Skip to Content

NEA president calls on members to lead efforts to transform public education and work to help strengthen the middle class

SAN DIEGO - July 03, 2009 -

Speaking to nearly 10,000 delegates today during the 147th Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly in San Diego, CA, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel urged members to organize and help address the “challenges of our time.” Van Roekel delivered his first keynote address as president of the nation’s largest professional organization.

“NEA welcomes a national conversation about how to transform our school system, including better ways to measure student learning, improve the practice of our profession, attract bright and talented students into teaching and confront the problems that plague poor and minority children in struggling schools,” Van Roekel told delegates. 

Elected president last July, Van Roekel said educators must be willing to ask new questions and seek new answers.  “We must re-examine widely held views, be open to new ideas, new strategies, new opportunities, and we must confront the most difficult challenges in education.”

Van Roekel told delegates that educators are fortunate to have a new president and education secretary who understand that school transformation “is something you do with educators, not to them.” He said President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan share NEA’s vision of great public schools for every student.

Van Roekel also said that NEA members are open to considering alternatives to the current compensation systems.  He pointed out that some NEA affiliates have already bargained new systems.  “We understand though that compensation systems are bargained and negotiated not imposed,” he said.

The mission of NEA, Van Roekel told delegates, has always centered on public education, students, and the people who choose education as their profession. He said that while nobody goes into education to get rich, he said it’s also true that nobody goes into education to be poor. “I’m not embarrassed to say that I believe that educators’ work is important, that we do our job well and that we deserve quality pay, benefits, a secure retirement, and the resources needed to provide for our own families.”

Van Roekel said NEA must be an active player in helping to rebuild the middle class. “NEA must join with its allies in the fight to secure health care for every American.  We must fight for the policies that will bring economic security to our members and the families of our students.  We want to transform education.  We want to strengthen the middle class,” Van Roekel said.

High resolution photos of this event can be downloaded from

# # #

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

CONTACT: Rene Carter
(619) 525-6366,