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NEA president urges educators to stand strong for students

Van Roekel keynote kicks off four-day NEA convention

CHICAGO - July 02, 2011 -

The president of the National Education Association (NEA) urged educators to stand strong and speak up for students, the teaching profession, and the future of the nation.

Disheartened with badly designed evaluation systems, Dennis Van Roekel called on teachers to take responsibility for their profession. NEA’s proposed Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability calls for an overhaul of teacher evaluation and accountability systems. It also calls for NEA members to take responsibility for ensuring the development, implementation and enforcement of these high quality systems.  
“The voice of teachers and educators must not be silenced and marginalized by people who don’t have a clue what teaching is—folks who couldn’t survive a day in your shoes,” Van Roekel said.
Van Roekel issued a vigorous call to speak up for students crammed into classrooms and who struggle with the challenges of poverty. He highlighted NEA's Priority Schools Campaign and how NEA is using the effort to collaborate with parents, school administrators and the community to fulfill the promise of public education. "We are empowering our members to build communities of support around those students who need it most." 

NEA’s president was also critical of attempts to strip collective bargaining rights and weaken the voice of middle-class Americans. Van Roekel said the attacks seen in many states over the spring are about politics, not about closing budget deficits or helping students succeed.
Van Roekel decried the great divide in America and said that NEA members should embrace the vision they want for America by sending a message at the ballot box. “Our country is not for sale to the highest political donor or the wealthiest corporations. It belongs to the people who built Main Street, not the wheeler-dealers on Wall Street. It belongs to our children who expect us to safeguard its promise.”
Van Roekel urged RA delegates to vote to recommend President Barack Obama for a second term in office. He pointed to funding for education, the push for Pell grants and the President’s other accomplishments that benefit students and working families. “That doesn’t mean we agree with all his education ideas, and I know we’ll fight like hell to fix the things that are wrong. But that is a good fight to have – a fight over how to achieve a shared vision – rather than fighting for the very survival of public schools and the dignity of the middle class.”

Van Roekel spoke to 9,000 educators gathered for NEA’s Representative Assembly (RA) in Chicago. The RA is the highest decision-making body for NEA, the nation’s largest union.

Photos available after Noon CT. Media should credit © Copyright 2011 NEA

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby  (202) 368-0575,


Audio Sound Bites

Excerpts from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s speech.