October Board of Directors’ meeting

October 22, 2015 by

board meeting

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

The Board started with a moment of silence for the victims of the Oregon shootings.

Items Discussed:

Elections were held for the Budget Committee.  Three people were elected: Josh Brown (IA), Robert Rodriguez (CA) and Amy Simpson (WY).

Tim Parker (AK) was re-elected to the Greater Public Schools Fund.

President Eskelson-Garcia announced that she has been elected Vice President of Education International for the North American/Caribbean Region. NEA had 50 delegates and over 60 observers attend the Education International 7th World Congress in Ottawa, Canada in July. Alex Wallace and Gladys Marquez represented Illinois.

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced his resignation on October 2. The acting secretary will be John B. King, Jr.

The Board of Directors voted to support Hillary Clinton in the primary election.

hillary

For more information, regarding the Clinton endorsement and highlights from the town-hall meeting, please read this newsletter. Thank you to Alaska NEA Director, Tim Parker for putting this together.

The Board of Director held two observances at its October meeting: the Hispanic Observance and the American Indian-Alaskan Native Observance.

Hispanic Caucus Chair, Gladys Marquez, introduced Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr. who shared his past experiences and talked about the Dreamers of today. 2015 Hispanic Observance Interview Dr Andrade

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October Lobby Day

October 21, 2015 by

Participating NEA Directors: Joyce Bailey, Jim Grimes, Maggie Huttlinger, Rainy Kaplan, Tom Tully, Kari Vanderjack, Alex Wallace, David Watts as well as IEA Retired member Bob Kaplan.

Members of Congress visited:

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1), Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2), Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-3), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-6), Rep. Danny Davis (D-7),  Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-8), Rep. Bob Dold (R-10), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-11), Rep. Mike Bost (R-12),  Rep. Rodney Davis (R-13),  Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-17),  Rep. Darin LaHood, (R-18), and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

3 Directors attended the Illinois Constituent Coffee attended by Senator Durbin.

duckworth durbin

Issues Discussed:

ESEA Reauthorization: Creating more opportunity and learning for students, using grade-span testing which will mean more time for teaching and less time testing students, creating an Opportunity Dashboard to focus efforts on student success on the resources needed rather than the punishing of schools and teachers, We asked our members of congress to ask for the bill to be acted upon.

ESEA Bills Summary and Next Steps

Education Funding: Replace the sequester cuts to schools and programs. Do not allow the portability of Title 1 Funds.

FY16 Year Long CR Impact on Federal Education Funding including by State

Education Funding

Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Specifically, we are asking for training and supporting school food service professionals. We also talked about expanding farm-to-school programs and out-of-school meal programs.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Higher Education Act: Our talking points include making college more affordable, enhance access to higher education, improving teacher preparation and recognizing educators as stakeholders.

hea-reauthorization.pdf

June 2015 Board of Directors Report

July 13, 2015 by

The Board of Directors met on June 30 and July 2, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

The Board elected three members to the Internal Concerns Committee and one member to the NEA Member Benefits Board. In addition, the Board approved the 2015-16 Board Committee Assignments. Your Illinois Directors have been assigned to the following committees:

Joyce Bailey: Human and Civil Rights

Eric Brown: TBA

Jim Grimes: Legislative

Maggie Huttlinger: TBA

Rainy Kaplan: Human and Civil Rights

Gladys Marquez: Professional Standards

Tom Tully: Member Rights and Compensation Benefits

Alex Wallace: Friend of Education

David Watts: UniServ Advisory

The Board also approved to send NBI B (Institutional Racism) to the RA Floor as well as the recommended budget.

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

February 22, 2015 by

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. 

February, 2015 Lobbying Report

February 22, 2015 by

Your NEA Director team hosted a reception for the Illinois Congressional Delegation on February 11, 2015. The evening was a great success.

 
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IEA President Cinda Klickna with Rep. Rodney Davis
 

February 12, 2015 Lobbying Report

Participating NEA Directors: Joyce Bailey, Eric Brown, Jim Grimes, Maggie Huttlinger, Rainy Kaplan, Tom Tully, Alex Wallace, David Watts as well as IEA Officers Kathi Griffin and Al Llorens and IEA Retired member Bob Kaplan.

Members of Congress visited:

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5), Rep. Danny Davis (D-7), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-9), Rep. Bob Dold (R-10), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-11), Rep. Mike Bost (R-12),  Rep. Rodney Davis (R-13),  Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-17),  Rep. Aaron Schock, (R-18), and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Issues Discussed:

ESEA Reauthorization: Creating more opportunity and learning for students, using grade-span testing which will mean more time for teaching and less time testing students, creating an Opportunity Dashboard to focus efforts on student success on the resources needed rather than the punishing of schools and teachers,

Education Funding: Replace the sequester cuts to schools and programs. Do not allow the portability of Title 1 Funds.

Lobbying Fact Sheets

NEA Board of Directors Virtual Meeting – Dec. 8, 2014

January 12, 2015 by

Attending: Jim Grimes, Eric Brown, Joyce Bailey, Tom Tully, Alex Wallace, Rainy Kaplan, David Watts, Maggie Huttlinger, and Gladys Marquez

NEA President Lily Eskelson Garcia welcomed board members and gave an overview of the virtual meeting. Board members were able to ask questions and interact with presenters online throughout the meeting.

Karen White and Gail Stoltz presented information on the Ballot Measure and Legislative Crisis (BMLC) Fund.

History of the BMLC Fund:

2000 Representative Assembly (RA)–votes five dollars dues increase per member, with a sunset in five years, dedicated 60% for ballot measures and legislative crises and 40% for media expenses.

