Ninety CEA members have joined nearly 6,000 educators from around the nation in Orlando, Florida this week for the 2023 National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA).
The RA is the world’s largest democratic deliberative body and the top decision-making body for NEA’s nearly 3 million members. Every year, delegates come together to draft and debate new policies, adopt a strategic plan and budget, listen to speeches from NEA leaders and other prominent educators and activists, and elect new leaders.
NEA President Becky Pringle kicked off the 2023 NEA RA this morning with a rousing speech that called on delegates to meet today’s attacks on the freedom to teach, on LGBTQ+ students, and on public education with the strength of their collective action.
“This is the moment, with the residue of the pandemic lingering, with our psyches still fragile, that we must try to make sense of all that we have lost—and all that we have learned,” Pringle said. “I will always remember the tearful yet defiant Florida educator who expressed the concerns of far too many, telling me, ‘I can’t teach like this. I refuse to.’”
Despite the many challenges in front of them, NEA members have been making a difference—in classrooms and in statehouses across the nation. In her speech, Pringle shared a long list of victories achieved by NEA members, who organized to advocate for their students and their profession.
“In places across the country… you are courageously embracing your responsibility as education professionals standing up for education, democracy, and freedom. With pride and persistence, you embrace the magnitude of what you’ve been called to do,” Pringle said. “Deliberate and unafraid, you continue to demand that every student is seen and supported; that every educator is respected as the professional they are. Unbowed and unbroken, and with a resolve that is unwavering, NEA, you are leading the work to promote, to protect, and to strengthen public education!”
Some of the other speakers delegates will hear from this week include U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, 2023 National Teacher of the Year Rebecka Peterson, Education Support Professional of the Year Pamella Johnson, and 14-year-old disability rights activist Helena Donato-Sapp.
At every RA, delegates advocate for racially and socially equitable schools that prepare every student to succeed—and 2023 will be no different. Although delegates will discuss and debate a wide range of critical issues affecting public education, one recent and disturbing trend will be front and center at this year’s gathering: the attack on the freedom to learn.
Throughout the 2023 RA, delegates in Orlando will join forces with their Florida colleagues and allies to support inclusive classrooms and teaching the truth. At a Freedom to Learn rally on July 5, Pringle and Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar will be joined by speakers representing local and national racial and social justice organizations to demand an end to book bans and the politicizing of public education.
On Saturday, CEA members joined other educators at the Florida for All Teach-In and March for Justice. Organized by the Florida for All Coalition, the teach-in and march demonstrated public opposition to the anti-public education agenda of Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislature.