One of the reasons I am running to be WEA president is to re-position the WEA as a professional, non-partisan organization. We should not be a wing of the Democratic Party. Many of our members are either Republicans, not Democrats, or unaffiliated. We should hold elected officials accountable to our agenda and our core values, regardless of party and not be a sycophant to any politician or political group.
Too often, we demonize those with whom we disagree and lionize those with whom we agree. I frequently receive communications from my UniServ council, WEA and NEA using cartoonish characterizations of usually non-Democratic officials. And occasionally from WEA and often from NEA I am confronted with my state and national organizations taking stands on issues that have nothing to do with public education (such as abortion or immigration policies in other states or solar energy or Geronimo Pratt). This divisive approach needlessly alienates members who, in the unified dues structure, are forced to belong to the regional, state, and national organizations if they want to belong to their local association.
As one example, President Obama was prematurely endorsed before he announced his reelection bid. Last July, he was less than one mile from the Washington, D.C. convention center and chose not to address the NEA-RA--the nation's largest democratic deliberative body and most significant public education organization. NEA president Dennis van Roekel was giddy when he accepted a phone call from the president. van Roekel should instead have held the president accountable for his competitive grant approach (Race to the Top) to funding public education and his continuance of Arne Duncan as education secretary. Had Obama actually shown up to the RA, I would have lustily booed him. Some of his education policies need a good booing.
Our organizations should advance our agendas in serious, consistent, non-lick-spittle and non-partisan ways. We should debate and disagree, organize and engage with all officials who would affect public education.