John Stocks, NEA Executive Director, was the first speaker. He talked about how one year ago at election time, the education world was turned upside down. We have a lagging economy, reform groups, attacks, privatizing, and the bad teacher/anti-union narrative has intensified. $17 million cut from NEA budget due to loss of membership from loss of collective bargaining or move to EFT for payment of dues.
He talked about how education reformers who have been opponents of NEA are coming together. Public systems are being privatized (example is community hospitals becoming private), and education is the next big system to privatize. He said the federal government has been unable to tax and redistribute funds to prevent disparities. Property tax collections lag behind home values about three years.
John discussed how the new reformers tend to be younger and from minority communities. There are now 400 Education Industry Association member companies, companies who are in the business of education. The perfect storm includes social conservatives, corporate anti-union, anti-government, privateers, and reformers. NEA is focused on organizational capacity. Action is coming down more locally to school districts, and even individual schools. JEA needs to learn when and where to collaborate and when and where to fight.
He talked about this crisis being an opportunity for the association to connect with members, other unions, and our communities. We must build strong local associations and unite the nation for great public schools. We have been good at organizing around politics, issues or policies, membership, collective bargaining, public relations, coalitions, and boycotts. We are being out-organized in the community, around professional issues, and through social networking. These are areas where JEA needs to improve.
Questions about Opportunity to Learn, AFT, and quicker access to NEA resources. Some locals also expressed frustration with the slow speed to change at the NEA level. NEA needs a relevant message that sets us apart from other groups. John suggested looking for non-dues revenue sources like philanthropic giving. Staff and governance relationship needs to be tight, or we cannot make progress. We need to enhance value stream is for members. John said, "Get back to lots of people doing a little bit to help row the boat." I have been saying that since I took office as president. If every member did just one thing related to the association or the politics of education, JEA could make a big impact.
The next speaker was Kim Anderson, NEA Director of Center for Advocacy, who talked about the national political climate. State legislatures will see the same types of attacks ,only worse, this next session. Tea partiers in Congress are holding GOP leadership hostage. NEA members' stories are key to swaying voters and candidates. The same people funding attacks on labor are funding the Tea Party. Go to the Education Votes website to learn more about national politics.
Kim said, "We're too important to fail." Look at our assets: members, building, info about voters, and volunteers who are connected to other groups. Advocate in a way that is student-focused.
The first breakout session on membership. We are learning about the Voter Activation Network (VAN). Lots of ways to use this to target groups for political races.
The Mountain Region is met. We talked about upcoming meetings and elections.
Tonight two local associations from Utah received NCUEA grants: Murray and Salt Lake. Congratulations to Mark and Susan!