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Let's Roll Up Our Sleeves!

NEA-Retired prepares for the fight to protect public education and Social Security.

by Amanda Litvinov

Leaders and delegates were focused and determined at this year’s NEA-Retired Annual Meeting in New Orleans, June 27–29.
NEA-Retired President Barbara Matteson opened the meeting by enthusiastically citing the program’s many accomplishments:

 * NEA-Retired is still NEA’s fastest growing constituency
* A new official state affiliate was established in Mississippi
* Much needed community service and new teacher mentoring projects are taking off with the help of the NEA-Retired grant program.

 “NEA-Retired is more a partner with NEA than ever before, and many state Retired groups are developing a more cooperative relationship with their state active Associations,” said Matteson. “This is all good news. Much more is accomplished when we work together.”

That collaborative spirit will be essential, she said, as NEA and NEA-Retired prepare to fight the many challenges to public education and the rights of public employees. “Right now we have a lot of issues facing us and NEA needs our help,” Matteson said.

ESEA Reauthorization

Though NEA hoped that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would be a far easier task with the new Administration, that isn’t proving to be true. Just look at the Blueprint for Reform.

 “We have a lot of experience working with kids and we know what needs to be done to have success in the classroom,” said Matteson. “[The Blueprint] contains a lot of good things,” she noted, but doesn’t do anything to establish a system that uses more than test scores to measure student learning; reduces class size; and fosters equitable and sustainable funding for all public schools.

Matteson urged members to go regularly to and their state Association websites and to read This Active Life magazine to find out how they can help keep public officials on the right track when it comes to education.

Pension Offsets and Social Security

Pension battles in the states, the need to repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision, and new threats to Social Security are other key issues that affect educators and public employees.

Matteson explained that President Obama has appointed a Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that is charged with improving the nation’s fiscal position.

“Social Security is on the chopping block,” she said. “There is a lot of talk about massive changes and cuts to the program and privatizing is on the table. This commission will come up with recommendations in December, conveniently, after the November elections.”

It will take powerful protests from concerned citizens joined together through organizations like NEA and NEA-Retired to stop the commission from ravaging Social Security to reduce the federal deficit, said Matteson. Find out more about the commission's work and urge them to protect Social Security.

NEA will also rely on its dedicated members to fight for public education and senior citizens in the high-stakes elections in November: 37 states will be electing a governor, every seat in the U.S. House of representatives is up for grabs, 35 states will elect a U.S. Senator, and dozens of ballot measures will be decided in more than 25 states.

“We have our work cut out for us,” commented Matteson, “but this is where we shine. . . . So let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy.”

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