Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NEA, ISEA & LCEA Impact Election 2008

Obama wins and so does public education!

The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States is historic. Americans, young and old, have shared heartfelt accounts of the significance of this election in their lives. Volunteering to canvass neighborhoods in battleground states, making telephone calls to fellow Association members, talking about the importance of electing pro-public education candidates nationally and locally, and discussing pocketbook issues with family members and friends-NEA members across the country can be proud of theirpivotal role in helping to elect a president who has said that education means "more to our economic future than anything."

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined thousands of joyous Americans in Grant Park on election night to hear Barack Obama claim a victory that he said belongs to the countless men and women who still hope and believe in the promise of America's greatness. "This is a major victory for students and educators, and NEA's 3.2 million members and their families should be proud of the role they played in this historic election," Van Roekel said. "This is an incredible opportunity to begin to correct the failed education policies of the Bush administration and prepare our students to compete in a 21st century economy. It's a new chapter in American history and an exciting and unprecedented time for educating the next generation of American leaders," he said.

Public education victories across the country

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel (last row) joins HSTA members in supporting Obama. The president-elect was born in Hawaii
NEA leaders are calling November 4, 2008, a "great day for public education in America." In addition to President-elect Obama, NEA members worked to get out the vote in support of issues that help to advance public education and help working class Americans. NEA recommended candidates across the country for Senate, House and gubernatorial races. As a bipartisan organization, NEA was pleased to help return members from both sides of the aisle to Congress and help elect new 'friends of education' to public office. The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, NEA's political action committee, contributed human and financial resources to elect United States senators in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado. The Association's strength also was evident in the election of pro-public education governors in North Carolina and Missouri. As lieutenant governor, Bev Perdue made education a priority and she promises to do the same as North Carolina's next governor. Democrat Jay Nixon won his bid for governor of Missouri. Nixon opposes school vouchers and his plan for public education in the "Show Me" state includes recruiting more talented teachers.

In addition to celebrating the election of pro-public education candidates, NEA members are savoring victories in several critical ballot initiatives. For example, NEA worked on measures dealing with unions and worker issues in Colorado, Oregon, and South Dakota. In Colorado, it was a triple threat with Constitutional Amendments 47, 49, and 54. These deceptive measures would threaten jobs and paychecks and silence the voices of workers and their families. Protect Colorado's Future, a nonprofit coalition of local businesses, unions, progressive groups, faith-based organizations, and community allies, successfully fought two of the three amendment battles. Amendment 54, which narrowly missed defeat, is likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds. NEA provided financial and human resources to defeat these deceptive amendments in Colorado.

The outlook for education under President-elect Obama looks positive

NEA members across the country volunteered and worked hard to help ensure the election of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president because they believed he would be a strong supporter of public education. As a candidate, Sen. Obama addressed the Representative Assembly in 2007 and 2008, promising to partner with NEA to advance public education. He is committed to engaging educators and seeking their input when critical decisions are made relative to education. He promised to work to repeal GPO/WEP and protect Social Security. Obama applauded NEA's Great Public Schools 2020 report released earlier this year, saying that the report provides "a roadmap for all who care deeply about the future of our children." He has indicated that he is willing to consider a different role for the federal government in education as a starting point for a discussion on education reform.

And while it's still too early to tell exactly how the new president will approach the all important task of education reform, it seems certain that he will advance an education agenda that moves beyond party and ideology to focus on what will make the most difference in the lives of America's children and students. His plan for education calls for:
  • giving every child a world class education from the day they're born until the day they graduate from college;
  • investing in early childhood education because children in these programs are more likely to do better academically, more likely to graduate high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job and earn more in that job;
  • putting a college degree within reach of anyone who wants one by providing a $4,000 tax credit to any middle class student who's willing to serve his or her community or country
It is certain that NCLB will be reformed under the Obama administration and more importantly, we know that his administration will not focus on identifying "failing schools"; it will no longer focus on teaching children to fill in bubbles on a standardized test; and it will not starve schools of the resources they need to help students succeed.

  • advocate for assessments that can improve achievement by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation, and problem solving that children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy;
  • push for the appropriation of funding promised for NCLB, and give states the resources they need;
  • honor IDEA's commitment to fully fund special education;
  • support innovative models in the public school system; and
  • expand mentoring programs that pair experienced, successful teachers with new recruits.
"Got Tuition?" campaign to continue

Youth voters flocked to the polls in record numbers on Election Day and played a key role in President-elect Obama's victory. Young Americans worked tirelessly to elect a president who offered hope and the promise of change. And if you're wondering how we're going to keep those young voters engaged or how we're going to maintain that energy and enthusiasm, NEA has the answer - college affordability and "Got Tuition?". The "Got Tuition?" campaign galvanized young voters to text, blog, film, and rally in ever growing numbers and plans are to continue to organize and mobilize young people on campuses and in communities around college affordability and other issues of concern to them. The key to success is to keep the momentum going, just as Whitney Ripley did. Ripley, a "Got Tuition?" team member, took advantage of the euphoric moment on election night to urge Congressional leaders, including Education Committee chair George Miller (D-CA) and Democratic Chief Deputy Whip Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) to keep the issue on the front burner when Congress reconvenes. Check out the photos on the "Got Tuition?" Web site, and make sure the "Got Tuition?" campaign visits your college campus or one near you.

