Of all of the occasions and actions that floor to a halt amid the best public well being disaster within the nation’s historical past, the 2020 National Education Association Representative Assembly (RA) wasn’t going to be amongst them. On July 2 and three, the greater than 7,000 delegates gathered remotely (after all) and the agenda was streamlined. But the present – the primary all-virtual RA in NEA’s historical past – went on.
“We have masks, social distancing, and disinfectant,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García stated, referring to the rostrum at NEA headquarters she could be sharing solely with NEA officers. “Because nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a global pandemic, is going to stop the National Education Association from doing its work.”
The RA theme this yr was “Our Democracy; Our Responsibility; Our Time.” In 2020, the stakes are simply too excessive for educator voices to go silent. The pandemic has purchased the nation to its knees, triggering an unprecedented financial disaster that’s impacting hundreds of thousands of educators and college students. The nation might lastly be confronting the legacy of institutionalized racism. And the damaging DeVos-Trump college privatization agenda continues to undermine our public schooling system.
As NEA Vice-President Becky Pringle put it in her opening remarks: “Delegates, it’s crunch time.”
This yr, delegates additionally needed to bid farewell to outgoing NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, whose second three-year time period ends on August 31. Video tributes to Eskelsen García (and NEA) poured in from everybody from Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Rep. James Clyburn, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show.”
Eskelsen García is a frontrunner who’s “undaunted by naysayers,” Pringle stated in her introduction of the NEA president. “Unfazed by those who believe something is impossible. You are undeterred by those who think you can’t.”
In her remaining RA keynote, Eskelsen García urged educators in all places to proceed doing what they’ve been doing for many years: to assist lead the nation down a extra equitable, simply, and affluent path. The nightmare of the previous three and a half years should come to an finish, she stated.
“We are educators and public servants. We are unionists. We are activists. We’re patriots…. We are called on to act. So, what will you do? What will you do for your colleagues; your students; the families you love; the communities where you live? What will you do as we face the most dangerous threat to our democracy that we’ve ever faced?” (Watch the complete speech here.)
Stacey Abrams, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives who began the group Fair Fight to guard the suitable to vote after narrowly shedding the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, addressed the RA to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights.
“We’re fighting for free and fair elections, and working around the country to ensure that we will elect in 2020 people who see us, who hear us, and who will represent our values,” Abrams instructed the delegates.
And that features electing a brand new U.S. president. On July 3, Vice President Joe Biden took part in a townhall-style conversation with NEA members, the place he answered educators’ questions on confronting racial inequality, reopening faculties throughout the pandemic, and uniting the nation. After recommending Biden within the Democratic major in March, NEA’s board of administrators and PAC Council in May beneficial Biden in November’s basic election. The RA will vote by mail to approve the advice.
“You are the most important profession in the United States,” Biden instructed the delegates. “You are the ones that give these kids wings. You give them confidence. You let them believe in themselves. You equip them. And I promise you, you will never find in American history a President who is more teacher centric and more supportive of teachers than me.”
In her keynote tackle to the RA, NEA Executive Director Kim Anderson urged delegates to behave at present and demand the U.S. Senate help school districts stave off crippling budget cuts attributable to financial downturn.
“NEA, we need to shout at the top of our lungs to the U.S. Senate — to Sen. Mitch McConnell. Stop standing in the way of saving lives, of saving family businesses. Stop punishing public workers because state and local revenues have dried up due to the complete and utter lack of a national response from the president and all who stand with him!”
As we pursue racial and social justice we should additionally pursue financial justice and political justice.
— NEA (@NEAToday) July 3, 2020
Delegates additionally heard from three of NEA’s most celebrated members: 2020 Education Support Professional of the Year Andrea Beeman, 2020 National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy, and 2020 NEA Higher Educator of the Year Elizabeth Davenport.
In her remarks, Davenport stated she hoped the COVID-19 disaster would power the nation to rethink greater schooling. “In much the same way that George Floyd’s murder has caused the nation to finally address racism and reassess the concept of policing,” Davenport stated, ” the coronavirus might change greater schooling into the social mobility automobile it was designed to be….Maybe this virus is forcing us to lastly begin occupied with how our greater schooling establishments function.”
Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy, the primary early childhood educator to win the distinction, urged all educators to “elevate the voices of the unheard” of their union and of their college communities. “We need equitable representation of every voice that has struggled to be heard. It is our responsibility as leaders to create a path for all voices to become a part of the process,” she stated.
The pandemic and the homicide of George Floyd, ESP of the Year Andrea Beeman instructed the delegates, has proven all of us how our leaders reply to and lead in a disaster. “We’ve seen who truly has the backs of America’s families and children. We’ve seen that we can no longer avoid the difficult conversations about the racial and economic disparities of this nation. We must be in the room where decisions are made.”
NEA additionally awarded its highest honor, The Friend of Education Award, to 17-year-old local weather change activist Greta Thunberg. “Greta is a rabble rouser, and she’s taking on the world for a better tomorrow,” Eskelsen García stated.
Looking to the Future
Because the RA was held nearly this yr, no new enterprise objects have been launched at this yr’s RA. Still, the delegates did approve the NEA’s proposed price range and strategic plan for 2021, particularly essential as college budgets throughout the nation are hammered by the extreme financial downturn.
The U.S. presidential election isn’t the one necessary vote occurring this yr. The finish of the Lily Eskelsen García period means RA delegates must elect a brand new NEA president – and a brand new vp and secretary-treasurer, together with new govt committee members. Delegates may also elect an schooling help skilled (ESP) at-large and an alternate ESP at-large. (Click here to study in regards to the candidates and take a look at their video marketing campaign statements.)
Ballots are being submitted by mail to make sure fairness in participation and the safety and integrity of the democratic course of. Election outcomes will probably be introduced on August 6, 2020, or on August 31, 2020, if a runoff is required. Check nea.org for outcomes.