Last Updated:December 1 @ 04:43 pm

GOP teachers balk at Obama-centric NEA convention

By Josh Lederman

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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  1. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    July 6, 2012 @ 8:35 am

    republican teachers are irrelavent because the wont teach the socialist agenda.this is just like 1930′s nazi germany and obama is the furher.

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    • willmc777Comment by willmc777
      July 6, 2012 @ 11:03 am

      most people have no idea that a fundamental shift in the worldview of the vast majority of the Democratic Party has made it possible for this statement to be true. And just like Nazi Germany, we are already able to identify the new public enemies targeted for elimination.

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    • capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
      July 6, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

      yes you are correct,the world view of most americans has shifted.just like the bible says in the end days we mistake evil for good and good for evil.

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    • godsgirlComment by godsgirl
      July 6, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

      It has been my experience that teachers tend to spout their liberal views rather than teach! For the masses, it means liberal drivel, day in and day out. Shameful. No wonder our kids lag in so many educational arenas – brainwashing is just not the same as true instruction. For our family, we chose homeschooling.

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  2. Mick GleasonComment by Mick Gleason
    July 6, 2012 @ 9:50 am

    I’d really like to see some details about “the incredible legacy and vision of this current administration.” I must have missed that memo.

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    • The SentinelComment by The Sentinel
      July 6, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

      It was an “incredible vision”, they have always looked through their belt buckles; obviously, so does the NEA.

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  3. bishacudaComment by bishacuda
    July 6, 2012 @ 10:33 am

    Just went to the NEA’s website. It features all the liberal talking points: Social Justice, the rich not paying their fair share, etc. It is just one more glaring reason why the Federal Government should get out of education. We spend billions of dollars to create mediocre students. I can hardly wait to see what the Fed does with health care.

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    • Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
      July 6, 2012 @ 11:28 am

      What we will have with the socialist healthcare bill is what all socialist countries have, mediocre care by Indian and Pakistani or Bahamian doctors. With those who are ill getting more sick and the death rate for easily curable illness increasing at alarming rates. Do you suppose that the disgusting people who want to reduce the population will be happy once it actually starts? Probably NOT…..don’t imagine it will happen nearly fast enough to suit them!

      Since our borders are now open we have resurgences of diseases which HAD been stamped out in this country. Welcome to the globalists “Utopia”!

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  4. sassy34Comment by sassy34
    July 6, 2012 @ 10:45 am

    As a retired teacher this is one reason I refused to join NEA ,even when it became a requirement for state teacher organization membership. Allow for no individual ideas only mass obediance.

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    • bna42Comment by bna42
      July 6, 2012 @ 11:17 am

      “I refused to join NEA ,even when it became a requirement for state teacher organization membership.”

      Mandatory membership is almost as offensive as a union collecting dues from non-members because a state law allows it.

      Unions have become too powerful, too demanding, and have outlived their usefulness since there are now federal and state laws guaranteeing the basic rights unions fought for such as safe working conditions, shorter work days, better pay, child labor protections, etc.

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  5. SAnnComment by SAnn
    July 6, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    The NEA is the most dangerous Union in the country! Their leaders and the majority of their teachers are socialist who have infiltrated our educational system for years because this is where they have power with instilling their beliefs and teachings into young minds and the majority of those instilled with socialism are now the majority of the teachers and the Republican teachers who manage to have a job are treated the way the socialist treat anyone that does not agree with them. The beginning was when we as Americans did not fight back to stop the removal of Prayer and God from our schools. The U.S. Department of Education should NEVER have happened because it allowed the federal ‘corrupt’ government to control the education of our children.

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  6. shinerbockerComment by shinerbocker
    July 6, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    I live in the very red state of Louisiana. Governor Jindal is making some educational changes and the teacher unions are getting together with the Lug-Nutted, Liberal Loons for, GUESS WHAT? A recall petition. Yes a recall petition for a Governor who was elected with a landslide vote. Good luck with that unions.

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    • prairelivingComment by praireliving
      July 6, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

      Yo’d think the union would have learned something from Wisconsin! Guess even though they are teachers they don’t all learn very quickly.

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    • CarmineComment by Carmine
      July 8, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

      Of course not, praireliving, they are teachers. They do not have to learn.

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  7. jdomke1Comment by jdomke1
    July 6, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    Interesting that two of the three identified Republican teachers were from my state, California… I’m glad to know they are out there… My wife is a CA teacher and proud to be conservative. Many of her fellow teachers share our beliefs but feel pressured by the NEA and CTA to support liberal agendas and the democrat ticket. In the end, the ballot box is private and they vote with their conscious.

