The Blog

NEA RA Delegates Kick Off 2013 Business Meeting

As the 2013 NEA Representative Assembly kicked off today, nearly 10,000 attendees from all over the U.S.—of which more than 1,000 are from California—tackled important business after an energetic welcome to the four-day Atlanta, Georgia conference.

During NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s keynote speech, the association launched its Raise Your Hand Campaign urging delegates to take on leadership roles, fight for social justice and work together to create positive change for students.

New Business Items were also a focal point of the agenda.

CTA President Dean Vogel speaks to the Representative Assembly

CTA President Dean Vogel speaks to the Representative Assembly

CTA President Dean Vogel spoke on behalf of the delegation in support of New Business Item 3, which CTA had submitted. With this NBI, the “NEA calls for a moratorium on using the outcome of the tests associated width the Common Core standards, except to inform instruction, until states and districts have worked width educators to create authentic, locally-developed curriculum, assessments and professional development related to the Common Core.”

“Everybody’s tired of this testing nonsense and people are waiting for a voice to tell them the truth… and that voice is the National Education Association’s and the time is NOW,” said Vogel to a cheering crowd of delegates supporting the NBI. The Rep Assembly adopted NBI 3.

The business continues tomorrow at 10 a.m. on the 4th of July holiday. The CTA caucus will convene at 7:00 a.m. Look for an update on tomorrow’s business and stay connected to our Facebook page to view pictures and posts directly from delegates on the floor. You can also follow the event on Twitter by using the hashtag #NEARA13.

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 5

The Last RA By Reagan Duncan

I entered the convention center width heavy heart,  knowing that this was the last day. Today I'd have to say goodbye to new friends I'd made, hoping that I would get to see them again, but not really knowing if I would. I trudged slowly to my section, looking for the familiar blue seat cover labeled Minnesota(my state contact).

I can't emphasize enough what an eye opening and just plain fantastic learning experience it has been. Dennis Van Roekel begins the meeting and I am hit width the realization that this is it! This enormous body representing over 3 million members has convened to pass resolutions and New Business Items (NBI) and make amendments that can help change the face of education at a national level. I feel empowered and have a renewed sense of hope for education.

I made my way to the Minnesota section for the last time, delivered my state's info, shared hugs and well wishes, hoping we'd be paired again next year.

Though saddened by these goodbyes, I knew the day would be a great one. Not only was the the National Teacher of the Year (from California no less!) going to speak, but President Obama himself had scheduled a call width us!

The debate over NBIs began to fly by. I am so very proud to be a California delegate, the state that puts in the majority of NBIs. The passion of our delegation is demonstrated every day as we defend the rights of our disenfranchised students. We stand up and ask all NEA delegates to take consideration of issues such as anti-gay bullying, underhanded segregation, discrimination based on language, dialect, race or sexual orientation. The importance of issues facing our students and profession are at the forefront of all dialogue. Some business items are passed, some are not. This is the beauty of democracy. Each individual has a voice and I am living it!

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 4

State contact fun! By Reagan Duncan

Still going strong! After entering the floor today I got right to work. My one big job each day as state contact is to take California's tracking sheet on our positions to the state I've been assigned.

This morning, like every RA morning, I searched for my contacts from Minnesota to share our information. This time they had many questions, almost none of which I could answer myself! So...I got to do some super sleuthing work, kinda fun! I sought out board members, makers of motions and New Business Items (NBI).

Though it might sound mundane, it was actually quite an experience. I was able to meet some new people and came to understand some of the NBIs in much more detail. It actually clarified many things that I didn't even realize I myself needed clarification on!

For those of you that may have wondered how you could get more involved in the RA, volunteer as state contact. You'll make new friends as well as learn about what happens behind the scenes and between the states. Even better, you'll have a totally legitimate reason to get out of your seat!

I now have 2 new friends in the great state of Minnesota, Bill and Cheri Kunshier. I thank them for their hospitality and for their patience in helping a newbie like me learn the ropes!

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Love on display on the NEA RA floor

Through a point of personal privilege on the NEA RA floor today, Robert Hill of Ventura, CTA's Education Support Professional of Year, proposed to CTA Retired member Sharon Iverson of Long Beach.

Robert said he wanted to propose here at the RA because both he and Sharon consider the entire delegation their family and wanted to share this special moment width them.

After a prolonged standing ovation and loud cheers, Sharon said, "yes!"

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 3

First-time delegate Reagan Duncan meets her state contacts from Minnesota

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Making America a More Perfect Union

This morning, NEA Executive Director John Stocks gave a moving speech to the NEA RA, lauding the accomplishments of "social justice patriots" and reminding all of us to demand a more perfect union. Below is an excerpt:

Our American DNA is embedded width a profound sense of possibility, an unshakable belief in a better tomorrow, an abiding faith that the American Dream is not only real, but a belief that there are many Americans who are willing to ensure that it’s truly accessible for everyone.

Too often we overlook the part of our national portrait that celebrates those Americans who are driven by their conscience to make America a more perfect union, those who are constantly urging America to live up to its promise of equal opportunity and justice for all.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said that to be “divinely dissatisfied” width America is to love America. I agree width him. I have a name for people who are divinely dissatisfied width America, yet love America’s promise.

