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Member Spotlight

Finding her voice

Lisa Fricke is a Retired Teacher in Omaha, Nebraska
Lisa Fricke
Published: 02/07/2023

I remember when I first felt the power of our united voice. I was at a Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA) government relations training in 1976. I was a fairly new teacher and union member, and the words of a trainer have stuck in my mind to this day.

Teachers often say they “aren’t political,” he noted, but they need to understand that every education decision that politicians make affects their classrooms.

I took this message to heart. And through trainings like these, I’ve learned that educators need to collaborate on political issues in order to improve public education.

I held several positions over the years where I could influence political activity, including chair of the NSEA Government Relations Committee. I also met with political leaders and testified on critical education issues. This experience launched me into a new role in 1992, when a personal issue became political.

I was frustrated by the penalties my husband and I incurred when we borrowed from our IRA to help pay for our son’s college expenses. I felt others likely faced a similar problem. And for some young people, this law could dash their dreams of going to college.

I discussed the issue with NSEA leaders, and they encouraged me to run for election as an at-large delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly. I went for it—and I won! And, in front of about 5,000 delegates, I presented my resolution, which would make it a priority for NEA to advocate for changing this harmful law.

I was scared to death, but with the confidence I had gained from my union work, I apparently made a persuasive argument. The delegation approved the resolution, and with NEA’s lobbying efforts in Washing- ton, in partnership with others, Congress eventually voted to change the law.

I now serve on the Nebraska State Board of Education, working on equity and inclusion, early childhood education, and state standards, among other issues. My understanding of politics has given me the self-assurance to testify at legislative hearings and speak to constituents and legislators. It has allowed me to have a voice where it really matters.

National Education Association

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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.