NEA organized for victory and change

The 3.2 million members of NEA live in every precinct, county, congressional district, and state. This year, the Association spearheaded an unprecedented effort to mobilize its members and their families to elect friends of public education at the national, state, and local levels. NEA started preparing for the 2008 election right after the 2006 midterm elections and for more than a year, NEA organized members throughout the country, educating them about the importance of supporting candidates and issues that advance public education and help working families.

Jennifer Tacconi, a high school history and government teacher and member of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, is just one example of an NEA member who sacrificed and helped to ensure that the power of the education vote is recognized and respected. Tacconi finished her master's degree in political science by attending the Democratic National Convention - and then volunteered to hit the streets to get Obama elected. Tacconi, along with about 400 other students, arrived in Denver the week prior to the convention for a rigorous academic experience. She attended lectures and discussions nonstop for the first week prior to the convention. During the week of the convention itself, she did assigned field work.

But Tacconi's story didn't end there. When she returned from the convention, Tacconi was inspired to continue her involvement. Despite a full-time job teaching 9th and 11th grade students, a part-time job as a bartender, and the responsibilities of being a single mother, Tacconi volunteered to work for the Obama campaign. She went door-to-door in Greensburg canvassing for Obama, often taking along her 11-year-old son Sage. Their participation continued through Election Day.

In addition to other class work focusing on the election, Tacconi held a non-partisan debate watch party after school for her 9th and 11th grade students. "I had a turnout of 40 students, and it was a rewarding experience for me and a great opportunity to emphasize the importance for them of always keeping informed on the issues," Tacconi said. Despite working two jobs and raising a child on her own, Tacconi doesn't see herself as special. "It's just what teachers should do. By participating ourselves, teachers can demonstrate how important and how rewarding it can be to be involved in a cause that you believe in and are passionate about. Students seem too often to believe that the political process has no direct influence on their lives. Being involved and informed gives them a different perspective."

PSEA member Monica Mixon is another example of how NEA members helped to raise the profile and affect of the education vote.

No one has to remind Mixon, who works as an education support professional, that time is precious. Modestly and quietly, she'll admit that she spent some long days as a volunteer to make sure candidate, now president-elect, Barack Obama got his chance to make a difference on America's political landscape. During the weeks leading up to the election, every day after school Monday through Thursday, Mixon left her job with the Lower Merion School District and took a bus to the train. She then took a train to Center City Philadelphia where she caught a suburban train to NEA's Mideast Regional Office. She took a cab from the train station to the regional office where she worked the phone banks calling members until 8:00 p.m., when she followed the same routine for the long return trip home. "I was accepted into the NEA ESP Leaders of Tomorrow program, and one of our classes focused on politics and how it affects ESPs and their professions," Mixon said. "I thought it was very crucial that I spend my time on those phone lines to make sure that educators were thinking about how this election affects them. I explained to cafeteria workers and ESPs that they are educators and their participation in the election was important."

Mixon said she also volunteered because she wanted to try something new. "At the NEA training, they told us that leadership involves doing something that you don't always know how to do," she said. "I got a chance to speak with people about why this election mattered to them. With my NEA training, I was able to really explain the issues and why ESPs are so important in the political process. When you're calling members from PSEA, they think you're a teacher, but I think it's important that ESPs also are talking to other members about why it's important to get the right people into office. I believe that you really have nothing to say if you don't vote. If you really believe in something and care about your job, you need to step up to the plate and speak up for those who support education. I really care about my job and my colleagues, so I will step up and volunteer for pro-public education candidates. Any time you can give is important," Mixon said.

No time to rest

NEA members across the country can be proud of the impressive list of wins they helped to make possible in the 2008 election; but Association leaders and NEA Campaigns and Elections staff are already looking forward to 2009 and 2010 when there will be key races for governorships and the U.S. Senate. NEA was actively engaged with its members in targeted races throughout the country in the 2008 election cycle, including work in 15 presidential battleground states, 11 Senate races, 54 congressional races, four gubernatorial races, and 20 ballot measures. The Association distributed more than 21.3 million pieces of mail; sent 4.5 million emails in battleground states, and made more than 2.1 million phone calls. NEA played a crucial role in educating and engaging millions of people from working class families about important issues in the 2008 election. And even as victories are enjoyed and the celebrations continue, work is already underway to make sure that NEA members are ‘fired up and ready to go' in 2009 and 2010. Stay tuned… to learn how you can be a part of this work moving forward.

Inauguration 2009

Not many details are available yet for the inauguration of the nation's 44th president, Barack Obama, but it is certain that the historic event will take place on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 on the West Front of the United States Capitol. The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced the theme of the 56th Presidential Inauguration, "A New Birth of Freedom", this past week. Tickets to the inaugural ceremonies will be provided free of charge and distributed by Members of the 111th Congress. If you're interested in attending, contact your member of Congress or U.S. Senator to request tickets. It's worth noting that hotels in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas are already completely booked. It is anticipated that the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama will be unlike any in history, with events that allow large numbers of Americans to participate. Smaller celebrations in communities across the country for those who can't come to Washington also are being considered. Currently, NEA leaders are trying to determine the Association's inaugural plans, but you can visit www.inaugural.senate.gov for accurate and up-to-date information on the 2009 Inaugural.