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  8. mcoryComment by mcory
    July 6, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    Union should just die. They are just a legal mafia.

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  9. librabobComment by librabob
    July 6, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    It’s frightening that the vast majority of people responsible for educating our youth vigorously support politicians with socialist viewpoints. Because of this indoctrination, America will eventually become a leftist country when the youth of today become the leaders of tomorrow.

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  10. prairelivingComment by praireliving
    July 6, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    I come from a family of educators, my mother was a public school, university and even prison teacher, my sister and brother are teachers in public school systems. Knowing what I do about the strength of the NEA and state teacher unions and the liberal bent of so many in education I made the choice early on to home educate our children. Someone has to educate children who will not have drunk the proverbial kool-aid and grow up to be liberal because they know no other way.

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  11. dwschoComment by dwscho
    July 6, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    It’s very disturbing that so many teachers are so ignorant of the truth, the facts and just plain reality.

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  12. nickster99Comment by nickster99
    July 6, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

    Can anyone say “1984″ People we are living it now! And its only going to get worse! If obummer is re-elected then it is time for REVOLUTION!
    We must grab our guns and bibles!

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  13. nickster99Comment by nickster99
    July 6, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    dwscho You are so right. My sister-n-law is a Junior High School teacher and an obummer lover and a union member! Needless to say we cannot discuss politics at family get-togethers. I love to see her face get all red though. It is hard for me not slip in a few obummer bashes now and then. She has one of those famous German tempers! :0)

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    • MIchael LovetereComment by MIchael Lovetere
      July 6, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

      I know what you are going thru. My brother is a liberal. He is educated but close minded. No matter what facts and logic I use , it’s no use. Liberaals are close minded and would prefer what to think instead of HOW TO THINK…

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    • iamacmanComment by iamacman
      July 10, 2012 @ 3:12 am

      I met this girl recently and we were on our first date, here in California… Turns out she’s a 7th grade history teacher and eventually the dinner talk came around to Obama. “Well, I like President Obama and I like the health care law…”

      Trying to be tactful and not puke up my $30 steak, I said “Yes, but you know, the one big thing I don’t like about the health care law is that it puts our entire health care system under the control of the same federal government that runs DMV, USPS, social security, medicaid and medicare, and we know how much corruption, waste, ineptitude, etc., exists in those out of control bureaucratic nightmares, most of which are on the verge of bankruptcy, right?”

      Her response: “Well, when I have DMV stuff I take it to AAA, and it’s not the government’s fault that people use email nowadays instead of taking letters to the post office.”

      At that point, I just said “Hmmm. You know, I hadn’t thought about it like that. Good point.”

      And resolved to get through the night somehow and never take her out again…

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  14. The SentinelComment by The Sentinel
    July 6, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

    Just watch the movie “Waiting for Superman”; it caused my 41 year-old, learning-disabled son to weep for America’s education system. The unions and tenure must go!

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  15. Bill CoryComment by Bill Cory
    July 6, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    The NEA and its State Chapters is a sham. The entire structure should be abolished, torn down, and never allowed to rise again.

    It is robbing children of a decent education because the teachers themselves have been brainwashed by liberal, progressive fools in colleges and universities. “Sophomores” all.

    If we as a nation have any hope, it must be in our youth; what the NEA steals from us all is the hope for a better future for the nation and her citizens. Get rid of this pack of locusts.

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  16. MIchael LovetereComment by MIchael Lovetere
    July 6, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

    The socialist agenda…Brainwash young people to be robots of dependence…Take over the healthcare system, unions and federal ownership of banks and industry. But do it in a sneaky way so no one notices

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  17. jules91Comment by jules91
    July 6, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    “Union dues are kept separate from Political Action Committee money” – yeah, right!

    My grandmother taught in a one-room school house, my mother taught elementary, my sister and I taught high school, and my other sister teaches at a community college. Thank God I got out!

    Every year the unions took about $500 out of my salary for “fair share” – the mandatory confiscation of union dues from each teachers wages. I told them I did not want to support their political side, so they made me sign a paper saying they couldn’t put any of my money toward their PAC. But the amount was only listed as about $25. Right – $25 out of $500 is all they use for politics?!? What was to keep them from using it all? That one little piece of paper?!?

    Conservative teachers are routinely shunned by their colleagues. If you dare take a stand, look out. You may have your dues forcibly removed from your check, but if you truly need help with a legal or contract issue – forget it!

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