Federal Politics

Published — July 6, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

GOP teachers balk at Obama-centric NEA convention

Introduction

WASHINGTON (AP) — It had all the trappings of a re-election rally: thousands packing a convention center, Barack Obama T-shirts, videos celebrating the health care law, and a wall-size banner with encouraging messages to the incumbent president.

“You are our knight in shining armor — Sarah C., Norman, Okla.,” read one inscription.

But this Obama love fest in Washington was not a campaign event. The nearly 9,000 gathered were teachers in town for the National Education Association’s weeklong annual convention.

For the Republican teachers in attendance, the digs at their political views were impossible to overlook.

“What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama,” said Maureen van Wagner, a special education teacher from Anchorage, Alaska.

In interviews with The Associated Press, roughly a dozen teachers who identified themselves as Republicans said they felt pressure from union leaders and the rank-and-file to support Obama’s re-election — and felt marginalized when they wouldn’t. Some interviewed said they were so worried about retribution from their colleagues that they wouldn’t provide their names for publication.

National unions such as the NEA — it’s the largest teachers union in the U.S. — have long been stalwart supporters of Democratic candidates, and to be effective, they must speak with a unified voice. But teachers, like other professional groups, are not monolithic in their political views, prompting inevitable tensions when the union mobilizes its political machine.

NEA leaders have been urging members to hold house parties to educate their friends about why Obama, who addressed the convention Thursday by telephone to thank teachers for their support, deserves a second term. So it wasn’t really a surprise that the union showed its support for Obama so overtly at the convention. After all, 72 percent of delegates at last year’s NEA convention voted to endorse Obama for re-election — the earliest the group has ever endorsed in a presidential election cycle.

But what did take Republican teachers off guard was the criticism they received for expressing support for Mitt Romney.

A Republican teacher speaking at the convention was booed for doing just that. The incident prompted NEA President Dennis Van Roekel to intervene, saying that everyone had the right to speak. And when the union invited delegates to the Democratic National Convention in September to a special meeting, no such invitations went out to delegates to the GOP convention until a Republican teacher complained to Van Roekel — an error the union said resulted from a missed newsletter deadline.

Then there were the T-shirts. Some Republicans said they were presented with NEA T-shirts featuring Obama’s name — and that it felt like being forced to choose between their profession and their politics.

“I’m not here representing myself, I’m here representing other teachers,” said Chris Cvijetic, a first-grade teacher and Republican from Palm Springs, Calif. “That’s the only way I can get through the day.”

NEA officials said the union, which has never endorsed a Republican for president, makes every effort to ensure all its members feel welcome. The union holds a Republican Leadership Conference the same week as the annual convention. Union dues are kept separate from the NEA’s political action committee, which spends donated funds to promote candidates such as Obama. And the NEA has endorsed GOP candidates who are pro-public education.

Despite the complaints, the NEA has no plans to shy away from a full embrace of what Mary Kusler, the union’s director of government relations, called “the incredible legacy and vision of this current administration.”

That’s not stopping NEA members who disagree with Obama from making their voices heard.

In the convention center’s basement-level expo center, squeezed in between the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teacher’s caucus and a stall selling designer handbags of questionable authenticity, sat a small, two-person table for the NEA’s Republican Educators Caucus. The group has about 160 members, although it has seen its ranks grow in recent years, said Davina Keiser, the caucus chairwoman.

“For Republican teachers, it’s almost like we’re stepchildren in NEA, and then in the Republican Party we’re also stepchildren, because we’re public schoolteachers, and that’s not part of their focus,” said Keiser, who teaches high school math in Long Beach, Calif.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
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J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.