WASHINGTON - August 05, 2020 - Becky Pringle, a science teacher from Philadelphia, has been elected president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing 3 million educators, making her the nation’s highest-raking African American female labor leader.
Nearly 6,000 elected delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly (RA), which was conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis, cast mail-in ballots electing Pringle as president of the NEA.
Pringle is taking the helm of NEA during an unprecedented time of crisis for our students, schools, and communities, and especially our communities of color where job losses, housing and food insecurities, and digital divides have been exacerbated. COVID-19 closed school buildings across our nation this spring, and now school communities are wrestling with incredibly difficult decisions about when to reopen buildings for in-person teaching and learning. For NEA leaders, the answer is clear. Decisions to reopen buildings should be based on health expertise, and educators and families can build a plan for how to make it happen. Nobody wants to be back in school more than educators, but NEA leaders have consistently said that safety of our students, families, and educators must be our number-one priority.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made our work much more urgent and much more difficult. It has deepened disparities and has underscored the vast inequities in educational opportunity, particularly in Black and brown, indigenous and rural communities,” said Pringle. “As NEA president, my first order of business is to direct financial resources to support our members in their fight to ensure the mental and physical health and safety of their students, their colleagues and their communities. And to center teaching and learning in equity and excellence.
“It is imperative that they reopen our schools and campuses for in-person learning, but we cannot reopen them until they are safe,” she said. “We know it is in the best interest of our students to be with each other and have their teachers and education support staff together guiding their learning and development. As educators work with families to make sure students have access to instruction even if the buildings remain closed due to the pandemic, we must treat racial and social justice as a priority so that we don’t inflict more harm on the students and communities that can least afford to bear it.”
In her acceptance speech during a town hall with RA delegates, Pringle said, “We cannot—we will not—put off for one more second creating schools that serve the needs of all our students regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, immigration status or language. Now is the time to address the systemic inequities that beset our most vulnerable students.”
An educator with 31 years of classroom experience, Pringle is a fierce racial and social justice warrior, staunch defender of educators’ rights, and an unrelenting advocate for all students to have what they need and deserve.
“I spent over 30 years teaching middle schoolers. During all those years in the classroom, a deep love grew within me not only for teaching, but also for advocacy—for all students and educators, and for public education,” said Pringle. “As educators we have a powerful and collective voice that we must use to ensure that not one, not some, but every one of our students has what they need when they need it. We will use that voice to lead a movement for racial, social and economic justice.”
Throughout Pringle’s years as NEA’s vice president and secretary-treasurer, she worked relentlessly to combat institutional racism and spotlight systemic patterns of racism and educational injustice that impact students. In the social justice arena, she has fought for the rights of students with disabilities, women and girls, those who identify as LGBTQ, and those who are English Language Learners.
“Becky is exactly the person that every student needs, that every educator needs, on their side,” said outgoing NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “She is smart and passionate. She will grab the baton and run with it. She will fight to make our public schools better for every student and every educator, no matter their color, gender or ZIP code. She will ensure that equity is at the forefront for our college and universities as well.”
Pringle will join newly elected Vice President Princess Moss and Secretary-Treasurer Noel Candelaria at the helm of NEA. The leadership team, which is all people of color, will head the nation’s largest labor union.
Pringle has a long and notable record of association advocacy at the national, state, and local levels. She began her leadership journey as a local president, and then went on to serve on the NEA Board of Directors and the Pennsylvania State Education Association board. She also served two terms as a member of NEA’s Executive Committee where she distinguished herself as a thoughtful and passionate advocate for the nation’s public school educators and students. As NEA secretary-treasurer, Becky skillfully led the union through one of the worst economic periods in recent history. Her efforts enabled the Association to emerge on a strong financial footing with more power to advance its mission.
The impact of Pringle’s leadership is far reaching and includes serving as finance chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; on the Blue Ribbon Panel on Teacher Preparation for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education; and on the Institute for Educational Leadership Task Force. She is a recipient of the Black Women’s Roundtable Education Innovation & Social Justice Leadership Award from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Woman of Power Award from the National Action Network and was named Community Woman of the Year by the American Association of University Women. She also is a lifetime member of the NAACP. Pringle served with distinction on President Obama’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Her work included addressing issues of teacher recruitment and retention, STEM access and opportunities, and college preparation and completion.
Those who know her best know that she is also a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan, loves anything purple, and holds the coveted title of “Best Nana B in the World.”
“I know that we can come out of this difficult time stronger, able to provide the opportunities that every student needs to live into their brilliance. We can bring forth the fortitude and creativity that will address the fallout from COVID-19 and address the equity challenges that have plagued us since the founding of this country,” said Pringle. “I am ready to work to bring about the new day that our students so deserve.”
Pringle, currently finishing her second term as NEA vice president, assumes her new duties on September 1, 2020.
- Support schoolboard measures for safe and just schools. Visit www.nea.org/safeandjust
- Follow Becky on Twitter @BeckyPringle
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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
- Celeste Busser