As Democrats continue to fight over who should be their nominee, the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, wants to remind Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that the union's endorsement is still up for grabs.
With that endorsement comes access to the 3.2 million members of the NEA--which is practically an army of volunteers--who could prove crucial in the political ground game.
In a press release issued after Super Tuesday, NEA President Reg Weaver said neither Obama nor Clinton has made the case that would earn them the association's recommendation. "There have been dozens of debates but less than a handful of questions about the future role of the federal government in public education," says Weaver.
He continued: "If they haven't made education a central part of their campaigns, how can we feel confident that they will make education a central part of their administration?"
While education may not be a central part of their campaigns, both Democratic candidates have a pretty detailed list of their education priorities. Clinton would spend $1 billion on high school dropout prevention programs, step up the federal contribution for special education funding, and spend $5 billion in her first year expanding prekindergarten.
Obama would also expand pre-k, implement an aggressive teacher-quality agenda, and refine testing under No Child Left Behind so it better measures individual student progress and other skills, such as college readiness. He's even on video declaring his "openness" to taxpayer-funded vouchers to help parents pay for private-school tuition, one of the NEA's most detested education reform ideas.
The NEA has probably heard enough about the Democrats' education ideas, but is hedging its bets for fear of endorsing a losing candidate. Or maybe the NEA is as divided as the rest of the Democratic Party seems to be.
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