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After the Election

Advocacy: ‘A Year-Round Process’

By Roger M. Williams

When it comes to the vital education issues addressed by members of the National Education Association, advocacy never stops. With the welfare of public schools, working families, and students at stake, constant attention to critical issues is a necessity.

"Advocacy has to be a year-round process," says Marc Egan, associate director of NEA’s Government Relations department, "and it has to happen back home with constituent pressure as much as it happens here in Washington.

Wisconsin retiree Louanne Jozwiak and Chris Guinther, an NEA member living in Missouri, are just two examples of the Association’s activism.

As president of her NEA local, Jozwiak joined with fellow educators to focus ire on Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s allies after he proposed legislation to cut state expenditures and abolish the collective bargaining rights of most public employees, including teachers.

For Jozwiak (pictured left), cuts in state aid to school districts were the principal issue. "We’re supposed to get a lot of money for local districts, and all of a sudden a big chunk of it was going to be taken away."

Asked to assess the educators’ lobbying results, Jozwiak says, "I think we helped forestall the worst cuts, at least for now."

Guinther is not retired, but as president of the Missouri National Education Association, she regularly joins with retirees to wage legislative campaigns in her state. Recently, Guinther helped organize and coordinate a major effort to beat back an attempt to increase, from five to 10, the number of years before tenure can be granted. "Our Missouri education groups, including the retirees, got together on this. We traveled to the Capitol several times to lobby legislators directly. We also set up a sophisticated version of Capwiz (an online lobbying tool) to keep in constant contact with our activists and lobbyist. The outcome? So-called tenure reform was defeated.

Like many of the issues addressed by members of NEA and NEA-Retired, today’s victory doesn’t guarantee tomorrow’s serenity. As Guinther notes, "We’ll probably have to fight this tenure battle again this year." Welcome to the world of the political activist.

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