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NEA News

Issues and Impact October 2020

NEA members have the power to create change in the upcoming presidential election; and educator Robin McNair works to stop the school-to-prison pipeline.
Published: 10/01/2020

NEA Members Have Voting Power!

You can make a critical difference in the last few weeks before election day.

We have the power to fire Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos!

And our chance is coming soon. There’s so much riding on the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections—and no one knows that better than educators.

Not only can we unseat the most unqualified secretary of education ever, we can also elect a president, members of Congress, and local officials who believe we should invest in public schools, dismantle institutional racism, listen to educators, and work together for a more just America.

The first step is for every educator to vote and help others to do the same.

We have the power to demand better for our kids: Nearly 3 million teachers and education support professionals are members of the National Education Association. That’s one out of every 100 Americans.

But we can’t take anything for granted in this election—which will decide the future of public education for decades to come. Even if you have already voted by mail or another early vote option, you can help others in your household and community cast a ballot.

One of the easiest ways to help inform and motivate other voters in your network—while social distancing—is to take action through OutreachCircle, NEA’s digital election resource.

89% of NEA members voted in the last election
Largest union in the majority of the US
77% of NEA members are female

BE LIKE ROBIN: Help Shut Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Robin McNair is a restorative practices coordinator in Prince George's County, Maryland.

NEA Today: You’ve dedicated much of your career to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, in which children—mostly low-income and children of color—are funneled out of school and into the criminal justice system. How did you first get engaged in working to change the discipline policies at your school?

NEA Member Robin McNair

Robin McNair: I had this young student who used to sleep in class every day. My thought was, “Okay, he’s not serious about his education,” and I would put him out of the classroom. The next year, he didn’t come back.

I came to see that by putting him out, that’s like saying, “you’re not wanted here, you’re not valued.” Many of our Black and brown students live in poverty, and many of our LGBTQ students are being harassed in their neighborhoods. These young people bring their traumas into the school, and educators make a quick judgment based on how that child looks, instead of what has happened to that child.

There is a direct correlation between how many Black and brown students have been pushed out of school, with how many Black and brown adults are in our criminal justice system.

What were the roadblocks to transforming discipline in your district, and how did you get past them?

RM: In 2014, I started trying to persuade the district to incorporate restorative practices into the student behavior handbook. I also began hosting restorative practices professional development training for educators.

People are often fearful when you talk about changing discipline policies. But people are likely to agree that we need to acknowledge the realities our students face, and that we have to create a space for students to share their stories.

I tell people, we must always remember that when a student acts out, there is an underlying issue that we should address. We have to get to the “why.”

What is your advice to other educators who want to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline?

RM: There has been progress. But as school systems take up the fight, many tend to rush out programs and initiatives and don’t take time to properly explore what the needs are. In this work, we have to be deliberate and intentional, regardless of how long it may take.

And never forget that elections matter. We need a president who’s going to work hard to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and get rid of the zero tolerance policies in our schools. We can no longer perpetuate institutional racism—oppression—and be silent about what’s really happening around race in our country.

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.