NEA President Dennis Van Roekel opened the 2012 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA) on Monday by challenging members to stand up for their profession and come together in a united mission to transform America’s public schools into world class institutions of learning.
Van Roekel said NEA members realize they can’t set education policy by themselves, but they do have the power to influence it.
“You do it each and every day – it’s who we are – it’s what we do…because we educate America!”
He asked NEA members if they are willing to assert their leadership, and take responsibility for their professions, because “if we are not ready to lead, I know there are many others ready, willing, and waiting to do it for us.”
Those include the many elected officials and self-proclaimed “reformers” who are constantly weighing in about public education.
“They have an opinion on everything – the who, the what, the when, the where and the how – about public education,” Van Roekel said.
But amid all the talk, very few bring up the “why” of public education, which Van Roekel said should be the starting point.
“What is the purpose of public education?” he asked. “It’s access and equity…Public education is the vehicle to teach American values and ideals. And in a nation where equal opportunity is one of our most deeply held values, education is the key that opens the door to economic opportunity.”
Educational equity is when every child, and every classroom, has a great teacher and great support professionals, Van Roekel said. If the solutions others are attempting to impose on schools don’t create educational equity, then NEA must take the responsibility to define solutions that do.
Van Roekel asked NEA members to use their collective power to raise the level of preparation for those coming into our profession and improve the practice of those already there. He also demanded that every educator – including ESPs — receive the professional development and support they need to help all students succeed.
“We are three million strong, and we have the greatest power in the world – the power to change lives. So let’s use that power. Let’s use our power to make public education stronger…. to make our nation a better place, moving ever closer to our great and noble ideal of equal opportunity – not just for a fortunate few, but for every single child.”
Later in the day, renowned economist and author Paul Krugman received the 40th annual Friend of Education Award for his work in advancing the dialogue of education inequality and the importance of teacher quality and student success.
“As a leader in the field of modern economics, Paul Krugman understands that we need to make education a priority if we expect to maintain an American competitive edge,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “A product of public schools, Paul Krugman is just one of many public school success stories. We are very proud to call Mr. Krugman a Friend of Education. He has done outstanding work to help raise awareness of the significant impact of education inequality on student success.”