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Reg Weaver's Six Years


His legacy: A stronger NEA



During his presidency, Reg Weaver has traveled the country advocating for public education.
When Reg Weaver took office nearly six years ago, the No Child Left Behind law had just passed with the support of a broad bipartisan majority, including many friends of public schools who didn't understand what it would mean in the classroom.

Today, there's a growing consensus that it needs major changes. That transformation is due in no small part to the nationwide campaign by educators to show the country what this 1,100-page law actually means in real life. NEA, under Reg Weaver's leadership, is pushing a positive agenda for overhauling the law with grassroots lobbying by members throughout the country.

This broad, member-participation approach has marked his presidency.

"We are more than one out of every 100 Americans, and we live in every congressional district in the country," Weaver likes to remind audiences. And he stresses the right and the duty of educators to demand respect for themselves and their work: "If they're going to reform schools, they need to do that with us, not to us."

Weaver has spent much of his tenure out in the school districts, meeting thousands of members in visits to over 800 local Associations, inspiring them to stand tall and make their voices heard in Washington, in the state capitals, and the school board chambers.

Reg Weaver has visited schoolchildren around the world, including students in Ghana.

He put NEA and its work before the public as never before with a more powerful and focused public relations program that reached all media, big and small, new and traditional.

He led successful counterattacks against efforts to undermine America's public schools with tax-funded vouchers.

Weaver brought new respect to the hundreds of thousands of education support professionals who are part of NEA and who contribute both to the education of their students and the strength of the Association.

Six years ago, NEA had 2.7 million members but many observers predicted a gradual decline. Weaver would not accept that. He reinvigorated organizing efforts, launching a drive that has so far brought another half million members into NEA and continues unabated.

Weaver also forged a strong alliance with America's minority communities to work toward closing the achievement gaps that hold down many minority children. Major minority organizations have formed a united front with NEA, fighting for great public schools for every child. Reg points out that nearly half of children under five in America are members of racial or ethnic minorities.

During the past few years, Weaver led an effort to refocus the work of NEA around a new vision, mission, and core values document, getting input from members at meetings around the country so that it truly reflected a consensus of the Association. It was passed overwhelmingly by the 2006 Representative Assembly, NEA's top decision-making body.

Besides the NCLB campaigns and the mission-vision-core values effort, Weaver also found time and energy to take NEA's Great Public Schools campaign worldwide as vice president of Education International. Though the languages are different, he found many of the battles going on—for professional respect and pay, adequate school funding, and a commitment to educate all children, regardless of gender, ethnic group, or wealth—are the same.

NEA limits presidents to two three-year terms, so Weaver will step down this summer, leaving the organization larger, stronger, and more effective. "We are millions of voices," he says, but we have one message: the belief that every child, regardless of family income or place of residence, deserves a quality education."

Photos top: Sacramento Bee/Florence Low; Bottom: Cynthia Swann

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19-May-08