2 CEA ADVISOR SUMMER 2019 GOVERNING #STRONGPUBLICSCHOOLS, ELECTION 2020 FOCUS OF NEA REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY O ver the July 4th holiday, more than 100 CEA members traveled to Texas to represent their fellow teachers at the 157th National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA), whose theme was Our Democracy. Our Responsibility. Our Time! Galvanized by the historic mobilization of public school educators across the country, nearly 7,000 elected NEA RA delegates convened at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston for four packed days, and left ready to carry the momentum of the #RedforEd movement into 2020. “This movement has created something better for millions of students and educators,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told delegates in her keynote address, urging teachers to continue bringing about real change by pushing back against school privatization schemes that drive Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s agenda and by staying politically active. Electing a new U.S. president in November 2020, she said, should be a priority for anyone who cares about public education, and public school educators should not shy away from working toward that goal. “Political action isn’t subversive,” she explained. “It’s the essence of democracy. Showing up informed, engaged, and prepared to make a difference is exactly what democracy looks like.” “We need you to come together and make this country whole,” added John Stocks, in his last address as NEA’s executive director. “Most of all, we need you to embrace your power. Let’s be perfectly honest. An educator can do more for our democracy in five minutes than some lawmakers can do over their entire career.” #StrongPublicSchools To that end, a major highlight of this year’s NEA RA was a two-hour, live #StrongPublicSchools Presidential Forum on July 5, where ten presidential hopefuls came out to answer questions from NEA members about everything from education funding to student debt. Equally important, the candidates listened to teachers’ views on the issues. Participating in the forum were former Vice President Joe Biden, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Sen. Kamala Harris, Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Rep. Tim Ryan, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The candidates emphatically supported higher pay for educators and increased federal funding for public education—for infrastructure repairs, wraparound services such as mental health counselors and school psychologists, technology, after- school programs, universal pre-K, and special education. Other topics explored during the forum included addressing inequities in public school systems, valuing the teaching profession, providing student debt relief, increasing school safety, protecting against gun violence, strengthening teachers’ unions and collective bargaining rights, choosing a new U.S. secretary of education, and battling back against school privatization, vouchers, and for-profit charters. Visit StrongPublicSchools.org to learn more about the candidates’ positions, watch videos, get news from the campaign trail, and take action to support public education. New business With meetings from early morning until evening, delegates were busy creating a detailed NEA education policy blueprint for the upcoming year. State delegations met every morning, prior to the NEA RA, and delegates adopted the strategic plan and budget, resolutions, legislative program, and other policies of the Association. By secret ballot, they CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas speaks to a new business item at the NEA RA. CEA’s leadership team—Secretary Stephanie Wanzer, Vice President Tom Nicholas, President Jeff Leake, and Treasurer David Jedidian—attended the 157th NEA RA. voted on proposed amendments to NEA’s Constitution and Bylaws, and they discussed and debated 160 new business items dealing with topics as far-ranging as the impact of technology on students, the opioid crisis, immigration advocacy, charter school “co-location,” and ethnic studies. Delegates ultimately adopted more than 60 of those new business CEA’s delegation to the NEA RA in Houston numbered more than 100. Hats off to Greenwich teachers Karen Nagy and Rae Baczek. The two were awarded Texas-style hats for being the biggest supporters of the NEA PAC fund. Nagy announced to the Connecticut delegation that she is retiring from teaching after 47 years. This was her 35th NEA RA.