Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or treat. Voters to decide which our students and schools are to receive in Election 2008

Obama campaign broadcasts historic prime time infomercial

Sen. Barack Obama's multimillion dollar 30-minute infomercial was simultaneously broadcast on major television networks and cable channels on Wednesday, October 29, a move that many advertising and political experts say has no precedent.

During the 30-minute program, Barack Obama: American Stories, Obama told stories that he said "reflect the state of our union." He spoke on a range of issues that affect all Americans, including education. He said, "I will recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability." He also said, "Just as everyone has a right to an affordable higher education, every American has a right to affordable health care." View the entire program below

Anti-education ballot initiatives must be defeated

NEA members across the country will take to the polls Tuesday to secure key victories against anti-education ballot initiatives in states across the country including:

  • A gag law proposal in South Dakota that would impose tight restrictions and outright bans on lobbying and political contributions by various groups, including NEA.
  • Proposals in Massachusetts and North Dakota that would eliminate or reduce state income taxes. Such reckless proposals would jeopardize vital education programs and public services. In Arizona, voters must reject a proposal requiring that any initiative resulting in a tax or spending increase be approved by a majority of registered voters, not just a majority of voters casting ballots on the initiative.
  • Oregonians must once again reject proposals by prolific initiative author Bill Sizemore. Sizemore proposes banning the use of seniority in teacher pay and hiring, and limiting non-English school instruction to two years. Sizemore also proposes full deduction of federal income taxes on state returns, a measure that will reduce state revenue by some $600 million a year. And for a fourth time, Oregon voters must say no to Sizemore's proposed ban on public employee political contributions through payroll deduction.
  • A high-stakes, high-profile attempt to undermine worker rights in Colorado includes a "right-to-work" measure and two other amendments targeting unions. The amendments would restrict the right of workers to collectively bargain and participate in politics.

"Got Tuition?" working to make college affordable and get young voters to the polls

When Benjamin Redmond heads to the polls on Election Day, like many voters, he plans to vote for the presidential candidate he believes will help him manage his student loan debt. Redmond owes more than $24,000 and is facing a student loan payment that will be more than his car note - $400 a month. Redmond has plenty of company; almost two out of three college students owe an average of more than $19,000 in student loan debt.

But the president isn't the only elected official who makes decisions affecting college affordability. That's why Redmond and young voters like him are challenging their peers to head to the polls and vote their entire ballot.

Redmond joined representatives from "Got Tuition?", Rock the Vote, Campus Progress Action, and the League of Young Voters, to hold a teleconference on October 28 highlighting college affordability, the youth vote and the potential impact of Tuesday's election on these issues. "Got Tuition?" continues to mobilize young voters on campuses across the country and educate them on the importance of voting and participating in the political process. Visit to learn more about the campaign, blog on the subject of college affordability, or learn how to arrange a "Got Tuition?" rally for your school or alma mater.

On the campaign bus with Joe Biden

NEA Executive Committee member Carolyn Crowder took the ride of a lifetime earlier this month when Colorado UniServ Director John Chase got her a seat on the campaign bus of the Democratic candidate for vice president Joe Biden. Crowder attended a campaign event in Greeley, Colo., and rode the bus with Biden and his staff to another event in Denver. Following is Crowder's account of her experience:

"I arrived in Greeley around 10 a.m. and stood in line for four hours with a group of other Obama/Biden supporters waiting for the event to start. I got to know a woman who had been waiting in line since 6:30 a.m. She was married to "Tom the Plumber", a licensed plumber who pays his taxes and is supporting Obama/Biden. Even though we were all tired by the time Biden spoke - no one complained - it was worth the wait.

"After the event, I was ushered backstage where I had my picture taken with Joe Biden. And then, I boarded a bus with Frederico Pena, former Transportation and Energy secretary and former mayor of Denver; Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien of Colorado; and Andy Stern, SEIU's national leader, to accompany Sen. Biden to his next event. The five of us spent nearly an hour discussing campaign strategies and our thoughts about what was going to happen in the final weeks of the campaign. Sen. Biden shared stories about his family, and he even took a call from his son, Beau, who is in boot camp preparing to go to Iraq.

"The bus itself was amazing, and in front of us - all the way to Denver - there was a motorcade of flashing police cars. Behind us was another bus filled with press representatives.

"I will never forget my time on the bus, but the best part about the entire experience came after we arrived at the Denver event. The other bus occupants went on stage to give short speeches prior to Sen. Biden's speech. I was left backstage alone with Joe Biden (not counting the anxious-looking Secret Service agents and campaign aides).

"I went up to the senator and said, 'I want to thank you for doing this. And I'm not talking about the bus ride - that was great - but I really want to thank you for agreeing to run for vice president - we needed you!'