2004 RA—No chance in amount and extends the BMLC sunset until 2009-10.

2006 RA—An additional five dollars per member is assessed, bringing the total to ten dollars. The BMLC is made permanent.

2011 RA—An additional ten dollars per member is assessed bringing the total member amount to twenty dollars per year. The ten dollars increase becomes effective in 2011-12 and is scheduled to sunset in 2015-16.

2016 RA—The ten dollars increase will sunset in 2016 and BMLC dues amount will revert to ten dollars per year, unless the RA takes action to modify the fund.

 

The Board of Directors will vote at the February 2015 meeting on the future status of the fund. Any recommendations will be referred to the 2015 RA.

Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss reported on NEA membership, currently at over 2.9 million.

Moss also reported on Contingency Fund expenditures and the fund’s current balance.

The board also reviewed the audited financial statements for the NEA.

The NEA Board will meet in Washington, D.C. on February 13th and 14th.

Additional Note—

NEA Board Hispanic Observer Gladys Marquez of Illinois, reports that the NEA Minority Community Organizing and Partnerships (MCOP) Grant for a DACA training clinic has been approved in Illinois. ‪

This grant will assist in empowering students and parents that qualify for the Presidential Executive Orders on Immigration for Deferred Action Parental Accountability (DAPA) and Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by providing them with training clinics to help qualifying families and students fill out the paperwork for their temporary work visas and social security numbers. “IEA is going to closely mirror what the Texas State Teachers Association TSTA and Florida Education Association FEA are already doing for their communities,” said Gladys Marquez.‬ ‬

‪Activities are tentative at this point but may include the following:

  • ‪April- Community Forum- NEA MCOP speakers address community stakeholders about the requirements for applying for DAPA and DACA Programs. ‬
  • ‪May- Volunteers will be trained on the format for the DACA/DAPA clinic‬.
  • ‪June- DACA / DAPA clinic‬.

‪“This is a wonderful opportunity to recruit volunteers to help show our communities how committed we are to social justice,” says Marquez.‬

Board of Directors — September 2014 – Washington, DC

October 1, 2014 by

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

President Eskelsen Garcia’s First Board Meeting

Lily Eskelsen García opened her first board meeting as NEA president on Sept. 19 with the simple words of the association’s preamble and mission.

“We, the members of the National Education Association of the United States, are the voice of education professionals. Our work is fundamental to the nation, and we accept the profound trust placed in us,” she said.

Then García turned to Student Program Chair Chelsey Herrig to read the NEA mission. “Our mission is to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world,” Herrig said.

Then board member Jacqui Greadington, chair of the Black caucus, lead the board in the song, “This little light of mine.”

The biggest change made by García, however, was to dedicate a quarter of the two-day meeting to board committee work. Every board member has been assigned to one of more than a dozen committees.

Vice President Becky Pringle organized the board’s committee work. “Your work is an essential part of our journey to fulfill our mission, and advance the Strategic Goals adopted by the 2014 Representative Assembly,” she said.

García started her presidency on Sept. 1, and she immediately embarked on a “Back to School” tour across the country.

The tour actually started in Milwaukee, Wisc., when García and other labor leaders appeared with President Obama at a Labor Day rally. After the rally, she said the President asked if she and the other labor leaders wanted a ride home—as in, fly home on Air Force One.

Her chance to speak with the president came in the limo ride to the airport. She joked that she probably won’t be invited back because she monopolized the time. “It really was an incredible opportunity to spend just a few minutes speaking from the heart and not a script about our kids and what they need,” she said. “I had a good feeling about this very short conversation that we had.”

On her multi-state tour, García had a conversation with Andrea Rediske, the Florida mother of a brain-damaged and legally blind child who had cerebral palsy. Ethan was 11 when he died last February, but in his last few weeks of his life, he received harassing phone calls from his school district saying he needed to take his Florida standardized tests. “There’s no word for how awful this is,” Andrea said of the harassment. “No mother should have to go through this.”

García had breakfast with Andrea on the “back to school tour” and told her that NEA is on a mission to stop this toxic testing. “I told her this makes no sense, and it’s actually hurting kids,” she said, to which Ethan’s mother said, “Put me to work.”

Enlisting parents to help fight against toxic testing is just one of the many hats that García is wearing. She is writing almost daily blog posts on Lily’s Blackboard, giving dozens of media interviews, and running the largest labor union in the country.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, she was asked why she keeps talking about toxic testing. “I’ll be damned if I will sit quietly and play nice and say diplomatic things about something that has corrupted the profession I love,” she said.

As she prepared to adjourn the meeting on Sept. 20, she told the board, “I really, really love this job, and I want to do it well. With your help we’re going to do it.”

NEA gets Political with New Ads

NEA has produced more than a half dozen national political ads this season supporting candidates friendly to education and attacking politicians who are not.

According to Executive Director John Stocks, the ads are part of a very intentional move by the organization to engage more directly in politics. “We made a conscience effort to lift our members’ voices up,” he said. “Lily has said that we can’t have the circumstance in the next presidency that we are now facing with failed policies from the Department of Education.”

The condemnation of President Obama’s Race to the Top policies follows on the motion by the Representative Assembly this summer calling for the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to resign.

Stocks said the organization is looking ahead past November. “The campaign for president in 2016 will start the day after this election finishes,” he said. The NEA PAC passed a motion on Sept. 18 to begin conversations around the 2016 presidential election.

