NEA Board of Directors Report – September 2013


NEA Directors and IEA Officers attending in Washington, D.C.:  Jim Grimes, Eric Brown, Joyce Bailey, Tom Tully, Alex Wallace, Vickie Mahrt, Rainy Kaplan, IEA Pres. Cinda Klickna and IEA Sec-Treas. Al Llorens.

Standing Committees           

            President Van Roekel announced and the NEA Board approved appointments to NEA Committees.  Illinois members appointed or currently serving include:

Student Members—Maggie Huntinger

Legislation—Jim Grimes*

Membership Advisory—Michael Ruggless, Frank Brooks*

Ethnic Minority Affairs—Gladys Marquez*

Social Security Fairness—Joyce Bailey*, Tom Tully

NEA Retired Executive Council—Mae Smith*

Resolutions At-Large—Gaziur Rahman*

* continuing member

Board Committees

For the budget committee, the board elected:

Eric Brown of Illinois, Eric Padget of California, Amy Simpson of Wyoming, and Britt Hall of Wisconsin. They join Pam Mikkelson of Minnesota who is continuing a two-year term.

Tim Parker of Alaska was elected to the new Great Public Schools Oversight Committee. This group, which includes the vice president, secretary/treasurer, the heads of the NCUEA, NCESP, NCSEA, and NCHE, will oversee the dispersing of grants from the newly established GPS fund. The $3 dues increase passed by RA this summer will make available more than $6 million for grants focused around improving student success.

Great Public Schools Fund

“Last summer we changed the world,” said NEA president Dennis Van Roekel.

With those words, Van Roekel revved up the NEA board of directors on Sept. 27.  He was referring to the $3 dues increase passed by the Representative Assembly that created the Great Public Schools fund.

“This is standing up and making a statement about who we are, he said.  “That we’re willing to put our time and money into making a difference for every student in America.”

The fund guidelines have been placed on the NEA website, and the first application deadline was Oct. 15th.  The board modified the guidelines slightly to create three application deadlines per year, selecting Jan. 1st and May 1st as the other two deadlines this year.  In future years, the first deadline will be Sept. 1st.

At least $6 million will be available from the fund this year, and state affiliates and locals can apply for up to $250,000 per year. The grant requests will be judged on a number of criteria, including whether the proposed program will have a measurable impact on student success.

Bill Raabe, NEA’s director for the Center for Great Public Schools asked the board to imagine what we could do as professional leaders. “Imagine that the NEA and its affiliates and its members are leading the way to student success,” he said. And the media is “saying that we are the ones that are leading student success.”

“It takes your commitment, advocacy, strategy, and organizing skills to do that,” Raabe said.

Van Roekel gave the board credit for helping RA delegates understand the proposal. The idea for the fund emerged just prior to the February board meeting, and there were plenty of heated debates.

The Leading the Professions campaign built the groundwork for this campaign, and that started with a report less than two years ago from NEA’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching. The report called for a complete overhaul of teacher evaluation and pay systems, year-round school for some students, peer review panels that could lead to bad teachers being fired, and abandonment of the single salary schedule.

But perhaps its boldest challenge for NEA was to put “student learning” at the center of everything the organization does.

NEA embraced this idea and made the Leading the Professions campaign and organizing its central focus.

Diminishing membership because of legislative and legal battles around the country lead to the loss of approximately 250,000 members, and this caused severe budgets cuts.  But the association has reversed that trend and is poised to rally.

Van Roekel told the board that this is the year to prepare for success.   In many ways, NEA is “all in” on the Raise Your Hand campaign, he said. “We need to feel it, believe it, and live it. I don’t have a Plan B if this fails.”

Van Roekel expects Raise Your Hand to be part of everything NEA does. Every month there will be talking points about Great Public Schools. When state affiliates gather for their state meetings, mostly in March and April, Raise Your Hand should be a central focus.

Looking forward through the 2014-2016 budget, Van Roekel said it won’t be long until we’re talking about who will be the next President of the United States.

“I think America needs 16 years of a progressive voice in the pulpit of the presidency of the United States,” he said. “The power of having that common focus is that we keep going in the same directions. We are mission driven.”

