Nearly 7,000 NEA members will begin arriving in Houston, Texas, today for NEA’s 157th Annual Meeting and 98th Representative Assembly (RA), the world’s largest deliberative body that sets policy for the organization. The meeting will be held June 29 to July 8 at the Geroge R. Brown Convention Center, with the last four days dedicated to the RA.
The theme of this year’s meeting is Our Democracy. Our Responsibility. Our Time! and the headlining event will be the #StrongPublicSchools Presidential Forum on July 5 where several 2020 presidential candidates will answer questions from America’s educators about the future of public education. Confirmed attendees include former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Kamala Harris, Gov. Jay Inslee, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with other confirmations expected in the coming days. The forum will be moderated by NEA president Lily Eskelsen García.
Many candidates have already announced their plans for increasing support for education after witnessing overwhelming community support for the historic and sweeping #RedForEd movement. NEA delegates will be able to ask for more details about how the candidates will improve funding and resources for all public school students.
“Educators are poised to play a major role in choosing the president of the United States. And now we are taking this energy to the 2020 campaign where we will lead a conversation about the schools our students deserve,” said García.
The #StrongPublicSchools Presidential Forum will be critical to the campaigns of each of the participating candidates: One in 100 Americans is an NEA member and 1 in 39 voters reside in an NEA household. Educators are poised play a major role in choosing the president of the United States, and NEA members represent sought after demographics including college-educated women and suburban professionals swinging elections from coast to coast.
More Highlights from the 2019 Annual Meeting and RA
The meeting will kick off with NEA’s Aspiring Educator Student Leadership Conference, June 29 to July 2, where the next generation of educators will learn how to build influence and develop as a union leader, recruit and suppor diverse educators, racial and social justice and educator biases.
At the NEA-Retired Annual Meeting, June 30 to July 2, members will learn about how to protect and improve retirement pension and health benefits, mentoring opportunities, legislative and political action goals and winners of annual communications and distinguished service awards.
Racial and Social Justice
The Conference on Racial and Social Justice, held July 1-2, will address the fundamental issues of equity, social justice and the enduring, complex system of oppression while exploring ways to build community across identities and perspectives. Through interactive workshops, sessions, and skill building, attendees will access information and resources, plan and strategize, and engage on issues that affect educational opportunities for communities of color, LGBTQ people and women.
Speakers will include Judith LeBlanc, a member of the Caddo Nataion of Oklahoma and Director of the Native Organizers Alliance; Isa Noyola, a translatina activist, a leader in the LGBT immigration rights movement, and deputy director of Mijente, a grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building; Boots Riley, a poet, screenwriter/director, performer and community organizer who joined the Oakland Education Association to chamption direct action to support students; and Taína Asili, a Puerto Rican singer, filmkaer and activist. The meeting will close with a keynote from NEA’s Social Justice Activist of the Year.
NEA President Keynote
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García’s keynote address will open the four-day RA at approximately 10:30 a.m. Follow Eskelsen García throughout the convention at @Lily_NEA.
NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards
From the front lines of 1964 Freedom Summer and the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike to behind bars in California’s prison(s), they are unwavering champions of students, educators and unionism. They enrich and defend the lives of our youths in immigrant, refugee, Native and LGBTQ communities. They light the way for those left behind. They dream big and inspire others to do the same. They are the recipients of the National Education Association’s most prestigious NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards. Since 1967, NEA has recognized and honored educators, individuals, and community partners who are advancing the mantle of human and civil rights for students, public education and communities across America. This year, NEA will acknowledge 12 outstanding social justice champions at its Human and Civil Rights Awards ceremony at 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
Friend of Education
On July 5, Dolores McCracken will receive the NEA Friend of Education – the organization’s highest honor – posthumously. President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, she passed away on November 13, following a brief battle with cancer.McCracken was a local, regional, and statewide PSEA leader for more than two decades, directing her talents and energy toward programs and initiatives that improved both public education and the lives and livelihoods of PSEA members. She got involved in public education when her children entered elementary school, serving as the president of the Churchville Elementary Home and School Association. That experience propelled her into a nearly two-decade career in public education, working as a paraprofessional in a sixth-grade inclusion classroom in the Council Rock School District. McCracken was a local, regional, and statewide PSEA leader, directing her talents and energy toward programs and initiatives that improved both public education and the lives and livelihoods of PSEA members. In 2017 she became the first ESP elected President of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
ESP of the Year
Matthew Powell is a Custodial Supervisor, Transportation Specialist and Night Watchman at Graves County Central Elementary school in Mayfield Kentucky, and the 2019 National Education Association (NEA) Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year. Powell, who has worked to ensure a positive, clean and safe learning environment for students, fellow educators, and everyone in his school community, will address delegates on July 6.
Teacher of the Year
Later on July 6, they will hear from National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, a 19-year education veteran. He became a teacher to honor his mother, who struggled to receive an education after being denied one as a child because of segregation and poverty in rural Virginia. In 2015, Robinson started teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, in an effort to better understand the school-to-prison pipeline.
Follow the action with regular updates from the RA in Houston.