Why national affiliation makes a difference
by Chris Guinther, MNEA president
“This is it—my last year. They’ve taken the joy out of the job. I can’t do it any more!” I was stunned at these words from a colleague at a back-to-school event in my district. I’ve known this teacher since his first days of teaching. I saw him grow into an outstanding teacher and had seen his students blossom. What a great loss to our profession and to the students of our district, knowing that this excellent educator will be retiring because federal mandates have hindered rather than helped his teaching. He added that he also worries that another piece of federal legislation, the Windfall Elimination Provision, could cause him to lose a significant portion of the Social Security benefits he has earned in his work prior to teaching.
I left the meeting that morning more convinced than ever that being a member of the NEA, in addition to the Missouri NEA, is the most important membership for any educator. No other organization works as effectively to address the concerns and needs of educators and students.
For years, NEA has aggressively worked on the repeal of the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO/WEP) in order to make sure that public employees in Missouri and 14 other states are not penalized by taking away Social Security benefits they’ve earned.
NEA supports mandatory full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and has proposed phasing in funding increases over six years until federal support reaches the level originally authorized by Congress more than 25 years ago. Without federal support, states and localities cannot provide students with disabilities the quality programs they need, and often must cut other programs or raise taxes to fund mandated services.
You feel the impact daily of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known for the last several years as No Child Left Behind. This well intended law has produced many negative and punitive consequences in classrooms across our country. Diminished curriculum, narrow focus on testing and loss of local decision making have all changed the environment in which we teach. We must make sure that the reauthorization of ESEA becomes a reform act with positive impact on our students and their schools. No organization works more aggressively toward that goal than NEA. We are lobbying every Congressional member and are working with the Obama administration and U.S. Department of Education to create positive change.
Passage of the Education Jobs Bill demonstrates the power of a national organization to advocate for our interests and to focus the national agenda on the importance of public education.
Positive change for all of these national issues requires national advocacy.
As educators and members of a 3.2 million-member organization, we must never forget that we have the knowledge, skills and power to advocate for legislation that will truly help to make our public schools great for every student. Our association’s strength comes from the local, state and national levels—all working together to support our vision.
sb, fall 2010