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NEA’s ‘Speak Up’ campaign puts personal face on growing education crisis

Ad spots feature kids asking Congress, ‘Who do I have to be to get your attention?’

WASHINGTON - May 26, 2010 -

The National Education Association today launched “Speak Up for Education & Kids,” a national campaign to mobilize educators and others concerned about the budget emergency facing public education.  At issue is the “Education Jobs Fund,” legislation that would provide $23 billion in emergency funding for education jobs. 

Joining NEA President Dennis Van Roekel were Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Reps. Dave Obey (D-Wis.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) and AFT President Randi Weingarten, who all challenged other members of Congress to “Speak Up for Education & Kids” to prevent even more dramatic and damaging cuts to resources and services that help kids succeed in school.

“The nation’s economic crisis has pushed public education to a tipping point, but there is still a chance to stave off more damage,” said Van Roekel,  “Congress can choose to put students first by supporting a bill that will keep their teachers and other essential personnel and programs in our schools. All students deserve the highest quality education, and their education shouldn’t be diminished because we lack the political will to act. Every parent and community member and elected official needs to understand the real consequences to this funding crisis.”

Teachers, education support professionals, parents, business leaders, and others in local communities are rallying behind a proposed education jobs fund that would provide $23 billion in much-needed education funding. The “Speak Up for Education & Kids” campaign asks the public and concerned community members to call members of Congress at 1-866-608-6355 and urge them to pass the education jobs fund in the emergency supplemental bill.

“The Recovery Bill last year saved over 300,000 education jobs, but, because states have not yet recovered, and local economies are just beginning the recovery process, we still have a shortage of the financial resources necessary to keep teachers, firemen and policemen on the job for another year while state budgets catch up,” said Rep. Obey, who is chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. “On that score, we have two choices—we can sit, frozen in our own indifference, as President Roosevelt once said, or we can take action to save those jobs.  That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Teachers who recently received layoff notices shared their personal stories about the education cuts. Catie Poff, a reading specialist at Kingston Elementary School in Richmond, Ky., provides individualized attention to students struggling with their reading so they can make up lost ground.  Poff shared how the layoffs are affecting her students.

“The idea of losing my job is upsetting, especially because I know I will never find a job as rewarding as this one or that I love as much,” said Poff.  “But I am just as upset for my students as I am for myself.  My kids—and kids everywhere—deserve every opportunity to succeed. We do them a disservice by denying them access to accomplished teachers who are able to work with them individually.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has testified before Congress that up to 300,000 educators could lose their jobs in the upcoming school year. Millions of public school children will be hurt by the fallout, which will come in the form of ballooning class sizes and a gutted academic program, plus an abrupt end to educational support services for low-performing students.

“School boards and state legislatures are finalizing their education budgets for the upcoming school year and many face tough choices about whether to retain teachers and continue programs that are vital to their ability to provide a world-class education for their students,” said Duncan. “We must act quickly and responsibly to provide schools the resources they need so they don’t have to make choices that would not be in the best interests of their students and teachers.” 

The outreach campaign comes at a critical time. School budgets across the country have already been cut to the bone, forcing massive layoffs of teachers and education support professionals. Some districts are moving to four-day school weeks, cutting critical services and programs for kids, or even closing schools. These layoffs and cuts are coming at the same time that schools are facing demands for better academic outcomes.

The “Speak Up for Education & Kids” campaign includes print, cable television and radio advertisements mixed with interactive social media. The campaign also highlights real-life stories from educators about how these cuts are hurting students.

Kicking off the campaign is a 30-second television spot titled “Listen,” in which students asks viewers, “If I were a Wall Street banker or a company CEO, would Congress listen to me?”  The television ad, designed to raise public awareness of the consequences of not acting, is airing on national and cable networks and in targeted congressional districts.  The Internet and social media campaign will target federal and state policymakers to ensure public education is adequately funded.

“It’s incomprehensible that Wall Street tycoons get a bailout, while we force our children to bear the brunt of the nation’s economic woes,” said Van Roekel.  “Enough is enough. The time to speak up for education and kids is now.”

For more information on Speak Up for Education & Kids, visit
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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: Staci Maiers  (202) 822-7823 or (202) 270-5333 cell,