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NEA honors ‘Wisconsin 14’ with Friend of Education Award

NEA president says Democratic Senators took page from Abraham Lincoln’s playbook

CHICAGO - July 02, 2011 -

Delegates to the National Education Association’s 2011 Representative Assembly warmly welcomed the ‘Wisconsin 14’ today.  The 14 state senators were presented the Friend of Education Award for their decision to leave the state rather than vote for a controversial bill that would weaken and possibly eliminate collective bargaining for Wisconsin public employees.   

“These senators took a page out of Abraham Lincoln’s playbook,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, referring to the time the famous president—who as an Illinois state legislator—jumped out a window to prevent a vote that would close the state bank.  “When the senators left Wisconsin and came to Illinois, they sent a clear message—the people of Wisconsin, and working people throughout the United States, will not be bullied.”

The Democratic lawmakers—Tim Carpenter, Spencer Coggs, Tim Cullen, Jon Erpenbach, Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin, Robert Jauch, Chris Larson, Julie Lassa, Fred Risser, Lena Taylor, Kathleen Vinehout, Robert Wirch and minority leader Mark Miller—remained in Illinois for three weeks, standing up to Gov. Walker and returning only after the Republican-controlled Senate passed the so-called Budget Repair Bill. The senators are considered heroes of the continuing struggle to protect public employees and working families.

“The Koch brothers and corporate special interests have plenty of friends in Gov. Walker's administration and the Republican legislature,” said Wisconsin Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller, speaking on behalf of the group in accepting the award. “But what about Wisconsin’s working families? Now more than ever they need someone to stand up and fight for them. It’s why we did what we did, and it’s why we’re so honored to receive the Friend of Education award.”

Educators in Wisconsin were the first to sound the alarm when Gov. Walker began his mission to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.  Throughout the month-long standoff, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the bill and how it would greatly harm Wisconsin’s public schools and students.

“The courage these senators exhibited during those long, cold weeks in February and March did not go unnoticed,” said Van Roekel. “Those of us who educate America’s children will always be grateful for their friendship, their bravery and their willingness to stand strong for public education and working families.”

The Friend of Education Award has been presented for the past 39 years—this is the first time the honor has been presented to a group rather than an individual.

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Friends of Education - Wisconsin 14