President's Viewpoint - Working for Education Funding and ESEA
Keeping Up the Fight
Eight-year-old Brett Hansen may have just become the new cause célèbre of the organizing movement. It all started when administrators at Aldo Leopold Elementary School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, refused to let second-graders use the gym for indoor recess.
That privilege was reserved for fourth- through eighth-graders. Brett, not satisfied with running relays between the desks in his classroom, decided to petition administrators to change their policy and let the younger kids have gym time during indoor recess, too.
His petition was signed by 82 out of 92 second- and third-graders, who were eager to play football and run around just like the big kids. Brett’s spirit of collective action—skills he learned from his mother, Dayna Hansen, an NEA member, and his grandmother, Kay Hansen, an NEA ESP At Large Director—paid off when administrators agreed to make the gym available to the younger students.
Kids live by their instincts, openly and without hesitation. Even though they still have a lot to learn, just observing them is a refreshing reminder of what we can all accomplish when we organize for success and act decisively.
For more than a year, NEA worked alongside our affiliates and thousands of members to achieve a longtime goal: access to quality health care for every man, woman, and child. Even when it looked as if reform would not pass, we never stopped fighting. In the end, we played a key role in persuading Congress to pass the historic legislation that the President signed in March—a measure that will protect the benefits of our members who already have insurance, while expanding access to those who aren’t currently covered.
We did make a difference. We did improve the legislation. And we were heard because we were organized and insistent. Now we turn our full attention to jobs, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and protecting education programs from deep budget cuts.
These are hard times for NEA members and our nation. State budget shortfalls are at historic levels, and layoffs are coming at an alarming rate. The economic crisis is not only threatening education funding, but is impacting the daily lives of students and their families. For this reason, NEA is urging Congress to invest significant dollars in retaining and creating education jobs and providing more financial aid to states so they can avoid drastic cuts in education programs.
But the economy is not our only hurdle. In Washington, we are preparing for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to finally be reauthorized. The Administration has released a blueprint for reauthorization; there are some good ideas in the blueprint, but there are others with which we simply don’t agree. After eight years of working under the failed No Child Left Behind law, we know that our students and members can’t afford another horrible mistake. This time, Congress and the Administration must get it right.
We will be forceful in standing up for our principles. We will demand that AYP is replaced with a system that recognizes schools for the progress they make and that tracks student learning over time with multiple, reliable measures. We’ll work to elevate the profession of teaching and include educators in the decision-making. And we will champion adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding for all public schools.
I hope NEA can count on your help as we work to make changes in ESEA and fight to protect education funding. It couldn’t be more important, and we can’t do it without you.
--NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
Photo: © 2010 by Patrick G. Ryan/NEA. All Rights Reserved.