Off to Minneapolis: Preparing for the American Federation of Teacher Convention: Will the Bernie and Hillary Supporters Bond?

On Monday the American Federation of Teachers will celebrate its hundredth anniversary at their bi-annual convention, this year in Minneapolis. About 3,000 teachers, school-related personnel and nurses will spend four days setting policy for the national union, listening to a range of speakers and on Monday afternoon meet the “presumptive” Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. (You can watch on the AFT.org website).

National conventions are always fascinating, an opportunity to meet teachers from around the nation. Chicago (CTU-Local 1) has been at war with Rahm Emmanuel, their mayor, with another strike possible in September.  California appears to be making positive changes away from endless testing, or, are they creating a dense accountability system – talking with teacher trade unionists from across the nation is always enlightening.  I will be meeting teacher union guests from other countries. Recently I was speaking with teachers and school leaders from Austria: How do you become a principal in Austria? “You belong to the right political party.” Are teachers involved in hiring staff? (Odd look) “No, neither is the principal, teachers are assigned by the bureaucracy, and have lifetime tenure after a few years.  We needed a history teacher, they sent us a gym teacher, and our system is totally top down.” BTW, Austria scores above average on PISA assessments (See here).

The convention schedule is packed full of meeting – first meeting 7 am Monday morning. The delegates will debate changes to the AFT constitution and bylaws and debate, in committees, ninety-one resolutions submitted from locals around the country. Linda Darling-Hammond will lead a discussion of teacher assessment and the new federal All Students Succeed Act (ESSA) that replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The US Department had just released draft regulations – no question the regulations and the possibilities for innovation pilots will be discussed (See Education Week discussion here)

On the convention floor there are multiple microphones (usually six, seven or eight) scattered around the arena. Any delegate can jump up to a microphone to support, oppose or amend a resolution. The committees, after debating the resolutions, set priorities, the highest priority resolutions must be debated on the floor – there are thirteen committees – the top three priorities must reach the floor.

The Democratic Platform on Education was set last week, the original platform reflected the de-reformers, led by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a coalition led by Bernie supporters and Randi Weingarten made significant changes (Read details here), angering the DFER faction, who are supporters of the Duncan-King policies.

A theme of the convention will be bonding the Hillary and the Bernie acolytes and building a teacher-led Hillary campaign across the nation. Not an easy task since passions were high during the lengthy campaign, considering the Trump alternative, one would hope the Bernie folks will jump on board.

The latest polls, if you have any confidence in polls, predicts a very close election (Read polling results here).

I’ll be blogging from Minneapolis – stay tuned.

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