OpinionUnion Report  

Exclusive: National Education Association Cancels July Convention in Boycott over Texas Voting, Abortion, Critical Race Theory Bills

By Mike Antonucci | December 7, 2021

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Thousands of delegates to the National Education Association Representative Assembly will not be meeting in Dallas in July as scheduled, and the reason has nothing to do with COVID-19.

The union took the unprecedented step of canceling its Texas plans due to its displeasure with a series of bills that came out of a special session of the state legislature having to do with voting, abortion and critical race theory, internal NEA sources say. Several state affiliates had threatened not to send their delegates to the convention if it were held in Texas.

One of these was NEA New Hampshire, which boycotted the 2019 assembly that was held in Houston for similar reasons. That year, the controversial Texas legislation concerned what the union saw as discriminatory policies against undocumented immigrants and the LGBTQ community in Houston and the state.

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The NEA Representative Assembly meets for four days once a year to set the national union’s policies and elect officers. Due to COVID, the assembly was held virtually in 2020 and 2021.

Considering the estimated 6,000 delegates involved and hotel rooms needed, it will be difficult to find another venue on such short notice. One source reports that NEA is looking at Chicago and Orlando as possible destinations. If an alternative cannot be found, the 2022 assembly will be held online.

There was no word from NEA or other state affiliates as to whether this action means further sanctions against travel to Texas.

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NEA, NEA New Hampshire and the Texas State Teachers Association did not respond to requests for comment.

A complicating factor is whether NEA is willing to continue down this boycott path. Will it schedule future meetings only in blue states? That could get tricky and expensive.

Virtual conventions are a mixed bag for NEA. On the one hand, they greatly reduce the $6.5 million the national union spends annually on in-person assemblies, along with millions of dollars in expenses state affiliates incur by sending delegates.

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On the other hand, online assemblies mean a greatly reduced scope of business conducted and completed. Delegate participation in the 2021 virtual convention was way down, bringing in fewer than 5,600 members, even though they didn’t have to leave home.

But one has to wonder if NEA considers that a bug or a feature. Representative assemblies often get bogged down in long debates over issues that rarely result in any concrete action. Two years of no in-person events haven’t resulted in any perceivable change in union policies or operations. Maybe the money is better spent elsewhere.

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