Education International
Education International

USA: NEA Representative Assembly votes to defend public education

published 6 July 2011 updated 13 July 2011

Delegates at EI’s largest affiliate, the National Education Association (NEA), have debated and approved a number of policies that will help the union and its members fight back against attacks on public education.

Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, from 2-5 July, more than 8,000 educator delegates from across the USA gathered for the 90th Representative Assembly (RA). Among other policy positions they approved a statement on teacher evaluation and accountability. This is the first time that the NEA has put on the record its call for a comprehensive overhaul of teacher evaluation and accountability systems to advance student learning.

The winner of NEA’s 2011 Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year, Ernest ‘Jameel’ Williams, addressed the RA, and stressed his call for unity to tackle the enormous assault that US educators are currently facing: “We must put aside our personal and petty differences based solely on job titles and unite for our professional survival.”

Mr. Williams, a bus driver and a teacher’s assistant for Vance County Schools in Henderson, North Carolina, is also active in his community. His colleagues nominated him for the prestigious NEA award because he exemplifies the strong bridges that ESPs create between their school and the community.

Delegates also honoured international guests, including Mary-Lou Donnelly, President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, who urged NEA members to help strengthen international partnerships. Meanwhile, the RA’s key note address was delivered by the US Vice President, Joe Biden, whose wife, Jill Biden, is also a teacher.

In addition to the business of the RA, delegates celebrated the 4 July, Independence Day, with a special programme of music and guests.

NEA members played a vital role in the passage of the 26th amendment, which, lowered the voting age to 18. Delegates paid tribute to the ‘Project 18’ educators who made this possible, and to the young people who have been using their voting rights to ensure that every child receives a quality public education.

Delegates also paid tribute to Executive Director John Wilson who will retire in September. Mr. Wilson thanked the delegation in a speech that captured his passion for public education, students, and the power of collective bargaining:

“You cannot have a vision for a great public school for every student and then not use your best tactic to achieve that vision. I want to see the day when parents demand an expanded scope of collective bargaining in every school district because they know it serves their children well. When collective bargaining becomes ‘collective wisdom,’ to serve students and provide great professionals – both teachers and ESPs – the career they deserve, the community wins, and ultimately America wins.”

To learn more about the NEA RA and policies that were adopted, please visit: www.nea.org.