"Sen. Biden looked at me and said, 'I didn't want to do this. But Barack convinced me that he needed me - and that he would use me in a significant way in the campaign and in his administration. And I care too much about what's been happening to our country - to not serve where I'm needed. A lot of people think I did this because of my foreign policy experience. And - I will certainly be giving advice and counsel on that issue. But I want you to know that my main emphasis will be education. I believe that in order to jump-start our economy - to prepare our country for defense - to become competitive with the world - we need to put a bigger emphasis on, and a bigger investment into, public education.' The senator continued, 'I'm talking early childhood education, lowering K–12 class sizes, and investing in the professionals who work in our public schools. We must get teacher pay up to comparable levels with other professions.'

"I told Sen. Biden that other professions with the same higher education preparation requirements currently make 50 percent more than teachers - which is why NEA is involved in a national teacher salary campaign - as well as our campaign to raise education support professionals' salaries to a living wage. Sen. Biden said he agreed that we have to change these low wage statistics for all educators. 'You can tell what a nation's priorities are by looking at their budget - and America's budget has never reflected the priority that we should have regarding public education.' The senator then took hold of both my arms and said, 'If I get to be the vice president of the United States - you won't just have an advocate - you will have a believer!'

"I have never heard a more sincere pledge of support - and as far as believers go, Joe Biden has a true believer in me - I hope he gets the chance fulfill his promise."

The North Star points the way

True to Alaska's state motto, "North to the Future," NEA Alaska Retired member Cheryl Lovegreen is an Association member who is pouring her all into making sure Alaska's future is secure and prosperous. Cheryl Lovegreen and her colleagues are working to contact every education professional and retiree in the state, encouraging them to get out and vote Tuesday.

Lovegreen is a 21-year member of NEA-Alaska, teaching in Anchorage before her recent retirement. She joins retired and/or education support professional members in six targeted states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, Minnesota, and New Hampshire, in a program coordinated by NEA Campaigns and Elections to organize state affiliate members in support of Association- recommended candidates for federal offices.

The NEA-Alaska members' work is part of a larger effort with labor unions under the umbrella of Alaska's AFL-CIO. This coordinated campaign is called "Alaska Labor 2008." It is a groundbreaking move. The goal is to mobilize Alaska's union households—with the potential of reaching nearly 100,000 eligible voters. "This is our first year collaborating with the AFL-CIO, and I think it is going well," Lovegreen said. "We've learned each other's culture and how to complement our work together. As coordinator for all NEA-Alaska campaign volunteers in this election, Lovegreen and her colleagues were responsible for finding members to make phone calls and distribute election information to other union members. "We've had over 3,300 directs contacts," she said. "That doesn't count direct mailings either, which go to most members." Read more about Cheryl Lovegreen at

In these last few days of the campaign, Lovegreen and the other seven member-organizers are working closely with locals on a whirlwind of GOTV activities. Click here to learn more about Labor 2008.

NEA members voting early

Americans across the country are voting early in record numbers this year, and NEA members are joining them to cast their votes before Tuesday, November 4. As of October 29, seven of the 11 battleground states were reporting that 10 percent or more of the potential early voters who are NEA members, or their family members, have cast their ballots. Looked at it another way, more than 184,000, or 15 percent, of those nearly 1.6 million potential early voters who are local members, along with their eligible family members, have cast their ballots. This level of activity might raise suspicions and result in questions or challenges to early voters. Some opponents may take inappropriate or illegal actions to steer citizens away from voting opportunities in the next few days. If you experience an act that you'd consider unfriendly toward your efforts to vote leading up to the election or on Election Day, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or click on

Let's not be fooled again

From all indications, there will be record-breaking voter turnout for the 2008 election. However, there are some people in the country who want turnout to be low, not high.

A new report, "Voting in 2008: 10 Swing States," by Common Cause and The Century Foundation, indicates that voting preparedness in 10 swing states shows significant problems. The states are Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia. The report examines problem areas, including voter registration, voter ID, caging and challenges, deceptive practices, provisional ballots, voting machine allocation, poll worker recruitment and training, voter education and student voting rights. For a look at the report and a state-by-state breakdown, go to

We must keep our eyes on the prize—the prize of successfully electing pro-public education officials. If we don't get out the vote, these officials won't get into office. On Election Day, the opposition will work hard to get their folks to the polls. They will know poll locations, opening and closing times, and peak hours. We need to be equally competitive and motivated and organized. Go to NEA's Education Votes for assistance and guidance on helping to get out the vote on Tuesday. Running a get-out-the-vote effort requires a lot of work, but don't worry-you are not alone in attempting this work. There are thousands of busy people just like you who are finding ways to make a difference this year and help elect pro-public education candidates.

The real Halloween horror: John McCain's 'free' market school system

Under John McCain's plan to apply free market theories to public education, teachers, subjects, and school services, all would disappear. Learn more about McCain's plan to deregulate our education system at