Monday, July 04, 2005

Needed: Great public schools

Great Public Schools for Every Child

NEA President Calls on Nation to Join the Fight for Great Public Schools for Every Child

LOS ANGELES – On the day that he was chosen to lead the 2.7 million-member National Education Association (NEA) for another term, President Reg Weaver issued a call to the nation to give children, educators and public schools what they need to improve student achievement and close the achievement gaps.

“Public education is the cornerstone, the foundation, the core of democracy. It is what has made this country great,” Weaver said in his keynote address to more than 9,000 delegates. “I am asking you, the NEA…to make a covenant with this nation, a covenant that states what it takes to make the promise of a great public school system a reality.”

Even though the public trusts teachers more than anyone to say what education reforms are needed, “we are at a critical crossroads” with schools and educators battered by funding cuts, privatization schemes, and the rigid demands of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act, he said.

In order to ensure every child has access to a great public school, NEA must step up its fight in six critical areas, Weaver stated. First, NEA increased its membership by more than 92,000 during his first three years as president—allowing it to become a more powerful advocate for children and public schools—and the Association’s organizing efforts will continue full speed ahead.

NEA also has achieved some success in its efforts to fix and fund the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. The U.S. Department of Education has made regulatory changes to the law, 179 Members of Congress have signed on to legislative proposals to improve the law, and many other groups are echoing NEA’s concerns.

With the costs and demands of the law increasing, NEA and its affiliates filed a lawsuit against the Department. Weaver expressed disbelief that the Department is claiming that NEA and its members have no legal standing to sue: “We could not sit back while the children, students and educators of this country became professional test-takers and test-givers—because we do have standing, and we will stand up for the hopes and the dreams and for the future of this great nation!”

Pointing out that voucher advocates and other privatization proponents are actively courting minority parents, Weaver also urged NEA members to work hard to build partnerships with minority communities and to communicate to them what the Association is doing to close the achievement gaps for minority students.

Another component of Weaver’s vision is a nationwide push to attract and retain quality teachers and education support staff in the profession. NEA today announced a nationwide push for a $40,000 minimum starting salary for teachers as well as enhanced pay for veteran teachers and an appropriate living wage for other school personnel.

Greater support for teachers goes hand-in-hand with greater responsibility for all, Weaver noted. “We must insist upon the professionalism of all of our colleagues, and we must also be willing to assist and support them,” but it’s also up to parents to get more involved in their children’s education and policymakers to provide the investments public schools require, he said.

That’s why as NEA builds its grassroots capacity, it will continue supporting those who stand with its members in support of public education, Weaver said.

“We continue to mobilize in order that we might cultivate a political base that ignores whether you are on the left or right side of the aisle, but recognizes and supports whether you are on the side of the children, students, teachers, faculty and education support professionals,” he said.

July 3, 2005

Daniel Kaufman, (301) 651-0559 (cell) or
Melinda Anderson, (703) 927-8044 (cell) or


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 2.7 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.
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