“We have had an incredible journey,” he said. “But the best is yet to come.”

New Summits Replace Regional Leadership Conferences

The NEA will unveil West and East Summits in 2014, and organizers promise great things from the new conferences.

Although the summits are replacing the former regional leadership training conferences, the focus will shift to leadership with the goal of improving student success.

The West Summit is planned for Jan. 17-19 in Las Vegas, Nev., and the East Summit will follow Feb. 21-23 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Illinois will be participating in the West Summit.  The Summits will be larger than the former regional conferences, with over 1,000 expected for the Las Vegas event, and slightly fewer at the East.

NEA will fund at least four delegates from each state, but state affiliates and locals can choose to send many more.

With a leadership focus, states are being encouraged to send 1/3 emerging leaders, 1/3 recently elected association leaders, 1/3 experienced leaders.

The goal of the annual summits is to develop individual leadership skills, and each participant will work on skills in three areas this year: governance, Leading the Professions, and organizing. In future years, the focus may shift to advocacy and communication as leaders develop a full range of skills.

NEA Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle said she has received good reaction from members about the new summit ideas.  Pringle said they have told her, “Wow, this is different, but in a good way.”

Executive Committee member Earl Wiman quoted the leadership guru John C. Maxwell. “The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, (and) raises them up as leaders. “  Wiman went on to say, “Leadership development is a journey, not an event.”

The content at the Summit will be tied directly to NEA’s mission, vision, and core values. The content will be “competency-based” and participants will be expected to take action before and after the summit.

The Summits will open on Day 1 with governance and leadership. It will have a focus on “internal and external changes in landscape and courage ensuring relevance and fierce mission focus.” Day 2 will be about Leading the Professions, with a focus on deepening the mission to “ensure relevance through a student-centered and union-led agenda.” And Day 3 will be all about organizing, with work to strengthen NEA’s “presence in communities, build alliances and build membership to support the whole student and quality practice.”

The Minority Leadership Summit will take place just prior to each summit, and the Women’s Leadership Summit will take place directly after.  States can each send 4 members to the MLT and 2 to the WLT.

Summit registration opens Nov. 1 for the West Summit.

State Presidents Talk to NEA Board

The presidents of five state affiliates addressed the NEA Board Sept. 28th on the issue of challenges.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel noted fiscal challenges and changing demographics in their membership.  Most states are improving communication and engaging members through various organizing efforts and even campaigns.

California Teachers Association president Dean Vogel said that getting his 320,000 members in touch with each other and connected has been a challenge, especially as California has changed into a state where the majority of citizens speak Spanish. “If we’re really trying to build capacity,” he said. “We really have to engage members with each other.”

“Educators want to own their profession and feel like advocates,” Vogel said. “We must be working to build and sustain effective learning environments for kids and students.”

Rita Haecker, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said that her state has serious race issues, too. They are tackling them by “focusing on our greatest resource—our members,” she said.

Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said her state is in the odd position of not having collective bargaining, but also not having right to work legislation either. The result, she said, “we are stuck in a doughnut hole.” Six or seven locals bargain contracts.

Winkler said the solution is to build partnerships. “It comes down to, ‘If you can’t build coalitions, you can’t get anywhere,’ ” she said. As a result, their focus is on membership and organizing.

Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, faces some of the toughest anti-union legislation and bad reform ideas in the country and still manages to keep a positive outlook. His trick? Humor.

He described Arizona as a sort of “Mad Max version of politics,” with corporate reformers trying out every bad idea as they run over innocent children. All the while, cutting education spending to the tune of $1.5 billion over the past five years.

In 2010, Arizona lost payroll deduction for union dues. Deadpanning to the NEA board, he said, “Right to work? That’s cheap; that’s nothing. That’s a Tuesday. We have more charter schools than all of you combined.”

His solution? Organizing and solidarity with other unions.

Arizona has built labor coalitions, which are taking root. They have also had the legal support from NEA to win in court. In fact, a recent injunction bars the state from continuing the ban on payroll deduction.

“We’ve been knocked around like hell in Arizona,” Morrill said, “but we’ve never been knocked out.”