The board of directors viewed six of NEA’s most prominent ads at the meeting. The ads are well produced and hard-hitting. Here are some of the toughest statements:

  • From North Carolina, a teacher says, “the fact is Tom Tillis hurts North Carolina students.”
  • From Alaska, a teacher says, “Sullivan sold Alaska’s teachers out.” (Dan Sullivan is running against NEA-endorsed incumbent Mark Begich)
  • From Arkansas, a teacher says, “Tom Cotton should be ashamed of himself.”
  • From Florida, a narrator says, “Rick Scott, just too shady for the Sunshine state.”
  • From Michigan, a teacher says, “I don’t understand how Gov. Snyder can think those things are more important than our schools.”
  • From Kentucky, challenger Alison has incorporated NEA’s campaign against unfair student loans—known as “Degrees not Debt”—into their own campaign ads.

Stocks said the ads are intentional. “We are trying to use our political work to bring voice to our members,” he said.

American Indian/Alaska Native Observance — Offensive Sports Mascot Names

Juneau is a long ways from Washington D.C., but that doesn’t mean that what happens in the nation’s capital isn’t important—even when it comes to sports.

Jacqueline Pata is offended by the name of the Washington “Redskins” football team and the misuse of the Native American culture in many other sports mascots.

“It’s about respect,” said Pata, as she addressed the NEA board of director on Sept. 20. Pata, who grew up in Juneau, moved to D.C. almost 20 years ago to work in the Clinton Administration. She is proud of her Tlingit heritage, and she is still a board member for the Seaalaska Corp.

Pata worked directly with Mario Cuomo, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. At the beginning of their work together, Cuomo asked Pata to plan a trip for him to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation. She refused, saying, “I’m tired of letting politicians go to the worst places and doing nothing.”

Pata convinced him that if he was to visit Pine Ridge, he needed to make sure it wasn’t just for show. “Eventually we got to Pine Ridge, but it involved bringing the president, and it had a number of deliverables,” she said. Pata was inspired by the visit and the way the different tribes in the area came together. There was a pow wow and many traditional celebrations.

However, after returning from Pine Ridge, Pata said she attended a Fourth Of July parade in Fairfax, Virginia, and in that parade, the Washington football team and their marching band went by wearing Native American headdresses.

“I had just seen what true honor was, and my heart broke,” she said. “I cried, turned my back and went home. This was not Independence Day for me.”

The fight to change the name of the Washington football team has been going for more than 40 years, but Pata and others have no intentions of stopping.

There are over 5 million Native Americans in the country, and the use of offensive mascot names serves to increase racial tension, she said. Oddly enough the state with the most Native American mascot names is Ohio, which only has a Native population of 0.3 percent. The lack of respect in schools holds Native American children back, Pata said. “When we don’t get (respect) in schools, then we don’t get it when we move forward in other areas.”

She noted that a high school in Pennsylvania with the same name as the Washington football team has made news just this week when the editors of the school newspaper and the paper’s advisor were suspended for refusing to use the name of the schools mascot.

Pata contrasted some of the worst problems caused by mascots with the positive things going on in her former home town. “In Juneau, you can take Tlingit in high school,” she said. School curriculums should educate everyone about the history of Native Americans.

Changing society starts in schools. Pata told a story about her own son who had struggled in school. Years ago, her son was chosen by Tlingit leaders to lead a cultural conference. Some teachers happened to attend, and noticed that the boy had leadership abilities that they hadn’t seen in school.

According to Pata, “The teachers said, ‘We didn’t know. We didn’t know what was within that little boy. Now we see him as the leader that he is.”

“Know our children, and by knowing them you will know us. And by respecting them you will respect us,” Pata said.

Eskelsen Garcia unveils Book ‘Rabble Rousers’

NEA’s new president, Lily Eskelsen García, is more talented than many members know. Not only was she a teacher of the year in Utah and an accomplished folk singer, she also recently authored the book, “Rabble Rousers.”

García’s husband, Alberto, illustrated the book, and the two of them autographed copies on Sept. 19 at the NEA office building in Washington D.C. Proceeds from the book will go toward United We Dream, an immigrant advocacy organization.

“Rabble Rousers” is the story of ordinary people who used their voices, commitment, and passion to organize communities to fight injustice. Featuring social justice advocates like Mother Jones, Emmeline Pankhurst, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harvey Milk.

In the book’s introduction, García writes, “These leaders have much in common … They all understood that the only way for them to win against such overwhelming power was to organize the little power, the only power that they had. … They understood that if they could rouse the common people, the ‘rabble,’ to demand justice with a common voice, they could change the world from what it was into what it should be.”

Dolores Huerta, who with Cesar Chavez founded the labor union that would become the United Farm Workers, says in the forward to the book that García “depicts how one does not have to have a lot of money or power to create change. It shows the power of the person, no matter what barriers may stand in the way.”

Hispanic Observance — Franco Asks NEA to fight for Dream Act

Chair of the NEA Hispanic Caucus and NEA Board Observer Gladys Marquez introduced the guest speaker for the Hispanic Observance, Marisa Franco.

The haunting melody of Aloe Blacc’s song, “Wake Me Up” filled the Robert Chanin auditorium. For almost five minutes, the challenges faced by immigrants crossing America’s southern border came to life in images of a family broken apart by deportation—a father, a wife, and their children.

“Not one more,” said Marisa Franco, a leader with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “We want to fight to win. It’s the idea of demanding the impossible—fighting deportations one by one.”

Franco, who grew up in a working class neighborhood in Arizona, praised NEA’s efforts to fight for immigration reform. “We cannot afford to continue to look the other way … because we are finding in the most painful of ways, it doesn’t always work.”

NEA invited the fiery, young activist to address immigrant issues, and even though Franco said that she is more comfortable with a bullhorn than at the lectern, she still managed to touch the hearts of NEA’s board members.

“My mother lives in Tempe, and she is a bus aide for special needs children. She’s finishing her shift right now,” she said. Her father immigrated from Mexico when he was 15. And for most of her childhood, Franco said, she didn’t even recognize class as an issue.

