This July, Bev Schaefer and Debbie Rose (Council President and Vice President) went to the NEA Rep Assembly in New Orleans, as state delegates. There were over 8000 delegates in attendance, making it the largest democratic decision-making group in the United States. Our Council members back home might wonder about the value of these national meetings; and how the decisions made so far away affect us on a local and state level.

The assembly passed a hotly debated New Business Item calling for a no confidence vote in Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The delegates believed that Duncan’s support for Charter Schools, Merit Pay and the competitive nature of the Race to the Top grants were not in the best interest of students or our members.

The discussion on this NBI centered around what the best tactics were to pursue our concerns about these issues, as well as the reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind). While as a council, we communicate to elected officials locally, the body of delegates in New Orleans felt strongly that we needed to send a message to Secretary Duncan.

Delegates wanted Duncan to understand the administration is headed in the wrong direction with education reform. Reform decisions are best decided with the stakeholders locally. The discussion was very emotional with speakers very passionate on both sides of the issue. In many states, education employees feel that they are on their own, with no help or support from Secretary Duncan or the administration.

Our statewide association leads many states in such areas as evaluation and helping schools that face AYP challenges. WEA is recognized throughout the NEA as taking on the challenges required by ed reform. The perspectives from around the country varied widely just on this topic alone!

Having attended NEA Rep Assembly, we are more aware of the national perspective, and how we fit into it. It was eye opening for both of us! We recognize how in comparison to other states, we are in good shape! It made us proud members of WEA.

It also helps us recognize how the members of our Council help us put WEA in the forefront of education reform. We also came away with how strategic and thoughtful our decisions need to be; and realized the importance of representing WEA Eastern at NEA.