I call them social justice patriots.

I have tremendous faith that we as a nation will continue to progress because of the social justice patriots who valiantly fight every day to make America live up to its promise. Social justice patriots challenge our present in order to forge a better future for all of us.

Let me give you an example:

The Declaration of Independence contains the aspirational phrase that we are "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." But we know that phrase is woefully inadequate to capture our glorious diversity and our society doesn't always guarantee equality.

Every time we challenge ourselves to broaden the inclusiveness of that phrase, we are actually engaging in the patriotic act of making America a more perfect union. And for me, a “more perfect union” means making America a more just society.

I have a deep reverence for NEA members. You’ve played a huge role in fostering social justice patriotism throughout American history. Not only have educators instructed each generation about the core principles upon which America was founded, but you have, in many instances, acted as the conscience of the nation we love.

It was educators, through this Association, who sought funds for the education of freed slaves and their children after the Civil War, who spoke out against the treatment of Native American children in government schools, who supported a woman’s right to vote.

It was educators, through this Association, who spoke out against the internment of Japanese-American children and their families.

It was educators, through this Association, who demanded equal educational opportunity for children width disabilities.

It was educators, through this Association, who challenged the absurdity that Spanish-speaking children were incapable of learning like other children.

It was educators, through the American Teachers Association, and then the National Education Association, who opposed the segregation of Black children in schools that were inherently unequal.

It was educators, through this Association, who took a stand to support equal treatment for same-sex couples.

We have every right to be proud, both of our Association and of our country. That doesn’t mean that we’ve always arrived at these proud moments easily as an association. We wrestled width these issues as an association, and we came down on the right side of history.

Adrienne Rich, an American poet, said: “A patriot is one who wrestles for the soul of her country as she wrestles for her own being.”

So in thinking about being a social justice patriot, we must not only think about challenging our country to be better, but we must also challenge ourselves as individuals to do better. Are we fulfilling our American calling to stand up for the rights of others?

Are we doing enough to honor our core values of Democracy, Equal Opportunity, and A Just Society?

I see breathtaking examples of NEA members educating America in order to make a more perfect union. And we should celebrate them, but we have more to do.

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VP Joe Biden Visits NEA RA

NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate - Day 2

Entering my first NEA RA by Reagan Duncan

The crowd surges forward, the music is pumping, and teachers are dancing in the aisles...wow! I'm struck by the sheer number of teachers, of NEA and state delegates, giving up their time to be here and participate in this oportuntinity to make true use of the democratic process afforded to us as citizens of the US. I'm overwhelmed by the passion of these people in this room and oh so very proud to be considered one of them! I seek out my wonderfully sweet state contacts, a couple from Minnisota, and happily exchange tracking papers and gifts. Soon confetti showers down from the ceiling as the NEA RA begins. It's an overwhelming experience that I wish every teacher back at my home school could witness! The room is electric and I'm just a willing and ready conduit, taking it all in!

As business begins I am still just in awe of all that I see. I did finally come to my senses, listen, take notes and vote. I'm almost sad that I'll never have another first day. This first experience has just been so exciting and moving! Democracy in action!

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NEA RA: Diary of a first-time delegate

First-time delegate Reagan Duncan

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NEA honors America’s human and civil rights heroes

NEA will honor 13 of America’s human and civil rights heroes at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in Washington, DC - two of whom are Californians.  In addition to celebrating some of the nation’s leading civil and human rights activists, the ceremony commemorates the 1966 National Education Association-American Teachers Association merger and serves as a time of renewal while renewing a commitment to the social justice struggle that lies ahead.

Mary Ann Pacheco

Professor, Rio Hondo Community College; Whittier, Calif.

Following in the famous footsteps of César Chávez, Mary Ann Pacheco is a long-time advocate for improving the status of labor and the lives of workers, earning her NEA’s César Chávez Acción y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award. Pacheco is a staunch advocate of the DREAM Act. She has extended her passion and activism to fighting for the collective bargaining rights of higher education faculty members. She has spoken forcefully for academic freedom and union rights whenever and wherever they are threatened.

Stewart Kwoh

President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC); Los Angeles, Calif.

This year’s NEA Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award will be awarded to Stewart Kwoh for his work in education and his commitment to equal opportunities for Asians and Pacific Islanders. Kwoh has worked tirelessly for the inclusion of Chinese history, culture, language, as well as Chinese American history, in the Los Angeles public school system. Moreover, Kwoh has fought against stereotypes by combining muted diplomacy width steely determination to end discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“We celebrate our civil rights heroes, both past and present, because the struggle for social justice continues and by holding up these heroes we inspire the next generation,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The people we honor at NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner, whether they are widely-acclaimed or unsung, motivate us to purposeful and principled action by providing a vision of what the world could be width cooperation and understanding.”

The annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner was originally created by the American Teachers Association (ATA), which represented Black teachers in segregated schools—and when NEA and ATA merged in 1966, NEA agreed to carry on this annual human and civil rights awards tradition. NEA members submit nominations for the annual awards.  Nominations are reviewed by NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Committee which makes recommendations to the NEA Executive Committee.  The Executive Committee determines the award recipients.

Detailed information and photos for each honoree may be found at: www.nea.org/grants/51401.htm.

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