GOP caucus coup at NEA protested

LOS ANGELES — Many members of the National Education Association say they will leave the union’s Republican Educators Caucus after the caucus takeover by opponents of traditional Republican policies regarding school improvement and choice.

On Tuesday, Shawna Adam, a California delegate to the NEA convention under way here and newly elected chairwoman of the Republican Educators Caucus, helped lead a union march against California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the California Teachers Association’s campaign to defeat his fiscal and school reform efforts.

Miss Adam, with help from NEA President Reg Weaver and chief lobbyist Randall Moody, also persuaded the 9,000 convention delegates Monday to commit $171,125 for a beefed-up advocacy campaign against education policies of the Bush administration, Republican governors and state legislatures with whom the union disagrees.

Miss Adam told delegates, “NEA Republicans [should] take on the GOP agenda to change the anti-public education to pro-public education. NEA Republicans are the obvious choice to change their party from within, help infiltrate the Republican Party with an anti-voucher agenda.”

Judy Bruns, a Republican delegate from Ohio, said she found Miss Adam’s speech supporting convention approval of the NEA funding initiative and anti-Schwarzenegger march “very offensive.”

“She was denouncing the conservative viewpoint,” said Mrs. Bruns, who is planning to leave the caucus. Opponents of Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Bush “seemed to be pumped up when Shawna got up to say, ‘Even Republicans support this,’” she added.

Sissy Jochmann, a Pennsylvania delegate and chairwoman of the NEA Conservative Educators Caucus, said many disaffected Republicans are members of her caucus, which has signed up more than a dozen members this week since Miss Adam and others cemented their coup in the Republican caucus that began last July.

“Now that the new leadership of the Republican Educators Caucus is in place, it is apparent that some of the delegates who attended that caucus, including student delegates, are not finding the Republican caucus representing their views,” Mrs. Jochmann said.

“So they can come to our caucus and find common ground with conservative educators.”

A former Republican caucus member said that more than three-quarters of the members — 132 of 167 — have quit the group since Miss Adam took over. The 35 who remained have been joined by 35 new members at the convention.

In addition, four of the six caucus officers resigned before the convention, saying they were unable to work with Miss Adam.

At the NEA convention last year, Miss Adam helped organize the coup to oust Diane Lenning as chairwoman of the Republican Educators Caucus.

Miss Adam, who calls herself a “conservative Republican,” confirmed that Mr. Moody, who heads the NEA’s mainly pro-Democratic legislative and political lobbying operations, supported and advised her throughout her effort.

She told Republican caucus members this week that she had a dinner meeting in December with Mr. Weaver, which set the stage for her election Tuesday. The former Republican caucus member said Miss Adam’s floor statement in favor of the $171,125 grant was written for her by an NEA staff officer.

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