Finally, the NEA board heard from Denise Specht, the president of Education Minnesota. Specht described Minnesota’s relatively unique position as a merged state affiliate. All the members belong to NEA, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. This gives Minnesota the ability to have “Area Labor Councils” where all types of union members come together.

Specht said that being relevant to members is the biggest challenge.

NEA Challenges Florida’s Value Added Evaluations

The ongoing court case by NEA and the Florida Education Association challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s evaluation law continued over the summer.

Now known as Cook v. Stewart, the case remains on NEA’s list of court challenges to bad reform efforts, said NEA’s General Counsel Alice O’Brien.

At issue is an extremely complicated value-added measure now used for 40 percent of Florida teacher evaluations.  Analysis of the method led Stanford professor Ed Haertel to conclude that Florida’s “method of VAM evaluation is unexamined in educational testing research because it is completely divorced from sound educational policy, and is not more justified than rewarding or punishing teacher on the basis of a coin toss would be.”

In a recent lecture, Haertel said that the usefulness of such evaluations has been overstated. “Teacher VAM scores should absolutely not be included as a substantial factor with a fixed weight in consequential teacher personnel decisions,” says Haertel. “The information that they provide is simply not good enough to use as a major component for gauging a teacher’s effectiveness.”

VAMs are essentially a method of evaluating teachers by comparing their students’ test scores in a given school year with the scores from a previous one.   Haertel said they don’t adequately take into account a student’s out-of-school experiences, individual aptitudes, peer influences, previous education or school-specific academic climates.

Native American and Women’s Issues Highlihted

Professor Heather Shotten studies Native issues while Debbie Walsh focuses on women’s issues.  They each addressed the Board at the September meeting.

Both women called upon the NEA and other progressive organizations to help correct societal inequities.

Shotten, a college professor of Native Studies, notes that the education system has failed Native students. Walsh sees the absence of women in leadership positions as a serious problem.

“Our current education systems continues to fail Native students as it under funds Native education,” Shotten told the NEA board at is American Indian/Alaska Native Observance on Sept. 28th.  “Family engagement has been well document in research to increase self esteem,” she said.

Shotten described a program in New Mexico that incorporates culture into the curriculum. She also quoted from a 2013 Study from Harvard and the National Indian Education Association. Shotten recommends small group settings and a collaborative environment as especially effective with Native students. “We have to expand how we think about family engagement,” she said. It’s not just involvement of the parents. It’s the engagement of the family and the tribe.”

Walsh, the director for American Women and Politics, praised NEA for its work in supporting women. NEA had its first woman president in 1911, she said.  Walsh promoted the “Teach a Girl to Lead” curriculum from the Eagleton Institute on Politics at Rutgers University.

Although many people assume women are increasing their numbers in positions of leadership, Walsh said that’s a bit of myth. She said the nation needs a “reality check.”

As she showed pictures of Congress and the low numbers of women serving, she said, “I think what’s important to remember here is not just that we are missing faces in this photograph.  What we are missing is talent, energy, smarts, all of the resources of over half of the population. We do pay a price when we don’t have women in office.”

“Make sure that they are talking about girls and women as leaders and not just boys,” Walsh said.

Governance Consultant Meets with Board

            Susan Decker, a nationally recognized association consultant, gave the NEA Board a quick review of the traits of functional and dysfunctional boards in various associations.  Topics included:  mission statements, targeted conversations and the roles of the board of directors.  The NEA board is currently reviewing the structure of the governance in the Association.


Vice President

Lily Eskelsen, NEA’s vice president, continued her work on the Governance Review Project. This internal review of how the organization functions is done periodically to consider whether improvements can be made to NEA’s structure. The current NEA board has 178 voting members, 4 non-voting members, and one honorary member. But in 1940 it was as small as 49 members.  The Representative Assembly hosts approximately 7,000 to 9,000 delegates, although under current bylaws as many as 17,000 could attend.

Eskelsen’s group surveyed NEA members and found that the top five most critical structures within NEA leadership structures were: leaders working in the education field; proportional representation of state members; inclusion of diverse points of view; proportional representation of local members; and inclusion of ethnic-minority members.

