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AFT 2014 Convention – Saturday

July 13, 2014 pm31 2:12 pm

1. Meet the Press

I spent yesterday mostly in my seat, front row, listening, writing, tweeting.  Odd experience. I tried to find out how to come to the AFT Convention as a non-delegate, a guest, an observer – and I ended up being a “Press” because I blog. But then it turns out I tweet… More yesterday in fact (40ish times) then in any previous month. There’s no depth to tweets, but some instant info. If you are curious: @jd2718x

The press area is two rows in front. There seemed to be more blogger-types than major publication reporters. And there were folks on the edge. In the morning I sat between 2 major reporter/blogger/writers – at least major in my world. Stephen Sawchuk (I should ask if he’s related to Terry) writes for EdWeek. And Jeff Bryant writes for the Education Opportunity Network (looked them up, seems like good guys).

I’m a little surprised by how few “Press” are sitting up front. Maybe there are more hiding in the hall?

2. Visitors

The convention was addressed by a bunch of outsiders. There were three California politicians (not as big as Friday’s Jerry Brown, but…) Tom Torlakson, Congressman Mark Takano, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Takano said he was a Democrat for Public Education. That’s a new group, counter to the anti-public education Democrats for Education Reform, but it’s the first time I’ve heard a politician say he was part of it. Later today Donna Brazile will address the convention specifically on DPE. Garcetti was an iffy speaker – he has a mixed record on education. At one point he flubbed as he tried to blur the lines in the war to preserve public education “We’re all reformers in the room, aren’t we?” he asked, followed by an awkward pause, and then a smattering of weak applause from one section in the hall.

We also had Christine Marinoni, new special advisor for the NYCDoE, and her wife, Cynthia Nixon. That’s the second time I’d seen Nixon live – first time was at Wit a year and half ago. In fact, Nixon read powerfully from a piece by Margaret Edson, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Wit’s playwright.

And then there was Asean Johnson. OK, the kid is photogenic. And a dynamic speaker. And he snuck in an anti-Common Core line. What’s not to like? Here’s a link to a youtube of his talk.

There is a program to “Reconnect McDowell” a poor county in West Virginia, near Logan and Mingo. It’s a hybrid economic/school program. And the AFT is quite involved. But the first outside speaker they brought was a lawyer – not a teacher, not from the county – another lawyer. That’s always a disappointment.

Zakiyah Ansari is always a strong speaker – nothing new here, since I’ve heard her numerous times in New York.

3. Resolutions

No great surprises in this department. A few interesting amendments. Steve Conn from Detroit amended the Immigration Reform reso to include a call to stop deporting children, and to adopt a national Dream Act. An attempt to add controls on handguns failed. And Susan Di Raimo, PSC-CUNY, and a friendly face at Lehman, amended the Reso to end the reliance on adjuncts, to include ending the exploitation of adjuncts. Good point.

I felt proud to have once been a PSC delegate 4 years ago, based on once again a strong intervention. At least 6 PSC speakers raised issues such as the legacy of slavery, the attacks on K-12 being paralleled in post-secondary education, and not accepting simple and wrong anti-worker explanations for the economic crisis. And the Chicago delegation also made its presence felt, even if dynamic President Karen Lewis was limited to a brief set of introductory remarks from the podium. She had a great line “There are thousands of Asean Johnson’s in the Chicago School System, and we are privileged to teach them.” Other CTU speakers were also strong (including on the dramatic decline in the number of Black educators).

Mulgrew spoke about the UFT contract. I’ve already written extensively on that. Here’s one link, but there must be a dozen.

4. Special Orders of Business

There was some action here.

  • Calling on Duncan to resign. On the agenda for today. I expect this to be sharply debated, and pass.
  • Support for striking British Columbia teachers. On the agenda for today.
  • A “Create Economic Opportunity, Reclaim the Promise of America” resolution, that was debated, amended, and passed as the last business item of Saturday.
  • And a “Fighting Back and Fighting Forward” reso for today, about developing a concerted national electoral and activist response, in alliance with others, against the continued anti-worker, anti-union onslaught.

5. Los Angeles

I said I don’t like the city, which wasn’t really fair, because I didn’t give it a much of a chance. And Fred Klonsky mentioned it, and ‘forgave’ me, but I’ll fix this so no forgiveness is necessary. More later….

6. Shifted home base from a northeast neighborhood to a shared hotel room near the conventions center. And saw a great Dodgers game.

7. The hot stuff – Common Core, Duncan – that’s today. Stay tuned.

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