Board of Directors – February 2015 – Washington, D.C.

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NEA Directors and IEA Officers and members attending: Joyce Bailey, Eric Brown, Kathi Griffin, Jim Grimes, Maggie Huttlinger, Rainy Kaplan, Cinda Klickna, Al Llorens, Gladys Marquez, Tom Tully, Alex Wallace and David Watts

The meeting started with a moment of silence for all of our members who we have lost since our last meeting. A special tribute was paid to former IEA-NEA Director Sallie Clark for all of her years of service as an advocate.

Items Discussed:

Ballot Measure Legislative Crisis Bylaw Amendment.

The Board is recommending the deletion of the sunset to allow for the $20 special assessment to remain in effect. This Legislative Crisis Fund was created in 2000. The projected amount available during the 2014-15 year is $66,583,912. To date the Board of Directors has allocated $17,790,193 to eight affiliates. There is still $47,008,719 available as of December 31, 2014.

Secretary-Treasurer Report  princess

Princess Moss reported that NEA experienced a very small membership increase of 0.1 percent in the most recent count. The organization remains just under 3 million in total membership. Moss also announced that dues would jump $2 (from $183 to $185) for certified and $1 for ESP (from $110.50 to $111.50). The increases are based on small increases in the average salaries of teachers and ESPs. The average salary for certified members was $57,469 and for ESPs it was $31,581.

Moss also announced that NEA would continue to pursue NEA 360 as the Association’s new membership system. NEA 360 is a customizable data system that will empower affiliates around individualized member needs. The Executive Committee also created a limited liability corporation for NEA 360.

Contingency spending

The NEA board approved moving $821,797 from the association’s contingency fund to fund the New Business Items approved at the Representative Assembly in Denver last summer.

The board also voted to transfer $250,000 to the Washington Education Association to cover some of the expenses with its successful class size initiative passed in the fall. WEA is prohibited from receiving money from the Ballot Measure Crisis Fund.

General counsel report

Alice O’Brien announced the creation of a new NEA Tenure Toolkit to help state affiliates who are facing battles over fair dismissal laws.

O’Brien also reported that, as expected, the Friedrichs v. CTA/NEA case has been petitioned to go to the Supreme Court. The question in this case is whether public sector unions can continue to bargain the “agency shop” or “agency fee” provision that requires all employees who benefit from the protections of a union contract to pay their fair share.

Executive director report

John Stocks provided an extensive written report on staff activities. Looking ahead, however, Stocks said that the Executive Committee had decided to go ahead with an “association-wide dialogue to engage younger members.” Stocks said that staff would work hard to pursue this new endeavor. With Baby Boom generation employees retiring at a high rate, it is estimated that over the next six years, more than 2.2 million new teachers will begin working in America’s schools.

Vice president report  becky

Becky Pringle reported that NEA has sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan objecting to the use of flawed tests in an attempt to measure college education preparation programs. The federal government is insisting that colleges use value-added metrics. The letter includes a list of other concerns.

Pringle also reported that the Great Public Schools Fund grant committee is working to revise the fund guidelines. The fund, which started a year and a half ago, has more than 50 active grants and has appropriated more than $13 million to local and state affiliates with innovative, educator-approved id

Constitution & Bylaws

The Representative Assembly will be voting on at least 14 proposed changes to the NEA constitution, bylaws and standing rules this summer in Orlando. A summary of the proposed changes is here. The Board only took action on the first amendment. The rest will be discussed at the May meeting.

Constitutional Amendment 1: deals with repealing the proportionate RA delegate allocation for the 5 merged states. If passed the additional eligible delegates for these states could be raised by 3,500. After lengthy debate, two votes failed leaving the board with no position.

Constitutional Amendment 2: Change the frequency of the RA to every 2 years starting in 2020.

Constitutional Amendment 3: Replace the requirement of 75% classroom teacher representation on all NEA Committees.

 Bylaw Amendment 1: Change the scope of the Great Public Schools Fund to include defending public education from privatization, and to require that 50 percent of the funds go toward organizing charter schools.

Bylaw Amendment2: Repeal the proportionate delegate allocation to merged states for specific membership categories.

Bylaw Amendment 3: Prohibit the grouping of multiple New Business Items together for action.

Standing Rule Amendment 1: Amend the speaking order process to take requests for information in rotation with speakers for and against a motion.

Standing Rule Amendment  2: Make amendable and debatable all motions to suspend the rules for referral of multiple items to committee.

Standing Rule Amendment 3: Make debatable all motions to suspend the rules, other than those to limit debate.

Standing Rule Amendment 4: Prohibit the grouping of multiple new business items together for action.

Standing Rule Amendment 5: Require individuals proposing New Business Items to provide contact information that allows delegates seeking clarifying information to contact the maker.

Standing Rule Amendment 6: Limit the text of New Business Items to 100 words.

Standing Rule Amendment  7: Require printing in the RA Today of a categorical breakdown of cost estimates for each New Business Item.

ESEA opportunity emerges  lily

NEA president Lily Eskelsen García had one simple message for President Barack Obama in a recent visit to the Oval Office: “We must end toxic testing.” “I told him the same thing that you are telling your legislators,” García said to the NEA board of directors on Feb. 13. And for the first time in more than a decade Congress appears to be listening and ready to take action to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Proposals to reform ESEA—better known as No Child Left Behind—are moving in both the House and Senate. The House is expected to have a bill on the floor by the end of February and the Senate is expected to take action in March.

