“This is not a drill,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told the 2017 NEA Representative Assembly. “We stand in a dangerous place. We stand between a profiteer and his profits. We have a president who resides at the dangerous intersection of arrogance and ignorance and travels with a moral compass that always points to his own self-interest.”
In her keynote address on Sunday, Eskelsen García laid out in stark terms the dangers posed by the agenda of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, but reminded the 7,500 delegates gathered in the Boston Convention Center that “we can win. We have the power, and they know it.”
Watch as Lily addresses 7,500 educators at this year's convention, the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world
Posted by NEA Today on Sunday, July 2, 2017
Eskelsen Garcia recalled how she had to turn down an invitation from DeVos to meet because the new Education Secretary failed to answer simple questions about her commitment to accountability and transparency for charter schools and to protecting our most vulnerable students.
We have have already seen some of Devos’ answers. She has made it clear that the Education Department under her leadership will pursue the most egregious school privatization agenda in the form of charter school and voucher expansion, and will not protect our most vulnerable students. The Trump/DeVos administration rescinded the Office of Civil Rights letter that the Obama administration sent to districts clearly stating that they were legally responsible for protecting transgendered students from discrimination.
“I will not allow the National Education Association to be used by Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos,” Eskelsen García told the delegates to resounding applause. “I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts. I see no reason to assume they will do what is best for our students and their families. There will be no photo-op!”
Eskelsen García recounted how many states – Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.- have already scored victories against the Trump-DeVos privatization agenda. Educators in Massachusetts fought back an initiative on unaccountable charter school expansion, voters in Georgia rejected a referendum to give the state the power to takeover schools, and South Dakota educators worked with Republicans and Democrats to direct more revenue to the state’s public schools.
“We will find common ground with many Republicans and many Democrats on many issues. We will not find common ground with an administration that is cruel and callous to our children and their families,” Eskelsen García said.
The current administration, however, knows the NEA is a threat, and will not relent in its attacks on public schools and public school educators.
“They will try to take away your freedom to organize. They will try to take away your freedom to negotiate with a collective voice. They will try to silence us because when we win, the entire community wins. Working people who don’t even have access to a union win, because we’re there to fight for their kids’ schools and affordable college.”
This assault will also target younger, newer educators with lies and distortions about what the NEA is and what it stands for, in hopes of diminishing its ranks in the aftermath of an expected wave of retirments.
“They won’t succeed,” Eskelsen García told the delegates. “Because we know in our bones who we are. And we will tell every new colleague the truth about who we are: We are the members of the National Education Association. We are the voice of education professionals. Our work is fundamental to the nation, and we accept the profound trust that is placed in us.”