NEA Leaders: Progress Made

Stocks, Eskelsen Garcia Urge More Action on Behalf of Public Education

In his final address to an NEA Representative Assembly (RA), outgoing NEA Executive Director John Stocks exhorted delegates to “come together and make this country whole,” and, most of all, “to embrace [their] power.”

Stocks cited the NEA member-led #RedforEd campaigns in recent years as evidence of that power. He spoke to more than 7,000 NEA members at the annual meeting, held this year during the first week of July, in Houston. More than 70 NSEA/NEA members attended.

“Our members were active, engaged and vocal on issues that matter to all educators,” said NSEA President Jenni Benson. “I am proud of the way our members represented Nebraska.”

For Stocks, the message was to continue to advocate for public education.

“We demanded and we fought,” said Stocks. And, in many places, “we won,” he said.

After historic #RedforEd strikes, walkouts and rallies in places such as Los Angeles, Denver, and elsewhere, educators won salary raises, smaller class sizes, and investments in school nurses, librarians, counselors, and more. Additional states have seen historic increases in education funding, minimum salaries for educators, and new legislation that respects educators.

“We’re living proof that progress is possible,” said Stocks. “But we’re not finished yet. We can’t afford to be.”

He had one more thought before departing the stage.

“Let’s be perfectly honest: an educator can do more for our democracy in five minutes than some lawmakers can do over their entire career,” said Stocks.

Never Apologize

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told delegates that stakes in 2020 are too high for any educator to disengage from the political process. Now more than ever, the nation needs its educators to take up the call. “The moral arc of the universe needs us now to put our backs into education justice,” Eskelsen García told delegates.

Educators should never apologize, never shy away from being “political,” Eskelsen García said.

“Political action isn’t subversive.  It’s the essence of democracy.  Showing up informed and engaged, prepared to make a difference is exactly what democracy looks like.”

Community Allies Admitted

Delegates also took action on scores of business items, including one action that will open up membership to non-educator “public education allies.”

Needing a two-third majority to pass, 68.9 percent of delegates voted to amend the NEA constitution to establish the new category of membership.

The community allies will not be able to vote, nominate candidates for elected office, or hold governance positions within the union. They will, however, be able to donate to the NEA’s political action committee, something only members are currently able to do. Advocates said it would also open up lines of communication between the community allies and the union, especially in the political advocacy arena.

NEA leaders said they are prepared to begin offering the new membership option to the community allies in the 2019-20 membership year.