In 2010, when I attended the MTA Annual Meeting, there was a bitter division between the leadership and rank-and-file members, who felt like they'd been sold out. The leadership had cut a deal with state government to allow the state to complete for "Race to the Top" funds. But the deal, inconveniently, directly abrogated a statement that had been adopted by the previous annual meeting that required the leadership to not sign on to any deal that used student test scores in teacher evaluation.
This was the last straw for many people who have felt that the the MTA does not adequately fight for teacher's interests. Rather than organizing and trying to confront the interests that have been trying to roll back gains that teachers won in the past, they've been focused on minimizing losses. A group of people formed Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) to try to shift MTA toward a stance more focused on organizing and fighting for teachers.
This year, EDU is running a candidate for president: Barbara Madeloni. I've written about her a couple of times already. When she first started running, her candidacy seemed like a long shot. But the response to her at 60 or 70 locals has been overwhelming. She is an outstanding candidate: she has the academic credentials and the street cred and the personal history of standing up to the man.
At the beginning, the MTA leadership seemingly didn't seem take her candidacy very seriously. But as she's gained momentum, they've begun attacking her and trying to emulate the successful characteristics of her campaign.
In addition to supporting Barbara's candidacy, EDU is trying to address the issues directly as well. Teams are drafting new business items to compel the MTA to not back down from supporting retiree health care (where, again, the leadership has tried to cut a deal rather than openly fight for teachers), bilingual education, minimum wage, adjunct faculty, and, once again, the role of high-stakes testing in teaching evaluation and determination of level 4 and level 5 schools.
The last time I attended the annual meeting, I left in disgust with the feeling that ideas were not welcome. With the chance to make a difference, I'm willing to re-engage and try again.