The president of the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers' union, has asked members to endorse President Obama's re-election campaign.
With more than 3.2 million members, many of them public school teachers and employees, the NEA is America's largest union. Teachers' unions have been embroiled in battles with lawmakers in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio over collective bargaining rights, tenure, and merit-pay laws as states try to slash budgets.
After Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives during the 2010 midterm elections, many Republicans have tried to cut education spending.
"The midterm elections have shown us what can happen when education legislation and decisions are left in the hands of politicians who do not support public education—those of us in education call this a teachable moment," said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA's president in a statement. "It is time to stand strong for what we believe in and what is right for students and families, schools, and the nation. President Barack Obama has proven he deserves a second term."
The union will officially vote at its national convention in July, but is expected to endorse Obama.
Van Roekel and the NEA have not always gotten along with the president; for instance, no Department of Education official was invited to the NEA's national convention last year, unlike in 2008 and 2009. "Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced," Van Roekel told the convention.
Last year, he also told the New York Times, "This is not change I hoped for," referencing Obama's campaign slogan. But spending cuts by Congress have changed the organization's mind about the president. "Will we allow Congress to gut Medicare, slash education, and cut Social Security, and continue to make it just fine for hedge fund managers and corporations to sidestep paying taxes?" Van Roekel asked.
In 2008, the union endorsed Obama. According to the New York Times, NEA members donated more than $50 million in 2008 to Obama and more than 50 congressional candidates, many of them Democrats.
Corrected on 5/13/11: An earlier version reported that the National Education Association officially endorsed Obama. NEA is expected to formally endorse him in July.