NEA Board members will be having conversations with their state leaders on the structure of governance in the Association.  Some of the issues being discussed include:  reaching younger members, the costs for states in sending delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly, and the connections between the RA and state member needs.  Members of the Board participated in discussion groups to review governance issues.


NEA Secretary/Treasurer Becky Pringle reported that membership losses have slowed quite a bit this year.

NEA lost 48,000 members last year, which is the fifth year in a row of decreases. Since the 2008-2009 year when NEA had a high of 3.2 million members, there have been decreases of 9,000, 34,000, 81,000 and now 48,000. The organization, however, still has over 3 million members.

“We are moving in the right direction, and we’re not losing as many as before,” Pringle said.

Executive Director

Executive director John Stocks said NEA has been doing much better when it comes to preventing bad pieces of education legislation from passing.

No anti-union legislation passed in states in the most recent legislative sessions. “We got our game on in this last set of sessions, and we have our game on in the upcoming ones,” he said.

Stocks praised the work of the New Jersey Education Association and their progressive science initiative. In partnership with the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, the state affiliate has helped low income and students of color outperform affluent students in AP Physics.  In 2012, six of the state’s top 12 schools for AP physics were using the center’s coursework.

“This is the kind of thing that when our leaders take it upon themselves, we need to embrace and celebrate,” Stocks said.

Stocks hopes the NEA’s East and West Summits will boost supply of leaders.  “We are actually training our own to be policy, union, and instructional leaders,” he said. “That’s where we need to go as an organization.”

In the area of advocacy, NEA has identified 112,000 members as social justice advocates thanks to outreach efforts last year. In addition, NEA’s dialogue on social issues, including LGBTQ, has continued.

And in the digital area, NEA continues to grow, too. On National Teacher Day, NEA was able to get 17,000 Tweets with the hashtag #thankateacher.

General Counsel

Supreme Court debate will include many issues of interest to educators, reported Alice O’Brien, NEA’s General Counsel.

The court will hear arguments in Madigan v. Levin on Oct. 7th to decide whether the Age Discrimination Act forecloses equal protection claims. On Oct. 8, they will hear McCutchen v. FEC, considering whether biennial aggregate limits on campaign contributions are constitutional.

The court will decide whether any limits can be set on campaign contributions, O’Brien said. This law limits donors to $48,600 to candidates and $74,000 to PACS over a two-year period. Fewer than 1,900 people nationwide made donations that high. “If the Supreme Court can’t restrict this, then it would be hard to restrict anything,” she said.

Ballot Measure Fund

The NEA Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund began the 2012-13 membership year with a carry-over of $13,621,772. Dues collections for 2012-13 are projected to be $24,597,960. Therefore, the total amount available in the 2012-13 membership year for ballot measures and legislative crises is projected to be $38,219,732.

As of Aug. 31, NEA had approved $6,972,050 in assistance to 14 state affiliates for ballot measure campaigns and $1,765,785 in assistance to 14 state affiliates for legislative crisis.

Colorado Gets NEA Assistance

The Colorado Education Association will receive up to $1 million from the NEA Ballot Measure Legislative Crisis Fund to help battle a 1992 voter initiative known as TABOR. This law prevents tax increases without a vote of the people, and it’s being challenged in a court case over its constitutionality. Winning this lawsuit “would put a billion dollars into Colorado,” said Lawrence Garcia, a board member from the state. “We’re fighting, and we have a great coalition.”

Australian Education Leader Addresses NEA

Australia’s education union president thanked the NEA for its friendship and solidarity. Angelo Gavrielatos said his group and NEA must fight for the right of every child to be taught by a qualified teacher. “Every child must have access to a rich, rigorous and rewarding curriculum,” he said.

2013 NEA Representative Assembly by the Numbers

Total delegates in attendance–7,149

Average age and % of female delegates–51yrs. and 72%

Spent debating–13 hours

Requests for information–219  [Assuming that each took 2 minutes to answer, that’s more than 7 hours spent on points of information]

NBIs submitted by California—34 out of 93.

States that didn’t submit an NBI–23

Total spent on all 55 NBIs–$196,849  [Top item—$37,188 to fight workplace discrimination]

Total spent on hotels in Atlanta–$7.7million

NEA Board Meetings

The next meeting of the Board will be held online in December.


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