But a series of changes to Arizona laws opened her eyes to the discrimination of Hispanic Americans. Bad legislation hit a peak in 2010 when Arizona passed strict immigration regulations. “The day that Gov. Jan Brewer signed that bill she spat in the face of my grandmother and grandfather and everyone who built this state.”

“We’ve seen dehumanizing language where human being are called aliens,” she said. Bad laws are dividing people into those who are “deserving and undeserving.” Cuts in health care and voter ID laws hurt immigrants hard.

Franco said, “We must ask ourselves, how does this advance our society?”

The recent increase in children crossing the border has lead to stories in newspapers about how these students are overwhelming schools. “No, what’s overwhelming is when schools don’t have enough to serve the needs of our children,” she said.

“Fundamentally, we’re facing a question,” Franco said. “There is a litmus test about the health and well being of a society. What kinds of lives do children live? What happens when someone makes a mistake or does something wrong? What opportunities exist? These are questions we must answer.”

NEA supports immigration reform that includes three things, Garcia said. “First, it must not hurt a child; second, it must not separate families; and third, it must provide a reasonable path to citizenship. The rest, you fill in the blanks, but these are the three things we demand.”

On Sept. 6 President Obama announced that he would delay executive action on immigration until after the November elections. NEA issued the following quote from Garcia in a press release: “We are deeply disheartened by President Obama’s announcement to delay executive action on immigration. After years of waiting in the shadows of society, millions of aspiring new Americans were a step closer to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, as a result of inaction on immigration, their American dreams are on hold. Again,” Garcia said.

Board Takes Toxic Testing Arguments to Congress

Following up on New Business Item A from the Representative Assembly this summer in Denver, NEA board members took to Capitol Hill this week to fight against toxic testing.

Armed with poll results, examples of the worst testing abuse, and the bipartisan Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (HR 4172), board members lobbied Congress. Illinois NEA Directors met with Members of Congress and their staffs. (See NEA Lobbying Report—Sept. 2014)

Under No Child Left Behind, the number of federally-mandated high stakes tests more than doubled. The goal of this campaign is to restore mandates to what is known as “grade-span” testing—once in elementary school, once in middle school, and once in high school.

More than a month of instructional time is lost to testing in some of the most tested subject areas, according to numerous studies. A Brookings Institute report states that testing regimes cost over $1.7 billion annually.

According to a Central Washington University study this year, teachers report spending about 73 percent of their time with instructions and 15-18 percent preparing students for state tests. And a Gallup poll earlier this year found that 68 percent of parents do not believe that standardized tests help teachers know what to teach.

According to NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, “Students and teachers continue to lose more and more class time to testing and test preparation, and that time should be spent teaching and learning a rich, engaging curriculum.”

“The serious consequences of these toxic tests will only snowball unless parents, educators and community members push back against lawmakers determined to tie high stakes decisions to fill-in-the-bubble tests.”

Wiman Speaks at Social Security rally at Capitol

Social Security and Medicare issues attracted a crowd of some 300 activists and leaders to Capitol Hill on Sept. 18, including NEA’s own Earl Wiman, a member of the NEA Executive Committee.

Wiman joined a lineup of speakers that included Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), the anti-Koch brothers “Koch Sisters,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and several other members of Congress.

Some 50 NEA board members wore blue T-shirts and cheered and waved signs as Wiman fired up the crowd with a witty question about when you die, do you want a title or testimony. “They will put us in a hole, throw dirt in our face, go back inside and eat potato salad,” Wiman said. And after they eat, he wondered, what will they talk about? Wiman said that he hopes they give testimony to the good things you’ve done in life and not just your title.

“We stand here today with those who have a testimony in support of social security, Medicare and retirement security for working families,” he said.

The members of Congress who spoke promised to stand strong against tea-party attacks on the social safety net.

Senator Warren said, “They are trying to create a crisis so they can cut Social Security and Medicare, but there is no crisis. There may be a health care crisis in this country, but it’s Medicare—with the improvements brought by the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare—that is fixing our problem. Medicare is lowering health care costs not only for seniors, but for every American.”

The Koch Sisters said they received lots of support for calling out the billionaire Koch brothers, who support tea-party candidates nationally and at the state and local levels. “We’ve got a message for politicians who want to mess with Social Security,” said Joyce Koch. “Don’t even try it!”

The rally was sponsored by about a dozen different unions. Senator Warren was introduced by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We need more leaders like Elizabeth Warren who will stand with us to defend Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “Those are the leaders we will stand with on Election Day.”

Warren said she was happy to recite the numbers on Social Security “because the numbers are on our side. We have built a system that will last another 20 years before we have to make any changes. But this is about values, how we live and what we do together,” she said. “Our Social Security system says something about the dignity of human beings, that when you work a lifetime you deserve the dignity of a decent retirement.”

Organizer Saket Soni Talks to NEA about Guestworkers Alliance

It all started with one clap—or at least that’s how Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance demonstrated it on Sept. 20 for the NEA board of directors.

Soni, an immigrant from India, co-founded the National Guestworker Alliance in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia introduced Saket to the board, and said, “He’s organizing people that nobody thought could be organized.”

His lessons on how to organize workers resonated with NEA board members.

Soni said, “Schools offer a window into the soul of a nation.” When students experience trauma, they bring that to school. Soni told the story of an immigrant family that was surrounded by six unmarked cars while they were walking their kids to school. “The dad was deported and the mom was left to raise the children,” he said. “These are the experiences that you have to deal with in the classroom.”

Soni’s workers may seem different because they’ve recently arrived in the country, but they have many of the same concerns as NEA members, he said.

