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Editor’s Note

Your Voice, Your Future

Decisions made in statehouses across the nation today will affect tomorrow’s teachers for years to come. NEA is fighting to ensure that you will have a voice in those decisions.

As this year’s edition of Tomorrow’s Teachers goes to press, educators are under attack.

All eyes were on Wisconsin in February, when Governor Scott Walker declared war on the working class by doing everything in his power to strip the right to collective bargaining for all educators and all public workers. But this is not just happening in Wisconsin. It’s not just in Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan, Arizona, New Jersey, or New Hampshire, where similar attacks workers’ rights have been proposed. It’s everywhere right-wing activists see an opportunity to blame educators for a recession created by Wall Street, and an excuse to eliminate unions.

It’s everywhere where the voices of educators, calling for smaller class sizes or increased funding to classrooms, have become too irritating to conservative politicians. It’s everywhere where public employees have questioned the long-term wisdom of tax cuts for the wealthy.

“I believe there is even more urgency to the work we do at the National Education Association today than when I became a teacher more than 30 years ago,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “This fight is about giving politicians the unchecked power to make critical decisions about ourselves and our students. Educators are ready to share the pain of getting through this tough economy. But we refuse to surrender our right to a voice at the table.” 

These poor economic times will pass. But the legacy of these current battles between partisan politicians and public employees will impact classrooms and campuses across this country for years to come. Will you have 42 kids in 22 desks in 2015? Will your tax money be paying the private-school tuition of rich kids? Will you have a job at all?

It all depends on who wins these state legislative battles. And that’s where you can make a difference. The teachers and support professionals, and parents and students—who so rarely have a voice in public debate—need to be heard.

“When we look at you, our next generation of educators, we realize that you are also the ones who will continue our work as NEA members,” says Van Roekel. “You make us optimistic about the future.”

NEA Student Program Chair Tommie Leaders (pictured left) says that even as you prepare to enter the classroom full-time, you should also prepare to be politically active on issues that affect public education. “Collective bargaining does not directly impact us yet, but it has a direct impact on the career we are preparing to enter,” says Leaders. “Pay attention to what’s going on in the political world and in your state; lobby your elected leaders and let them know that investments in education are investments in the future.”

Jessica Hourigan, co-Political Chair of the Illinois NEA-Student Program, has a few tips about how you can get involved now:

Be an active member of your Student Program chapter—your NEA membership opens up a ton of opportunities for you. It’s made me a lot more educated in the field of public education!

Remember you’re deciding the future when you vote—don’t give up that opportunity. Talk to your friends and family about what their votes could mean to public education.

 

If your state has a Lobby Day, make sure you attend! It’s so inspiring—if  there’s anything to make you politically active, it’s going to Lobby Day.

The Internet is your best friend. Go to www.educationvotes.org to sign the national petition for educators’ rights and sign up to be an online volunteer. Find the Speak Up for Education campaign on Facebook.

Check your state Association’s website for updates. And keep up with the national picture by joining the NEA Student Program Facebook group and subscribe to RSS feeds from NEA’s other properties:

—The Editors

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