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2013 NEA Retired Annual Meeting and RA

2013 NEA Retired Annual Meeting

2013 NEA RepresentativeAssemby

By Bobbie Margo

This year's 30th NEA Retired Annual Meeting was held at the Atlanta Hilton in Atlanta, GA from June 28-30, 2013.  The theme for this year's meeting was “We Educate America-The Commitment Continues.”  

Participants (400+) listened to a “Welcome” from Lynda Wolf Smith, the President of the Georgia Association of Educators-Retired.  Our own NEA-R President Tom Curran then presented his remarks and spoke of the past, difficult year at NEA.  Due to a devastating loss of members, the budget has suffered a loss of many millions of dollars (65 million+).  There are 75 fewer NEA staff members, and numerous programs have been totally cut or downsized.  Retirees are the only group showing an increase in membership.  So far this year, the NEA retiree group has increased by 8,820, bringing our total membership to 315,585-way to go retirees!  Our potential is great-and now we need to continue to work even harder to attract new members!

The keynote speaker of the first day was Captain Mehran S. Massoudi.  Massoudi is a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service and works for the CDC. (Center for Disease Control)  Massoudi's presentation was full of thought provoking facts/figures on aging and disease. (sometimes scary too!)  The U.S. has had a 30 year life expectancy gain in one century.  In 1900 the life expectancy was 47.3 years.  In 2010 the life expectancy grew to 78.7 years.  Our population is aging at an unprecedented rate, and by 2030 1 out of every 5 Americans will be considered an older adult.  Massoudi concluded his remarks by saying that his ideal vision is to strive for all people to be living healthy lives free of chronic disease.


On the second day of our retired meeting, we had 4 informational sessions on topics ranging from media spokesperson training to campaign organizing to community services.  Remarks were also presented to the group by President Dennis Van Roekel and Vice President Lily Eskelson Garcia (recently married).  Both officers were upbeat, stressing that there will be no more planned budget cuts in programs and/or staff this year.  Even more upbeat was the Budget Presentation by Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle.  She stated that she had BBN-better budget news.  Even though NEA has lost 234,000+ members-the entire structure of the organization has been re-organized, and the tide of the losses has been lessened.  Even though more is being required of NEA in a time when it has less-as an organization, it is becoming leaner and more fully charged and energized.  Pringle noted that this budget, which would be presented for approval to the Representative Assembly as a whole in the coming days, was a balanced budget.


On the third and final day of our retired meeting, business was conducted.  Two $2,000 scholarships from the Jack Kinnamon (Cat in the Hat) Fund were presented.  Eight new business items were also discussed and voted upon.  The day's final speaker was Mary Kusler, Director, NEA Government Relations.  Ms Kusler spoke about “Congress in Action: The Latest from Washington D.C.”  On April 10, 2013 President Obama sent his proposed annual budget plan to Capitol Hill.  The proposal would cut Medicare and other health programs by $400 billion and lead to benefit cuts in Social Security by converting the current cost-of-living payments to a new inflation formula known as “chained C.P.I.  Of note, July 29, 2013 marks the anniversary of the 48th year of Medicare.   On education, Obama’s budget proposal includes billions in mandatory funding for education jobs and would also retroactively replace across-the-board cuts triggered in March.  As always, close attention needs to be paid to our lawmakers on Capitol Hill.


As an aside, I again ran to be elected for a spot to represent NEA Retired on the NEA Resolutions Committee.  I was thrilled to be one of six elected (there were 15 names on the ballot) for the 2014 year.  I am proud to be able to represent ED MN Retired in this capacity.


The NEA Retired Annual Meeting adjourned on Sunday, June 30.  All of the ED MN Retirees packed up their multitude of suitcases, and we switched hotels to join our Education Minnesota State Delegation in order to attend the 92nd Annual Representative Assembly-the 151st Annual Meeting.  Our hotel was the Omni at the CNN Center.  I had looked at several maps in order to get a sense of where this hotel was located in relation to the Convention Center.  However nothing could prepare me for the exact hotel location.  The hotel was right NEXT DOOR to the Convention Center! (be still my heart!)  There was no waiting in line for shuttle buses, there was no waiting in traffic or in construction zones-we just walked out our hotel door and 75-100 feet later, we walked into the Convention Center-EXCELLENT!


The NEA RA was held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. From July 3-6, 2013.  

The first day of business opened with greetings from the Convention Host Committee. (Georgia) We were reminded that we were in the land of peanuts, Vidalia onions, Muscadine grapes, and fine, very fine wine.  The keynote address was given by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.  Van Roekel told the delegates that we can no longer accept stale excuses for disunity.  The DNA of the NEA is all about “student-centered union-led change”;  it is time for us as educators to transform public education by taking charge of our profession.  As educators we are leaders-the time for action is now-so that we are prepared to face the so-called “corporate reformers-the greedmongers who define public education in terms of money.”


Speeches from “Teacher of the Year” Jeff Charbonneau (science-Washington State) and “Education Support Professional of the Year” Donna Schulze (bus driver-Maryland) were very well received.  Charbonneau informed us that every single day in the classroom is the most important day in a child's life.  That child needs to believe that we are NOT a nation of failing public schools.  We are a nation of schools that are continually working to improve and to adapt to a changing world.  Schulze said that Hollywood has distorted the general public’s perception of what teachers and ESP support staff really do in schools.  Public school employees are a team.  As that team, we need to make sure that we are heard at city hall, the statehouse, and the White House.

This year's “Greatest Education Governor Award” was presented to Jerry Brown, Governor of California (last year it was Mark Dayton of MN )  Brown received a standing ovation when he reminded the delegates that 38 years ago he signed a collective bargaining law in California.  Recently Brown passed Proposition 30 into law in California.  This law raises taxes on the wealthiest Californians along with instituting an additional ¼% sales tax.  The generated funds will be significant and will be used for public education.


And there was still LOTS of time for business!  Delegates elected (by secret ballot) 2 Executive Committee members, 3 at-large Board of Director members and 2 alternate at-large Board of Director members.  Again by secret ballot, delegates voted on 2 constitutional amendments and 3 by-law amendments.  Discussion “on the floor” over 4 days involved 93 new business items, 17 legislative amendments, and a number of resolutions, standing rules, and amendments to policy statements.  Of note, was the vote to pass a $3.00 increase in membership dues. (this will not affect Minnesota at all because we are a merged state)  This dues increase will generate over $6 million in new funds to improve student success and to strengthen education professions, specifically to provide Great Public Schools Grants to NEA state and local affiliates.  

Delegates also overwhelmingly approved a completely new Policy Statement on Digital Learning.  This new statement takes a progressive stance on digital education, pushing educators to incorporate as much technology as they think they can effectively use within their classrooms; as long as said technology increases student learning.  At the same time, this NEA policy rejects the idea that students can learn completely online and without any adult interaction.


The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education raised over $3million for the 2013 fund raising year.  Business at the 2013 Representative Assembly for the 7,149 registered delegates concluded as the gavel officially sounded adjournment at 8:16 p.m. on Saturday, July 6.  The 2014 Representative Assembly will be held in Denver, Colorado.  


On behalf of Arlyce Anderson, Larry Koenck, Diane Larson, John Lipke, Walt Munsterman, Judy Rohde, and myself, we sincerely THANK YOU the members of ED MN Retired for giving us the opportunity to attend NEA.  We represented you with pride, enthusiasm, and professionalism.


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