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NEA News

NEA President to RA Delegates: ‘We Must Keep Going’

In her keynote address to the 2024 NEA Representative Assembly, NEA President Becky Pringle urges educators to build on their organizing power to meet upcoming challenges.
becky pringle ra keynote 2024
NEA President Becky Pringle (left) delivers the keynote address at the 2024 NEA Representative Assembly.
Published: July 4, 2024

Over the past few years, educators and their unions have complied an impressive record of victories in increasing educator funding, protecting the freedom to learn, reducing class size, pushing back school privatization, and winning more respect.  

These accomplishments should be celebrated, NEA President Becky Pringle told the delegates in her rousing keynote address to the 2024 NEA Representative Assembly, but progress could be halted and even reversed.  

Speaking today to nearly 7,000 RA delegates in Philadelphia, President Pringle called out the U.S. Supreme Court, saddled with a right-wing majority that “continues to render decisions that attack, diminish, and disregard the needs and lived experiences of far too many Americans,” Pringle said. 

Through it all, she said, educators across the country still stand as one collective, unwavering in their resolve. 

“We won’t go back,” Pringle said. “We will strengthen public education, so it is a just system designed around the joy of teaching; a system with a deep sense of community and shared responsibility; a system where high expectations are matched with plentiful resources and supports.” 

“So Many Stories, So Little Time” 

In her address, Pringle celebrated educator’s tireless and successful advocacy for students and schools. “In so many creative, courageous, and compelling ways you are already doing the work to promote, protect, and strengthen public education,” she told the delegates. 

In Maryland, educators led the way in the passage of the Freedom to Read Act, which states material may not be excluded or removed from a school library because of the origin, background, or views of the author and not for partisan, ideological, or religious disapproval either. 

NEA members in Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Vermont, and Washington state are working to create their own education support professional (ESP) Bill of Rights, calling on lawmakers to invest in support professionals by providing, along with a fair wage, adequate health coverage, paid leave, professional training and education, and a safe and healthy work environment.  

“We will fight privatization, vouchers, and any other scheme to drain resources from our public schools.  Every day, we will demand that every school consistently has the equitable funding and the resources they need so that every student in every community has the support and opportunities they need to take their rightful places in the world.” — NEA President Becky Pringle

In October, Portland, Oregon union members, through their strength and solidarity, went on strike and won improvements on every key issue—from class size to planning time to mental health support to safe schools to pay. 

In May, New Hampshire educators made sure public dollars stayed in public schools by turning back an unconscionable expansion of school vouchers in the state. 

in Virginia’s Fairfax County—the state’s largest school district--educators made history: they won collective bargaining for 27,000 teachers and education support professionals. 

Pringle told delegates she could go on because there are “so many stories, but so little time.” 

 The common thread, however, is clear: “When educators unite in voice and activism our students win. We win. Our schools, and our communities and our country win!” 

"We Will Organize for Power” 

The stakes are too high to let up, Pringle told the delegates, and their work during the 4-day RA will help pave the way for an even more united and stronger NEA. 

“In the days to come, here, in Philadelphia, the city that gave birth to democracy; a system that aspires to ensure all people have inherent dignity and worth; fairness and freedom, we will deliberate on the decisions that will bring our shared vision into reality,” Pringle said. 

“We must—and we will—leave this city committed to doing whatever it takes to build the path that will create more justice and equity for our students; more respect and dignity for our colleagues; and a better nation for us all.” 

And that starts with electing leaders who prioritize schools, students, and educators and that means re-electing President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.   

During his term in office, Biden has made huge financial investments in public education, pushed the effort to relieve educator debt, and made strides toward safer communities and schools for children across the country. Biden, Harris, and First Lady Jill Biden—an educator and NEA member—have also worked tirelessly to amplify educator voices. 

Biden and Harris have been “our pro-childcare; pro-diversity, equity, and Iinclusion; pro-universal meals; pro-voting rights; pro-schools free of gun violence; pro-racial and social justice friends who have been the strongest champions of public education, of educators, and of the labor movement in the history of our nation,” Pringle told the delegates to cheers from the delegates. 

”We Must Keep Going!” 

The ability of educators to meet their goals is related to their organizational strength, Pringle said, and “that requires building our capacity, readiness, and partnerships to take actions that lead to winning for our students and our educators and our communities. 

“It means knowing how to strategically and continuously harness our collective strength.” 

In closing, Pringle summoned the words of Harriet Tubman, who found her freedom in Philadelphia and famously said as she guided others out of enslavement: “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” 

“NEA, in all of my years on this earth, this is what I know: The human spirit has always remained undefeated,” Pringle said. “Call on its power and determination. And keep going. Because, in the midst of every challenge … during every moment of change or perceived chaos … we will remember who we are.  

We must keep going!” 

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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.