I drafted this year’s final “Notes from Camp” on the plane back from Denver. The Representative Assembly adjourned Sunday evening at 6:29–an unusually early ending for An RA with an unusually large amount of business. The flight gives me an opportunity to update some of the items I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Overall, it was a pretty good RA for the Ohio delegation.
- OEA President Becky Higgins’s first year of NEA caucuses were efficient, open, and positive.
- Some Ohio delegates were disappointed that the delegation never went on record as supporting either of the candidates for NEA Secretary-Treasurer, but that seemed to be the will of the body since no candidate ever got enough votes for the win.
- Ohio’s delegation contributed the fifth-highest total of all the state delegations ($68,973) to the Fund for Children and Public Education (FCPE), with (perhaps more important) 100% participation by Ohio’s 292 delegates.
Ohio delegates submitted two New Business Items on behalf of the Ohio delegation: NBIs 19 and 58, submitted by Ohio delegates Ray Beiersdorfer and Kevin Carlin respectively.
- A modified form of NBI 19 passed: “NEA shall use existing resources and publications to educate its members about the environmental and health effects of shale gas fracking.”
- NBI 58 was referred to a committee to be determined: “NEA will use existing resources to educate its members and the public about how charter schools are funded and what accountability standards to which they are held compared to public schools.”
The RA typically honors a Friend of Education, and this year was no exception. This year’s Friend of Education was Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Afghan education crusader who continues to recover from an assassination attempt ion 2012. Her inability to attend the RA didn’t prevent delegates from honoring her with a sustained standing ovation for her heroism.
There are elections at NEA every year, of course, but this year’s were especially important. Vice President Lily Eskelsen Garcia’s was elected President and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Pringle was elected Vice President. In an extremely close election, Princess Moss won the position of Secretary-Treasurer. For the next three years–and perhaps as many as six–the executive officers of America’s largest labor union, 80% of whose members are women, will be women.
It’s no surprise, then, that all eyes were on the new President-elect as she took the podium for her acceptance speech. She threw down a challenge to those who mistakenly push the agenda she refers to as “privatization, de-professionalization, and standardization.”
“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,” García told the delegate assembly. “Everything is possible to people who don’t know anything.”
She reminded delegates of the importance of what they do: “Our work is made of flesh and blood. Our work is the future of everything.”
García recalled Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign mantra, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” She then added her own version: “For us, one thing is clear, before anything is going to get better: It’s the Testing, Stupid. Better yet, it’s the stupid testing.”
These are difficult times to be an educator or a student in America, and what lies ahead for NEA and America’s schools is uncertain. The 10,000-plus delegates, staff, and guests who gathered at the Colorado Convention Center this past week got a preview of what the struggle ahead looks like.