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PowerPlayer: NEA Government Relations Director Patrick Crowley

Monday, April 02, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is National Education Association Government Relations Director Patrick Crowley. Mr. Crowley was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about public sentiment toward unions and the NEARI’s top goals for election season.

1) It has been a difficult couple of years for all unions, but teachers in particular. How did we get to place where educators somehow have become villains?

What we are seeing across the country and in Rhode Island is really the culmination of a 30-year attack on unions and especially teachers unions. Unions like NEARI empower the middle class, especially professional women, who make an overwhelming majority of our ranks. The modern day Robber Barons see us as a threat to their attempt to manipulate the free market and political process and the attack on our members is really part of the coordinated, national attack on women. Conservative and right wing special interest groups hate the fact that our members have a voice at work and are effective in the political arena.

2) Election season is right around the corner. What are your top three goals for the year?

All of our goals relate to making sure our members’ votes are not taken for granted by any politician or political party. We are going to work very hard to reelect Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin because all three are champions in Washington for working Rhode Islanders. Our state house strategy is still unfolding but you can expect us to be even more active this year in town council and school committee races, especially in places like South Kingstown, Portsmouth, and Middletown.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

My day starts at 5:30 AM with reading the news online and firing off emails to whatever reporter got the story wrong that morning. After a couple of hours of emails to co-workers and members and prescheduling the days tweets, I hit the gym where I discuss the day’s strategic efforts with AFL-CIO President George Nee. Mornings are spent in coalition meetings about one or more of the projects NEARI is helping advance, like the Rhode Island Tax Equity project. I make sure to call around to allies like Ray Sullivan from Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Kate Brock from Ocean State Action and I make sure to issue a field report to NEARI Executive Director Bob Walsh on what political data I may have picked up. The afternoon is spent at the state house communicating with legislators and testifying on bills NEARI supports or opposes. NEARI has a great field team in place, so evenings are spent organizing with one or more of my co-workers in one of our local unions. If I get home by 8:00 PM it’s a good day.

4) Teachers have had a frosty relationship with Commissioner Gist, but it seems like the Department of Education has at least agreed to scale back parts of the teacher evaluation system. Is this a sign that the two sides are beginning to work together?

Some bureaucrats are quicker to point a finger in blame than they are to extend a hand in cooperation. We did a professional poll of teachers in January and asked them if they believe they are better off today under Commissioner Gist than they were two years ago. Only 8.5% of teachers said yes while 84% said no and the top issue named as a “major obstacle” hindering educators in doing their jobs was “Dept. of Ed. Policies.” We hope these realities are met with real change, not more mischaracterization of our positions.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I’m one of the 11 people who read Travis Rowley’s book and I own an autographed copy.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein

Favorite Restaurant: Angelo’s Palace Pizza in Cumberland

Best Beach: Charlestown Breachway

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

Advice for the next Patrick Crowley: Read “The Inner Ring” by C.S. Lewis before you start your first professional job.

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