, not under the direct supervision of doctor, the current practice in 18 states. Another resolution dealt with staffing ratios for nurses explaining how hospital mortality rates are directly related to higher ratios and one resolution dealt with child trafficking and the resolution was asking for training so that teachers and support staff could identify victims in schools.

UUP, the local representing teachers in the New York State University system and PSC, the union representing the City University system introduced a lengthy resolution challenging edTPA, a new test for education majors, which has been adopted in New York State and is in the process of being adopted in many states. The plan is to track kids scores back to the public school teacher back to the college teacher.

I attended a reception for teacher union leaders from many different countries who were attending the convention. Not surprisingly the problems they faced were similar to ours. The major difference is that in other nations have federal systems – we have fifty state systems with a federal overlay. What was especially interesting is the immigration problem – the Turks in Germany, the Balkans moving north searching for jobs, the Muslims fleeing to Europe, the European nations are struggling to deal with the influx of “foreign” children into their schools – and they look to us as an example to offer possible solutions.

This morning the two “hottest’ items will hit the floor. The Executive Council resolution on accountability, which supports standards, and the Common Core, although the lengthy resolution calls for on-going review by classroom teachers and sharply criticizes the associated high-stakes testing regime as well as the lack of district provided teacher preparation and a resolution introduced by the Chicago Teacher Union simply calling for the rejection of the Common Core.

A motion will be introduced from the floor asking for the resignation of Arne Duncan, I believe there will be very little opposition.

In a press conference at the end of day 1 Weingarten was asked about the NEA resolution asking for the resignation of Arne Duncan,

When asked by reporters after the event if she supported the NEA action, she would only say that, “I would hope he listens to what people are saying.” She said that although the leadership would not present a resolution, it could still come from the floor. “I am 1000% percent behind any action that the members at the convention [take] on this issue.”

Off to Day 3 …. passionate debate is always a plus for democratic unionism.

2 responses to “(Almost) Live Reporting from the AFT Convention in Los Angeles: Day 2

  1. Peter:

    How many are really classroom teachers? Or are they like most of the UFT delegates there, ex-educators that haven’t been in a classroom for a decade or more?


  2. chaz’s question is based on an unsupported premise.

    Now retired, for decades I was a full-time classroom teacher, a delegate to the UFT Delegate Assembly, and a convention delegate to AFT and to NYSUT. The vast majority of my fellow delegates were also classroom teachers. For a few years I was a District Representative, but the overwhelming majority of the delegates from my district (and this was true in other districts,) were full time classroom teachers. If chaz really believes the premise of his question he’s just wrong.


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