Nearly 600 NJEA members spent their Fourth of July week guiding national policy at the 93rd NEA Representative Assembly and Annual Meeting in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.
From July 3-6 NEA members from all over the country debated issues relating to public education. One idea resonated above the rest: When it comes to leading a movement for student success that is real and sustainable, no one is more equipped than educators.
“We must empower our members to create change,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told some 9,000 delegates who attended the gathering. “Some [people] don’t like the Association’s focus on quality in the classroom and in schools,” Van Roekel says. “But if we don’t empower educators to take control of how to define quality, then who will? Congress? Governors? State politicians? Michelle Rhee? Maybe the Koch Brothers?” asked Van Roekel referring to the billionaire businessmen whose money has helped to fund scores of recent anti-worker efforts. “No,” he continued. “It must be us!”
>>Listen to Van Roekel's full speech
Van Roekel’s words were echoed by NEA Executive Director John Stocks,Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau, and ESP of the Year Debbie Schulze.
NEA calls upon members to “Raise Your Hand”
NEA launched “Raise Your Hand for Public Education”—a campaign designed to help educators across the nation become leaders in a national movement for public education.
RA delegates displayed their commitment to “Raise Your Hand” by agreeing to increase annual membership dues by $3 per member—a move that will generate more than $6 million in funds specifically to provide Great Public Schools Grants (GPS Grants) to NEA state and local affiliates. Grants will support innovative projects and great ideas to boost student learning, such as successful implementation of Common Core Standards, school safety/anti-bullying programs training, and technology.
Delegates honor friends of public education
Delegates honored two prominent champions of public education: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who received the 2013 Friend of Education Award, and California Gov. Jerry Brown, recipient of the Greatest Governor Award.
Using a formula that will serve low-income and non-native English speakers, Gov. Brown made sweeping changes—the greatest in the nation and during this century—to the way California funds its public schools. Before that, Gov. Brown successfully managed a ballot initiative to regenerate funding for public schools.
“Nothing is more determinative of our future than how we teach our children,” says Gov. Brown, who addressed the RA via satellite video. “It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of the educators working every day to make our public schools better and our future brighter.”
Sen. Murray has been a tireless advocate of more preschool and literacy programs, smaller class sizes, and better education for homeless children. And she led the fight that pushed $25 billion for education jobs and Medicaid funding over the finish line in 2010.
NJEA members elected to leadership roles
NJEA member Donna Mirabelli (left) was re-elected to the NEA Board of Directors as an administrator-at-large. She is a math supervisor in West New. She serves on the NJEA Executive Committee as a non-classroom unit representative.
Andy Policastro of Bergen County was elected as an NEA Board of Director representative to the NEA Member Benefits Board. Lois Yukna of Middlesex County was elected as an officer of the National Council of Education Support Professionals. Both were elected by acclimation.
In addition, New Jersey caucus-endorsed candidates Maury Koffman from Michigan and Kevin Gilbert from Mississippi were elected to three-year terms on the NEA Executive Committee.
Georgia staff thanks NJ for support
Staff members from the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) visited a New Jersey caucus meeting to thank NJEA members, staff, and leadership for their support at the NEA RA. The GAE executive director recently imposed a contract on Association staff and has refused to negotiate.