“You may think our members are different than yours, but more and more they are the same,” Soni said. “We live in one country and one economy and we are connected in our stories and our lives.”

Soni helped start the alliance when foreign construction workers were brought in to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The construction companies said they couldn’t find workers in the city, but the unemployment rate of African Americans at that time was 80 percent.

What they didn’t count on was that the foreign workers would organize. These workers had paid a $20,000 fee for their green card and had to live in special company camps. “But they organized, and they held clandestine meetings,” he said. “The first leaders were taken away in vans and the companies tried to get them deported.”

The New Orleans workers succeeded in their fight for fair working conditions. But Soni soon heard of many other guestworkers suffering horrific abuses. He told the story of foreign workers who were locked in the basement of a Pennsylvania Hershey’s chocolate company working for $1 to $5 per hour. He told other stories about seafood processors working shifts that were 22-24 hours long. “They were sleep-walking,” he said. “Their working conditions were horrific.”

He also told the story of adjunct faculty at universities across the country. The average salary for these workers is barely $22,000 per year.  “We live in a United States of Anxiety,” he said. “People are worried about their jobs and wages.”

Although private sector employees are unionized at about the rate of 6.7 percent nationwide, for low-wage workers it’s much smaller. And for guestworkers, it’s even smaller.

For Soni and the alliance, they have about 3,000 members in New Orleans. They have grown to 15 affiliates in nine different states. But it starts slowly, he said.

Briefs

ACCOUNTABILITY TASK FORCE

NEA issued a call for members interested in serving on an Accountability Task Force this week.

The Representative Assembly passed NBI B this summer in Denver calling for the development of an alternative accountability system not linked solely to test scores.

Vice President Becky Pringle will head the task force. She said, “We don’t want to start with the flawed ideas within NCLB,” and she encouraged NEA to “step back from that sandbox.”

Nominations for the task force are due by Oct. 6. Pringle said NEA is looking for members who have experience dealing with education accountability systems and who are familiar with NEA’s work in this area. The task force is to have a report to the NEA board of directors by February.

LEADERSHIP SUMMIT

Registration will open in November for the NEA Leadership Summit. Under the theme: “Organize, Educate, and Lead: Our Union, Our Schools, Our Communities,” the summit will take place in Anaheim, Calif., Feb. 27 to March 1, 2015. The summit will focus on all six leadership competencies: Advocacy, Business, Communication, Governance and Leadership, Leading our Professions, and Organizing. There will be only one leadership summit this fiscal year.

GENERAL COUNSEL

General Counsel Alice O’Brien said the NEA continues to pursue numerous tenure cases across the country, including Vergara v. California, which continues to move through the appeal process. Over the past four years, 30 states have changed their tenure laws. Although not every change was bad, the majority restricted employee rights, and four states repealed tenure completely: Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, and Indiana. “The scope of the attack on tenure means we have to do more than respond on a case by case basis,” O’Brien said.

The Supreme Court has taken 40 cases to consider in its next term, and will continue to take cases until the beginning of October. At this point, the court has not taken a case on the topic of agency fee. Last summer the court issued a ruling that severely limited agency fee within the private sector. The ruling also made clear that the court would do so in the public sector if a case made it to the court. At this point, the court also does not have a marriage equality case. The court will consider an interesting pregnancy rights case. In Young v. UPS, a UPS worker sued the company because she was denied “light duty” when she was pregnant, but other workers with similar physical limitations were granted that right. UPS argued that because the worker collective bargaining agreement didn’t explicitly require the light duty and because the worker did not get pregnant while on the job, they did not have to provide “light duty.” NEA and other labor unions have all filed amicus briefs in the case.

In Florida’s VAM-based evaluation system case, a Florida court ruled that the system was “unfair, but not unconstitutional.” NEA filed an appeal on Sept. 5 to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a rare twist, both the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of School Administrators filed amicus briefs supporting NEA’s position.

SECRETARY/TREASURER

Princess Moss reported that NEA is in the middle of its annual audit. She also said that certified membership dropped by 29,116, ESP membership dropped by 7,823, students dropped by 4,730, but retired membership increased by 6,614 and higher education rose by 274. The total drops the association by 1.2 percent from 2.99 to 2.96 million members.

GOVERNANCE REVIEW REPORT

NEA’s Governance Review committee concluded its work this summer and submitted only one recommendation that could lead to a vote by the Representative Assembly next summer in Orlando, Florida. The committee submitted a series of other recommendations that President Lily Eskelsen Garcia will consider implementing. No changes were proposed to the structure or scheduling of the RA or Board of Directors.

The one recommendation that would require a vote is to move the deadline to file NBIs from noon on the second day of RA to 5 p.m. on the first day. The committee said that it is important for delegates to have as much time as possible to consider NBIs. They also recommended increasing the incentive for early submission. Currently NBIs submitted before May 1 are sent to state affiliates and considered by the board, and those submitted before June 15 are included in delegate packets and posted on the RA website. They suggest providing additional staff assistance in both crafting an NBI and finding the cost. They also suggest better publicizing the deadlines.

NEA BOARD ELECTIONS

The board filled three positions on its Program and Budget committee on Sept. 19. From a field of six candidates, the board elected Britt Hall, Wisconsin, and Rae Nwosu, Texas, to two-year positions. They also elected Josh Brown, Iowa, to a one-year position.

The board also selected eight members to represent NEA as delegates at the Education International meeting next July in Ottawa, Canada. From a field of 19 candidates, the board elected Tim Parker, Alaska; Fran Bellinger, Hawaii; Brit Hall, Wisconsin; Mavis Ellis, Maryland; Gerri Franco, New Mexico; Robert Rodriguez, California; Diccie Smith, Tennessee; Brian Chance, Federal; and alternates Kandie McDaniel, Kentucky, and Jenifer Almassy, Michigan. Members may apply to the President’s office for an additional 31 delegate and additional alternate delegate positions, however NEA does not fund those positions.

