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Educators fired up to stand up for their students and profession

NEA Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women concludes in Chicago

CHICAGO - June 30, 2011 -

In the face of unrelenting attacks on their profession and unprecedented budget cuts in public education funding, the nation’s educators pledged to continue fighting for great public schools, social justice and equal opportunity for all.  National Education Association (NEA) members convened the 2011 NEA Joint Conference on the Concerns of Minorities and Women: Empowerment from Within—Educators Take Action, to discuss union rights and equality issues.

“We hope every educator attending the 2011 Joint Conference will come away feeling empowered to stand up and use educators’ collective energy in the struggle for human and civil rights, right here in America,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We need your sense of optimism and can-do attitude now more than ever,” said Van Roekel.

Speakers noted that educators are increasingly working in hostile environments, facing demands to “do more with less” as a result of budget cuts, and being on the receiving end of attacks on their profession. Beyond the classroom, in some communities, educators are working with students and families who are facing one of the most anti-immigrant environments in recent history. At the same time, politicians are stripping educators of their collective bargaining rights and pushing radical voter suppression laws. All of this, they reminded the participants, is on top of efforts to privatize public education and drain money from public schools with schemes like vouchers.

Among the highlights of the 2011 Joint Conference the following key speakers:

  • Best-selling author Marie Myung-Ok Lee inspired educators find their voice with her own story about overcoming adversity, racism and bullying to become an accomplished writer.
  • National leading activists engaged educators in an honest and powerful discussion about the state of civil rights.
  • Artist, activist, educator, and scholar Dr. Antonia Darder led the charge to bluntly discuss the role that racism, economic inequality and other environmental conditions play in education.  
  • Lt. Col. (retired) Consuelo Castillo Kickbush shared her story about overcoming poverty, discrimination and illiteracy to inspire others.

The breakout sessions, trainings and workshops focused on engaging hands-on discussions about the following subjects:

  • Defeating attacks on educators and union rights, including: 
  • The role that educators play in transforming public education for the 21st century through initiatives like NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign
  • Making education reform work for minority students
  • Mobilizing women and minority communities to action
  • Training the next generation of union leaders
  • Using students’ experiences to close persistent achievement gaps
  • Mobilizing around English Language Learners and public education
  • Bullying and you: what you need to know, and do, about student bullying

“The 2011 Joint Conference produced a roadmap of action through which we can begin rectifying the civil wrongs happening to and around us, one student at a time, one educator at a time, one school at a time,” said Van Roekel. “We are educators, and because a quality public education is every student’s fundamental human and civil right, we are also civil rights activists.”

For photos and video highlights of the 2011 Joint Conference on Minorities and Women, please 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: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823,