CHICAGO - The nation's largest teachers union voted on Monday to recommend that President Barack Obama be elected for another term.
The vote from National Education Association delegates at a meeting in Chicago was 72.03 percent, a bit down from the last time the NEA recommended Obama in 2008, when the "yes" vote was 79.75 percent.
"President Barack Obama shares our vision for a stronger America," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA. "He has never wavered from talking about the importance of education or his dedication to a vibrant middle class."
The recommendation came early for the NEA. The Association's presidential recommendation process typically takes place the summer before the general election.
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But the NEA took the vote Monday to provide "early and strong support" to ensure the election of a candidate on the side of students and working families, according to an NEA statement.
"The last two years of state legislatures and the mid-term elections were eye-opening, demonstrating what can happen when education legislation and decisions are left in the hands of politicians who do not support public schools," Van Roekel said.
Van Roekel praised Obama's initiatives as president, including the Education Jobs Bill, which Van Roekel said kept class sizes from ballooning and kept important education programs and services from being cut.
In recent months, Republican-dominated legislatures have passed limits on public school teachers' collective bargaining powers in several states, including Ohio, Tennessee, Idaho and Wisconsin.
Vice-president Joseph Biden appeared at the NEA meeting on Sunday, criticizing legislators who attack teachers and telling NEA members: "You are not the problem!"
With 3.2 million members, the NEA says it is the nation's largest professional employee organization. The vote has fractured the union, some rank-and-file members say.
They are irked by the president's support of charter schools and of tying teacher tenure and pay to student test scores, The Washington Post reports.
And while they recognize the president funneled tens of millions of dollars to education after the 2008 financial crisis, which held off teacher layoffs, they are not happy with the administration's school reform agenda that is often praised by Republicans.
Biden acknowledged these issues in his speech Sunday.
“We will fight alongside you, we will fight for you and occasionally, in the privacy of the family, we’ll fight with you,” Biden said. “But this is about the same fundamental vision for this country.”
But how much teachers, foot-soldiers of the Democratic Party during tight election years, will work for Obama in 2012 remains to be seen.
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