UPCOMING ISSUES

The Board will be discussing the pros and cons of a possible early U.S. Presidential recommendation process in future meetings.

 Thanks to Tom Parker, NEA Director Alaska, for the articles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lobbying Report – Washington, DC – Sept. 18, 2014

September 22, 2014 by

Participating NEA Directors’ on Capitol Hill Visits: Jim Grimes, Eric Brown, Joyce Bailey, Tom Tully, Alex Wallace, Rainy Kaplan, David Watts, Maggie Huttlinger, and Bob Kaplan, IEA Retired. IEA Pres. Cinda Klickna met with Reps. Foster and Schneider on Sept. 17th.

Members of Congress visited included:

Rep. Robin Kelly D-2, Rep. Randy Hultgren R-14, Rep. Bobby Rush D-1, Rep. Peter Roskum R-6, Rep. Rodney Davis R-13, Rep. Luis Gutierrez D-4, Rep. Tammy Duckworth D-8, Rep. Danny Davis D-7, Rep. Dan Lipinski D-3, Rep. Mike Quigley D-5, Rep. Adam Kinzinger R-11, Rep. Aaron Schock R-18 , Rep. Bill Enyart D-12, and Congressional staff members.

The issues and legislation discussed included:

1) Higher Education Act and College Affordability—will the Member of Congress support reinstating year-round Pell Grants?

2) Will the Member of Congress co-sponsor the Student Testing and Improvement Accountability Act (HR 4172)—returning federally mandated testing to pre-NCLB frequency?

3) Will the Member of Congress support efforts to help meet the educational and human needs of child refugees? This refers to the situation of thousands of Central American children crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.

Materials also were shared with the offices of Senators Durbin, Kirk, and other Illinois Representatives.

IEA members are urged to review NEA positions on these issues at EducationVotes.nea.org and share their concerns with Members of Congress in their home districts.

NEA Director 2016-17 Congressional Liaison Assignments (UPDATED October, 2016)

September 3, 2014 by

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 Click here to see our congressional-district assignments.

NEA Board at 2014 Denver RA

August 22, 2014 by

NEA Board at 2014 Denver Rep. Assembly

 NEA Directors and IEA Officers attending: Jim Grimes, Eric Brown, Joyce Bailey, Alex Wallace, Tom Tully, Vickie Mahrt, and Director-elect David Watts. Director Rainy Kaplan joined the delegation following completion of her students’ state track competitions. Pres. Cinda Klickna, Vice Pres. Kathi Griffin and IEA Sec-Treas. Al Llorens and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin also attended the NEA Board meetings. The IEA officers may serve as alternate directors for any absent board members.

 NEA Board Actions in Denver

On June 30th, the NEA Board elected members to its Internal Concerns Committee and the NEA Member Benefits Corporation board. The board also received information on board committee appointments. The board also acted on New Business Items to be presented to the Representative Assembly. The proponents of NBI #1—calling for a Constitutional Convention was debated and the board voted a position of opposition.

The officers, NEA Executive Director John Stocks, General Council Alice O’Brien and various committees reported to the board.

On July 2nd, the board adopted the 2014-16 Modified Strategic Plan and Budget and forwarded it to the RA for final action. The retiring members of the board and state presidents were also recognized.

 Review of 2014 NEA Representative Assembly

Toxic testing, accountability, and the common core dominated the issues faced by delegates at the 2014 NEA Representative Assembly in Denver in early July. But the change in the face of the organization is what most members will see first.

Delegates elected Lily Eskelsen García as NEA’s next president by an overwhelming majority. Although she is neither the first woman nor the first minority to head the organization, she will lead a new team of officers that is all female and all minority—and that is a first for NEA. She takes office September 1st.

As Dennis Van Roekel exits after six years as President, Vice President-elect Becky Pringle and Secretary-Treasurer-elect Princess Moss will join Garcia as officers.

The new group enters as NEA ramps up to a more aggressive approach to combat high stakes testing and the negative influences of so-called education reformers who seem more interested in monetizing public education than in improving student learning.

“People who don’t know what they’re talking about are talking about increasing the use of commercial standardized tests in high-stakes decisions about students and about educators…when all the evidence that can be gathered shows that it is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn,” Eskelsen García told the Representative Assembly.

The former Utah Teacher of the Year challenged the more than 7,000 delegates from across the country—including over 600 from Illinois—to be fearless and take back their professions. “We will not be silent when people who for their own profit and political posture subvert words like ‘reform’ or ‘accountability.’”

Eskelsen García pledged to continue the focus on “Leading the Professions” which was started almost four years ago under Van Roekel’s leadership. And at the Denver meeting this year, more than 1,000 educators participated in “Raise Your Hand” day just prior to the start of Representative Assembly.

This marks the second year that NEA has chosen to shine the spotlight on ways to improve public schools as part of the traditional RA activities. This year’s events included a panel discussion moderated by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, table discussions around ideas such as national board certification, and TED-style talks highlighting great ways to improve student learning.

Van Roekel emphasized that NEA’s focus on improving schools isn’t only a one-day activity. The NEA is putting its money into innovative ideas to improve public schools thanks to the Great Public Schools fund that was passed at last year’s RA. Every single member of NEA contributes $2 to the fund, and in its first year, the fund dispersed $6 million in grants to more than 50 locals and state affiliates to improve student learning.

The program provides strong evidence that NEA is willing to step up, said Van Roekel said. “When we put our own money into these projects, (people outside the organization) sit up and take notice.”

