Contact: Mike Myslinski at 650-552-5324
BURLINGAME – The National Education Association (NEA) is honoring the California Teachers Association (CTA) and its President Barbara E. Kerr with two prestigious human rights awards. NEA announced recently that it will present the 340,000-member CTA with the Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award and Kerr with the César Chávez Acción y Compromiso Award at its 41st Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in Philadelphia, on July 1, 2007.
The César Chávez Acción y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award is presented to an individual who has followed Chávez’s leadership in bringing people together, helping them reach consensus, and mobilizing them in one direction.
Kerr was recognized for her leadership in forging a statewide coalition that successfully defeated Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s assault on education and public employees in the 2005 special election. During that campaign, teachers, nurses, firefighters, law enforcement officials and other public employees challenged the governor’s special-interest agenda everywhere he went. Voters defeated all of the initiatives on that ballot.
“Getting people to see eye to eye is no small feat. It’s no easier when helping to organize other unions,” said NEA President Reg Weaver. “Kerr’s unwavering commitment to building effective labor coalitions has led to more problem-solving, bridge-building and promise-keeping for California’s labor force.”
Kerr was also cited for leading CTA in 2003 to support grocery store workers in Southern California who went on strike when grocery chains sought to destroy their health benefits. CTA launched a million dollar statewide radio campaign calling on Californians not to shop at stores where workers were striking. No other union matched CTA’s support.
“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award,” Kerr said. “César Chávez was an inspiration to me, and I greatly admired his work and leadership. I am grateful and humbled that my work would be recognized in this way, but the real credit goes to the 340,000 members of CTA and the thousands of firefighters, nurses, law enforcement officials, and public employees who stood together to protect their rights and the rights of working Californians.”
CTA will receive the NEA’s Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award for revamping its Human Rights Department to provide comprehensive strategies for closing gaps in student achievement and dealing with issues related to racism and bias in the classroom, human rights, women, and ethnic minority affairs.
Working with local chapters, community leaders, parents and students, the Human Rights Department conducted a study titled “Race and the Achievement Gap: Understanding Unconscious Bias in the Classroom.” To improve the teaching process and student learning, this project delved deep into heightening unconscious—or hidden—biases among teachers.
“The California Teachers Association took a courageous approach in dissecting its Human Rights Department to incorporate equity and diversity activities that offset the unfortunate realities of a diverse student population,” said NEA President Reg Weaver. “Stepping out of the department’s comfort zone to create great public schools for every child is a bold and admirable move.”
This award recognizes effective human rights programs that revive, expand or establish human relations programs through training, community involvement and educational initiatives.
Other NEA Human and Civil Rights Award winners from California include:
- Marilyn Landau of Rancho Palos Verdes, a long-time women’s advocate and former CTA Board member who represented Los Angeles. She will receive the NEA’s Mary Hatwood Futrell Award, which honors an educator whose activity in women’s rights significantly impacts education and achievement of equal opportunity for women and girls.
- Lula Washington, artistic director of the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Los Angeles, recipient of the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award for providing a creative outlet for minority dance artists in inner-city communities.
- Pam Muñoz Ryan, a literary writer from Bakersfield, recipient of the Author-Illustrator Human and Civil Rights Award for her page-turning tales, including the widely acclaimed and best-selling Esperanza Rising.
- “Sweet” Alice Harris, founder and executive director of Parents of Watts, Los Angeles, recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award for her commitment to education and community involvement.
- U.S. Rep. Michael Honda of California’s 15th Congressional District, recipient of the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for his commitment to education, civil rights and environmental issues.