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President's Viewpoint

Challenges ahead for 2010


Photo by Rick Runion

The New Year always ushers in change, but 2010 promises to be extraordinary for a host of reasons.

We know tough times are still ahead for our states.

An analysis just released by the Pew Center on the States warns that the same economic pressures that pushed California to the brink of insolvency are wreaking havoc on other big states—raising the likelihood of higher taxes, more government layoffs and furloughs, and deep cuts in services.

Meanwhile, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is predicted to be on the fast-track. Action on a new and improved ESEA is expected to begin in January and should wrap up by the end of the 2010 legislative year. The Department of Education will also be rolling out Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and School Improvement Grants, all part of the historic investment in school transformation included in last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Against that backdrop, and in this month of new beginnings and resolutions, NEA is also undergoing change. Our Priority Schools Campaign signifies a commitment to changing the status quo, with an investment of $1 million per year over six years to dramatically improve teacher quality and increase student achievement in the nation’s lowest-performing schools. By leading permanent changes in these schools, NEA members will transform the lives of tens of thousands of students.

One of my favorite books is the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a great read and it has some ideas that have been truly groundbreaking for me, especially the concept that our goals should be a reflection of our principles. Consistent with this belief, turning around schools of greatest need is now an NEA strategic goal—a mechanism for harnessing resources and bringing focus to our work—while we continue advocating for adequate, equitable, and stable funding for public education as well as professional pay that attracts and retains the best teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty and staff.

I know that many of you are working to create meaningful and sustainable change in your schools and communities. But in 2010, we need more than individual and isolated success stories. We need to ignite a sense of urgency that catches on and spreads across the nation. And we need to remember that surviving tough times requires tough advocacy.

I’m sure most of us are considering a resolution for the New Year. It might be to eat healthier, quit smoking, or make more time for friends and family. Unfortunately, often with resolutions, we quickly slip back into our daily routines while the new plan fades in our minds and actions.

As this year of unprecedented change gets under way, we must be resolved to seize the opportunity to transform public education to ensure that every student has access to a great public school. While we can’t control what will happen in 2010, we can control how we respond.

The current system can and must be transformed; and this is our year to make a fresh start to change it. My resolution is to be your committed partner in achieving this goal.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel


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