As the delegates shifted their focus to the hottest educational issues facing schools across America, they generated plenty of ideas. Some 110 new business items were proposed, along with amendments to the NEA constitution and bylaws. Delegates approved 56 NBIs at a cost of more than $800,000.

The jump in spending was uncommon. Delegates approved less than $400,000 in total over the past three RAs. In 2013, roughly $197,000 was approved, and in 2012 and 2011 the totals were under $100,000.

The largest single item in Denver was a proposal to begin a comprehensive campaign to end toxic testing. With more than $160,000 in additional spending, NEA plans to form coalitions, survey members, and promote the idea that students should take only three tests during their schooling career—once in elementary, once in middle, and once in high school.

The high cost of RA itself also received plenty of debate. A proposal to reduce RA to once every three years and another proposal to hold a constitutional convention were not passed, but the backers of the proposals complained loudly that spending more than $21 million to hold a week-long RA each summer was not a sustainable cost for the organization.

The more than $800,000 in new spending generated this year did little to allay the fears of many state and local leaders. As NEA has lost membership from a high of over 3.2 million members to roughly 3 million, the organization has been reducing spending in many areas.

However, the change in focus for NEA to a more aggressive stance to combat bad education reform ideas is probably the most notable shift at this year’s RA. The Assembly also approved a New Business Item calling on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to step down.

Van Roekel challenged every single delegate to sign “An Open Letter from the NEA and educators of America” calling for an end to toxic testing and the implementation of real accountability systems that results in equity and improved student learning in every school across the country.

“We need an accountability system that is centered on our students and their needs, not test scores,” the open letter reads. “As educators who have dedicated our careers and lives to our students and their success, we will not stand silent while commercial standardized testing is used to reduce our public education system to wreckage.”

But Van Roekel was careful to note that NEA is not against all testing, and he challenged teachers to differentiate between “okay and not okay tests.” And if NEA is successful in convincing politicians and education policy makers to roll back the overemphasis on testing, NEA has to be ready to put forward a new accountability system that puts meeting the needs of students front and center, he said.

“What are we going to put on the table?” asked Van Roekel. He pointed to NEA’s Great Public Schools frameworks as a start. The new system has to actually make a difference in the lives of all students, including poor and minority students.

Getting students ready for school is important, as well as having high standards and good curriculum, a high-quality workforce, and an equitable distribution of resources, Van Roekel said.

As he leaves the term-limited post after six years, Van Roekel was upbeat. “NEA’s leadership will be the national voice in advocating for what our children need to succeed to be college- and career-ready.”

Supreme Court may take aim at Fair Share

The U.S. Supreme Court has put NEA and other public sector unions on notice that Fair Share or “agency fee” may soon become a thing of the past.

Although they didn’t dismiss the concept in public sector unions like the NEA in the Harris v. Quinn decision, according to NEA’s chief legal counsel, the court clearly set out the path for a future case that could demolish the protection.

“Agency fee” is the union’s right to charge every worker within its collective bargaining unit a fee for services, such as bargaining and enforcing a contract. Even if a worker doesn’t want to join the union, a fee is charged.

This right of the union was established more than 35 years ago in the Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Abood said public employees couldn’t be forced to join a union—that might interfere with their right to free association—but they could be forced to pay their fair share of union dues that pay for collective bargaining. Any portion of dues that would’ve gone to general political speech was deducted.

“This is a clarion call for all of us,” O’Brien told the NEA board of directors. “We have a limited window of time to figure out who the agency fee payers are and if they can be converted to regular members.”

O’Brien said there is a chance the Supreme Court could receive a case that would give them ability to eliminate “agency fee” in public sector unions as soon as 2015.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan dissented from the majority in Harris v. Quinn, and said, “Readers of today’s decision will know that Abood does not rank on the majority’s top-ten list of favorite precedents . . . Yet they will also know that the majority could not . . . Come up with reasons anywhere near sufficient to reverse the decision.”

Samuel Alito, who appeared to go to great lengths to lay down a roadmap for other litigants who may want to challenge Abood, wrote the majority opinion. The most likely case to reach the court is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, O’Brien said.

Officer and Executive Committee elections—

The NEA elected new officers and members of the executive committee. Lily Eskelsen García will take over as president with 94 percent support from delegates. Becky Pringle of Pennsylvania was elected vice president with almost 92 percent. Princess Moss of Virginia was elected secretary/treasurer with over 53 percent. Earl Wiman was re-elected to the executive committee on the first ballot with 73 percent. And in a runoff, George Sheridan of California defeated Shelly Moore of Wisconsin by 67 votes.

Constitutional changes proposed—

Three changes to NEA’s Constitution were proposed in Denver. They will come to a vote in 2015 in Orlando. 1) Repeal of proportionate delegate allocation in merged states; 2) Replace the requirement to have 75 percent classroom teachers on NEA committees with a proposal to have at least one teacher and one ESP on each committee; 3) Change the frequency of RA from every year to every other year starting in 2020.

Stocks fires up RA

In his third address as Executive Director of NEA, John Stocks praised outgoing president Dennis Van Roekel for his strong leadership around a student-centered agenda, and he blasted so-called education reformers for trying to make money off public education. He also noted that more than a decade after No Child Left Behind, equity remains out of balance. “Public education is supposed to be about equal opportunity,” he said. “But today, the education a child receives depends largely upon the income of his or her parents. This is simply unacceptable, and we cannot let that continue.”

Candidates for 2015

Two candidates have filed for the NEA Executive Committee. There will be two open seats on the committee in 2015 as Joyce Powell and Greg Johnson are both termed out. Filing for the positions were NEA Director Eric Brown, a biology teacher in Evanston, Illinois, and Paul Toner, the outgoing President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. The filing period for this office remains open until the spring, but campaigning can officially start one year prior to the election. Toner did run for election to the committee in 2014 in a five-way race, but he finished fourth.