“ ‘No Child Left Untested’ is falling from the weight of its own absurdity,” García said, noting that there appears to be almost no support among lawmakers and the public for continuing high-stakes testing.

Just this month, more than 500 education researchers signed an open letter to Congress calling for an end to test-focused reforms. In the letter, the researchers “strongly urge departing from test-focused reforms that not only have been discredited for high-stakes decisions, but also have shown to widen, not close, gaps and inequities.”

The failure of NCLB, however, doesn’t guarantee that a rewrite will lead to better legislation, García said. “Both Republicans and Democrats got it wrong 13 years ago,” she said. “We have to bring them together with our ideas.”

NEA has proposed decreasing the number of tests from one each year to a total of three during a child’s years in school. Known as “grade-span” testing, students would take just one test in elementary, one in middle, and one in high school.

NEA has also proposed replacing the punitive accountability measures with a wide array of measures that show whether students have an opportunity to learn. Schools would be required to report dozens of measures from student attendance and graduation rates to access to high-quality teachers and paraprofessionals, small class sizes and modern facilities.

Known as an “Opportunity Dashboard,” García said that multiple measures would “focus on the many factors that are indicative of school and student success, and highlight gaps in equity that must be addressed.”

Decreasing testing would make more time available for student learning. According to a 2013 study by the American Federation of Teachers, students in heavily tested grades spend about 50 hours per year—about two weeks—taking standardized tests and up to 100 hours per year—about a month—preparing for the tests.

The tests also come with a large price tag. According to a Brookings Institution study in 2012, six testing vendors accounted for 89 percent of testing, and in the 45 states for which data was available, $669 million was spent on standardized tests. The loss of time and money has helped fuel a parent-led backlash against “over-testing.” And educators have complained that narrowing the curriculum has made it harder to instill a “love of learning” in all students.

The strong interest in reauthorizing ESEA may also lead to a shift in the role of the federal government from “testing and punishing”—a key aspect of NCLB—back to ensuring equity—an idea central to ESEA when it was first authorized more than 50 years ago.

President Obama has signaled another shift in approach. He is talking directly to educators. “He knows in 2002 that they got it wrong because they did not talk to us,” García said. “He is directly involved and asking for our ideas.” The president mentioned standardized testing three times in his weekly radio address on Feb. 15. He also emphasized the need to ensure an opportunity to learn for all students “regardless of their zip code.”

García told the NEA board that this is a rare opportunity to reauthorize ESEA. “This will not come before us again in our lifetime.” And as the directors went to Capitol Hill to meet with every member of Congress, García left them with the following inspiring words: “If you do this right, you will change this world.”

  • NEA’s positions on ESEA
  • End the abusive, high-stakes testing.
  • Replace “test and punish” systems with real indicators of student success such as NEA’s Opportunity Dashboard (see graphic, page 6)
  • Use indicators of student success to make sure that all students are treated equitably.
  • Give educators more professional authority to make decisions to improve schools.

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NEA’s message triangle

NEA’s new message triangle is designed to help members stay focused on the most important aspects of what makes schools great—successful students. It removes corporate education reform language and instead stays on simple, positive messages.

NEA’s Communications Director Ramona Oliver provided a short training for the NEA board of directors on Feb. 14. NEA is prepared to help all state affiliates train members to use the new message triangle as a tool to help communicate with parents, policy makers and members of the public about education reform.

Educators should also talk about the barriers to getting to these higher levels—namely, funding inequities. Corporate education reformers don’t want to talk about inequity or poverty, Oliver said. Educators need to talk about the testing machine and how it is taking time away from learning and how privatization hurts public schools.

Getting rid of terms like “rigorous evaluations,” “basic skills,” and “investing in classrooms,” educators should instead talk about “love of learning,” “education improvement” and “excellence.” And educators should feel free to tell their own stories. If they are experiencing overcrowded classes, talk about how that takes away from one-on-one interaction.

NEA Foundation gala honors America’s top teachers

More than 800 educators and supporters of public education gathered on Feb. 13 at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. to honor some of the finest teachers in the United States.

Teacher Terri Butts from South Carolina received the evening’s top honor: The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence. For this award, which recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching, Butts received $25,000. This year, 39 educators selected by their peers received the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Butts and four other educators also received the Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Friend of Education

The NEA board of directors selected Paula Kreger, the president and chief operating officer of PBS as NEA’s 2015 Friend of Education.

Kreger, who has been with PBS since 2006, has helped the organization maintain its focus on educational programming. Nearly 90 percent of all television households watch PBS each year and nearly 80 percent of all children tune into PBS.

Read Across America Day is March 2

Mark your calendars. “Read Across America Day” is March 2.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go when you read!” is the theme for this year’s annual event. And the feature book is, of course, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.” To make your event Seussational, go to NEA’s Read Across America web page for tips and ideas. You can also follow Read Across America on Facebook and Twitter with #readacrossamerica.

Special Observances

The Board celebrated the annual Black History and Women’s Observances;  . Lawrence Hamm, a community activist and humanitarian led the Board in the Black History celebration and student chair Chelsey Jo Herrig was the speaker for the Women’s Observance.

Women’s Observance – Chelsey Herrig Interview

Black Observance – Lawrence Hamm Interview

 

Thank you to Tim Parker, NEA Director-Alaska for contributing to this report. 

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