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Member & Activist Spotlight

Melinda Padley-Jones: Wouldn’t It Be Better For Our Students

Melinda is an Iowa educator who through her union has got more involved in activism!

I’ve been volunteering for political campaigns since high school. As a senior, I was a page in the Iowa House of Representatives and saw firsthand how things really worked. I studied political science and history in college, and took a semester off to work on a presidential campaign before focusing on earning my elementary teaching degree.

Through the union, I’ve been able to participate in all kinds of activism, and I’ve volunteered for a lot of door-knocking.

A lot of people find the idea of contacting voters nerve-wracking. Once you do it, you’ll see that it makes a difference—especially when you are an educator talking about school issues. The majority of students at my school need support. All receive free breakfast and lunch, and almost half are English language learners. When you’re talking about the needs you see in your school every day, people will listen.

On a local level, I’m on a steering committee for the Iowa caucuses, helping to find locations and precinct chairs. When else do you get to be in the same room with so many others who care so deeply, and talk about the issues? For me, the caucuses are far more about discussing issues and party-building than they are about any presidential candidate, despite the media’s focus.

I encourage those who don’t want to ‘get political’ to talk politics. In the last election, we had a big state senate race here and our candidate didn’t win. Anyone who didn’t realize it before has seen just how much politics influences our profession. Our collective bargaining rights were taken away and now we’re in a really hostile environment. And it’s easy to make the case at the national level that we can’t afford to sit this election out. Wouldn’t it be better for our students if we had a president and secretary of education who actually support public schools?

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.