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A week of standing strong for students, for members and for public schools

Four days included decisions on evaluation and accountability, political support and special guests

CHICAGO - July 05, 2011 -

Delegates to the National Education Association’s (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA) made several major decisions that will guide the organization into the future. RA delegates made decisions that demonstrated the Association’s commitment to quality education for all students and to leading school transformation and the professionalization of teaching. 

Today, the assembly heard from five local affiliates—from throughout the country—who are successfully transforming struggling public schools through NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign.  These inspiring stories of union-led school improvement were a sampling of the work that continues through the campaign, which is keenly focused on building communities of support to help students succeed.

The Priority Schools Campaign, in combination with yesterday’s groundbreaking decision to adopt a policy statement regarding teacher evaluation, reflect the very real desire of teachers and other school employees to be fully engaged in the national education policy debate and in on-the-ground action to improve schools.

Delegates also voted overwhelmingly to support President Obama for a second term, making NEA the first union to recommend the President for next year’s election. 

“Our members have stated loud and clear that they will no longer allow the voice of teachers and educators to be silenced and marginalized,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. Van Roekel, along with NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen, was re-elected for a second three-year term. 

Michelle Shearer, the nation’s Teacher of the Year, reiterated those sentiments when she addressed the crowd earlier today.  During her speech, Shearer encouraged educators to steer the conversation about public education in a positive direction. The Ijamsville, Md. teacher told delegates they should ask critics “Why is it that half of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years if we have such easy and cushy jobs?”

Shearer was among several special guests addressing the 2011 RA.  The body also heard from Education Support Professional (ESP) of the Year Ernest “Jameel” Williams, a bus driver from North Carolina; America’s Greatest Education Governor, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky and Wisconsin Sen. Mark Miller who accepted NEA’s Friend of Education award.  The Friend of Education award was presented to the “Wisconsin 14”—the 14 Democratic senators who left the state to avoid voting on the so-called ‘Budget Repair Bill.’ 

Vice President Joe Biden received resounding applause when he addressed delegates, telling them, “We should be listening to you, not lecturing at you.  We should be embracing you, not pushing you away.  You are not the problem.”

RA delegates ended their stay in the Windy City, offering heartfelt appreciation to retiring NEA Executive Director John Wilson.  Wilson has led the national organization’s staff for 10 years, and will retire on September 1, 2011.

For comprehensive coverage of the RA, please visit or  Follow us on twitter at

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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: Laila Hirschfeld  (202) 822-7823,


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