Friend of Education

NEA awarded Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan the association’s highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, on July 5 at the Representative Assembly in Denver. Malala was unable to attend, but her efforts to open education to all children were applauded.

Teacher of the Year

By Tim Walker, NEA

Educators are the “decisive element” in the lives of millions of students who face daunting challenges every day, said Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, in his speech to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly on Saturday.

“More than ever, children at the bottom need incredible schools and incredible teachers. Our schools are the land of opportunity in this country,” McComb told the 9000 delegates packed into the Denver Convention Center.

McComb, an English teacher at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts in Baltimore County, was awarded the prestigious title in April by the Council of Chief State School Officers. At Patapsco, McComb focuses on creating critical readers, strong writers, and judicious thinkers.  As coordinator of Patapsco’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, he takes a leadership role in honing student work habits and academic skills. This program helped Patapsco, for the first time in its 50-year history, receive recognition as a top high school from The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.

“I know Sean will make a wonderful ambassador,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “He has profound insights about our profession and the power of the teacher-student relationship.”

McComb was selected to be Teacher of the Year not only for his tireless work in creating new learning opportunities for his students but also by inspiring them, a role he underscored in his speech.

“I’m proud to be a teacher, a hope developer. Across this country, children look to their teachers… to give students a belief in themselves; to give them the skills to have ability to make it reality,” McComb said. “That is what called me, like so many teachers, into this field, to be that decisive element in the classroom.”

McComb cautioned that teachers could only fulfill this role if the school culture fosters an environment that offers educators collaborative and leadership opportunities.

“Let’s all work to create systems that encourage collaboration, opening classroom doors to colleagues, and allotting the time and support to learn from one another.  The expert who helps us grow our practice doesn’t need to be the consultant from across the country—it might just be the colleague one classroom over,” McComb said.

Teacher leadership, McComb pointed out, isn’t about educators immersing themselves in the weeds of every administrative decision. It’s about “teams of teachers analyzing school needs, researching and proposing solutions and leading the faculty and staff through the change process.”

If schools actually follow through and build professional learning communities among their educators, teachers can better engage, motivate and challenge students.

After that, McComb predicted, “the almighty data point will follow.”

Despite the obstacles thrown before them, McComb pointed out that educators have never wavered in their commitment to create real and long-lasting opportunities for their students.

“We have chosen to act…we are proud to be part of that solution, part of that investment,” McComb told the delegates. “We are proud to be a profession that takes up that call. Thank you for being the decisive element.”

He closed by asking if the nation has the will to truly invest in public education, reject attempts to scapegoat the teaching profession, and to rethink how much they value education. It is, McComb said, the “biggest question facing our nation today.”

 

ESP of the Year

By Brenda Álvarez, NEA

Paula Monroe is unequivocally an Education Support Professional (ESP) as a high school secretary in Redlands, Calif. It is a title she immediately says upon meeting new people or speaking to an audience. A designation she dons proudly and one that has allowed her to nationally advocate for ESPs, raising their profile along the way.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, which is why she is the 2014 NEA ESP of the Year. Monroe was honored at the NEA Representative Assembly (RA) on Saturday.

Monroe held numerous leadership roles in her local association, later becoming the president of the California Education Support Professionals. She was on the executive board of the National Council for Education Support Professionals, and in 2000 she was elected as NEA Board of Directors and then as a member of NEA’s Executive Committee in 2007.

A formidable activist for an inclusive organization, Monroe has been credited with being a driving force behind the vote in June 2006 to change the bylaws of the California Teachers Association to include support professionals as full, active members.  The change allowed 5,000 ESPs to become full members of the state Association.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel introduced Monroe to the RA delegates by praising her hard work and dedication to her students and fellow members. “I can’t think of a better person to represent the cause of ESPs—or all educators—than our Education Support Professional of the Year, Paula Monroe,” said Van Roekel. “She understands that in order to fight for student success, we, as educators, must fight together.”

In her acceptance speech, Monroe said that winning the award “is probably the greatest honor of my life” and urged all educators to continue to stand together in the face of unprecedented challenges.

“Educators, we must rethink our roles,” Monroe said. “ESP’s and teachers creating new relationships with one another, and working collaboratively on behalf of our students and their families…We need to come together as one community of educators, sharing the great responsibility and honor of educating America’s students.”

Monroe condemned the mean-spirited and divisive attacks that have been leveled at educators over the past few years. They’ve been harmful to the profession, but the real damage is felt by students, families and communities, Monroe said.

“While they are attacking, threatening, and suing us, who is focusing on the real problems?   While they’re trying to silence our voices, what are we doing to address the massive inequities of our country? “ Monroe asked. “We need to focus on the real solutions to the entrenched social and economic problems that threaten to cripple our nation and destroy our children and students – violent crime and gun violence, long term unemployment, drug and substance abuse, racism, sexism, classism, and poverty.”

ESPs make critical contributions to the academic success of students every day. But, as Monroe pointed out, that is only half the story.

“We must also attend to their social, emotional, and physical needs.  ESPs meet the needs of the whole student every day, ensuring their health, safety, engagement and support.”

This commitment is unwavering, even in the face of relentless attacks in the media, attempts to strip educators’ rights, and struggles for a living wage.

“We still come to school every day and educate America’s children,” Monroe told the delegates. “We meet every adversity with courage.  No matter how bad our circumstance may be, no matter how insurmountable the problem we face, we ESPs always reach deep inside and persevere. We do it because our students are our first priority. “

 

RA Articles contributed by Tim Parker, NEA Director for Alaska.