There’s no shortage of free or discounted stuff for educators at this year’s NEA RA Expo Center – from the “Share Knowledge, Not Germs” supplies provided by Lysol to the $1,500 discount on a shiny new Chevy Malibu. But the hottest booth this year is the one that asks NEA members to walk away with a new commitment to organizing for public education.
At the NEA Center for Organizing’s booth, NEA Representative Assembly delegates and friends can find out how to get involved in NEA’s New Educator program at a local level, and also pickup information about NEA’s Degrees not Debt campaign, which helps educators to manage their student debt and advocate for student-debt reform.
At the same time, educators are making commitments to go home to Ohio, Maine, California, Illinois, Florida, and across the U.S., and organize around the issues that matter most to their students, parents, and colleagues. In Broward County, Fla., that means Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco will return to South Florida to continue the work of protecting public schools and students from predatory, for-profit charter schools and other efforts to privatize public education, she said. “This about defending public education,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ramon Reeves, a high school science teacher from Atlanta, and his colleagues pledged to fight Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s so-called “Opportunity School District,” which, if approved by voters this November, would allow the state to take over “failing” schools and disinvest in public education. A much better approach for students would be to put resources into those schools, say members of the Georgia Association of Educators.
The issues raised on the floor of the Expo Center are as diverse as NEA’s membership. Florida Education Association-Retired President Marilyn Warner vowed to return to Florida with a focus on the issues that matter to retirees, like retirement security and accessible healthcare, but also the issues that matter to students. “Even though we’re retired, we haven’t lost that love of public education!” she said.
Dismantling institutional racism, spending less time on testing (and more on teaching), creating safe schools for all students, making investments in special education (and arts education, and music education, and physical education),fighting for college affordability, and bargaining for fair pay are all issues that NEA educators promise to pursue in their schools, districts, and states.
“Getting more people involved in the union!” added Illinois education support professional Juanita Samms. “Equal opportunity for all students,” promised middle-school English teacher Scott Kondraschow, also a delegate from Illinois. “Taking part in the fight against systemic, institutional racism, which we all know exists,” said Scott Launier, president of the United Faculty of Florida chapter at the University of Central Florida.
Find your issue—and pick up the free stuff, too—at the Expo Center. It’s open until 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.