The CEA members who attended this year’s National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA) are glad to be home after a rewarding but busy time in New Orleans.
The Connecticut delegation joined almost 8,500 of their colleagues to set policy for the organization, honor education activists from across the country and around the globe, and shape the conversation about how to best improve schools in the years to come.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel launched the RA with his rousing keynote address, urging the cheering delegates to “speak up, take action, and fight for the students of America! We simply cannot sit it out — there is too much at stake.”
Van Roekel called on delegates to bombard Congress and the administration with the strong message that No Child Left Behind must be changed. They started with a barrage of 9,000 postcard to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Delegates also video-recorded messages to members of Congress at the Legislative Action Center booth, placing a name and a face on the education jobs crisis.
Michael Freeman, a Stonington High School teacher, vice president of his local association, and member of the CEA Board of Directors, was one of the delegates from Connecticut this year. “The general message that I took away from this RA was that we MUST remain vigilant in our efforts to protect teachers and public education,” he said. “This becomes a huge challenge in our current economy – but we must renew our efforts or the proponents of privatization and anti-union/teacher policies will only become more prevalent. We must fight to assure quality public education for each child in our classrooms.”
Delegates heard from several speakers, among them Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who was named America’s Greatest Education Governor; Sarah Brown Wessling, the 2010 Teacher of the Year; and NEA Friend of Education award winner Diane Ravitch.
Ravitch electrified the Representative Assembly Tuesday with an impassioned call for the defense of public education and the teaching profession. “The current ‘education reform’ movement is pushing bad ideas,” she said. “It wants to end tenure and seniority, to silence teachers’ unions, to privatize large sectors of public education. Don’t let it happen!”
In their few hours of free time some members of the Connecticut delegation were able to enjoy the city of New Orleans. They visited Mardi Gras World, Bourbon Street, and Emeril’s Restaurant, and watched fireworks over the Mississippi River on the 4th of July.
Said Freeman, “Meeting teachers who are new to the RA and becoming a bit closer to many teachers who I know by name – but in the past have not had a chance to know in-depth – is always a big part of any RA. Dinners out with NEA Danbury and West Hartford were relaxing and enjoyable nights of conversation after a very long hard day at the RA. Our meetings last from 6 in the morning until 5 or 6 at night, and I found myself in bed by 9pm or 10 so I had the energy to do it all again the next day. I was a bit jealous of those who had the ability to enjoy New Orleans night life and still operate the next day. All in all – it is the people at an RA that make the experience special.”