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NEA Speaks Up for Its Members to Save Jobs

July 1, 2010

By Cynthia McCabe

Faced with the layoffs of more than 150,000 NEA-member teachers and education support professionals, the Association this spring launched a high-energy, rapid response campaign to fight back. And they didn’t do it alone. Partnerships with state affiliates have been crucial to the success of the campaign thus far in calling attention to the crisis facing public schools if educators are deemed expendable by state and federal legislators.

Take North Carolina, where one laid-off member’s writing on the state affiliate’s website was the spark that led to lobbying in the halls of Congress.

When Gina Frutig wrote a blog post on the North Carolina Association of Educator’s website about the harrowing financial situation she faces raising two children on one salary that was about to evaporate, it was amplified nationally with a feature story on Frutig spoke at an NCAE rally on the capitol steps of her home state and then later, on the floor of the statehouse. Just a few weeks later, she came to Washington, D.C., and joined NEA’s lobbying team to talk with members of Congress about the devastating impact of educator layoffs.

Coordinated through a new regional desk field operation in constant communication between NEA and state affiliates, the face-to-face lobbying — which also took place between members from Indiana, Illinois, California and Oklahoma and their representatives — garnered front-page newspaper and television attention and was invaluable in the ongoing effort to shore up Congressional support for the Education Jobs Fund.

Stories like Frutig’s are coming in in droves from across the country to — the campaign website NEA established to encourage activism by members and supporters of public education. Drawing on that repository of hundreds of heart-rending stories, NEA lobbyists, leaders and communications specialists are able to quite literally put a face on the education jobs crisis for lawmakers, the media and influential members of the education and policy communities.

NEA this past May organized a national Speak Up for Education & Kids Day, which resulted in 34,374 calls to Congress by supporters of the Education Jobs Fund, using the 866-608-6355 hotline the Association established for the campaign. (Speak Up Day’s impressive tally helped push the total number of calls that NEA members and supporters placed to Congress thus far this spring and summer urging their support to save educators’ jobs to more than 60,000.) Throughout the day, NEA campaign advertising on television and online reached an estimated audience of 3 million people.

Social media has played a crucial role in not only getting NEA’s message out about the importance of saving educators’ jobs, but also in encouraging concrete action to achieve that goal. More than 30,000 people have become friends of the Speak Up campaign at On Speak Up Day, an estimated audience of 100,000 Twitter users viewed NEA’s tweets that called for action. And in recent weeks, hundreds of NEA’s social media users called or emailed Congress.

In what could be the final days of the jobs campaign — the U.S. House could take up the emergency supplemental legislation containing the $10 billion for education jobs as early as today — the work by NEA and state affiliates will continue in earnest to ensure success. There are members of Congress to get off the fence. There are Congressional supporters to bolster and thank.

Long hours on the campaign by NEA and state affiliate staff, leaders and members are daunting at times but necessary. Perhaps Frutig puts it best: “I will do this not because I have nothing better to do, but because I can’t afford to put the responsibility in someone else’s hands.”


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