By Becca Ritchie, Chair NEA BAT Caucus
A full week of my life has been an incredible blur of advocacy for our profession, our communities, and our students.
I hopped on a plane to DC on July 2. I landed at 6 AM on the 3rd and didn’t stop for the time I was there. I take any position I am elected to very seriously, so representing the voices of teachers in my building, district and state was very important to me. I was also elected as the NEA BAT Caucus Chair. That work has been inspiring. Each member of the caucus brings so much information, enthusiasm and insight. I have enjoyed getting to know members new and old. I am also proud of the members of our caucus with their advocacy of issues that impact us all. And even more, I am proud of how we have learned to navigate the ship that is NEA. Members spend time reading resolutions, digging into policy statements and talking with NEA leadership to better understand how to accomplish the desired outcomes. We worked the mics, spoke our truths, and educated the RA body on issues that they might not have thought about. In our caucus meetings, we debated and laughed. We built friendships across the country and our respect for each other grew.
Julianna Krueger Dauble will be sharing about each of our NBIs, and policy statements were either accepted or denied (see the end of this post for that list). As I watch Julianna work, I know that none of the success we enjoyed would have been possible without her insightful organization. I can’t say how humbled I am to watch her work. When talking with my local president, I said “Think about myself, Julianna and Susan DuFresne—often the out spoken members at our rep. council meetings. Now envision a whole caucus made up of the outspoken members from all 50 states and that is our caucus. Many of the most forward thinking people and the ones who will be heard.” It is a challenge being the chair of such a group to make sure all the business is completed while making sure each member can have their say. Melissa Love Light Tomlinson said “You are good…you even got me to stop talking.” Seeing new faces in the caucus this year warmed my heart. Two new teachers from Washington State (Libby Black-Walker and Caitlin Donnelly) both wrote new business items. They collaborated with others, changed wording and asked questions. Seeing their work, warmed my heart in the knowledge that when I am long gone, they will carry the torch.
Shannon Ergun stepped up when I asked if she would fill the vacant position of treasurer/bouncer. She made sure people joined the caucus if they were in the room creating a safe place for our members to debate. Tina Andres—what can I say? Even though life was rearing its ugly head, you were there, supportive and ready to jump in to fill any request given. Your presence was always uplifting as you shared your perspective. Linda Myrick your multiple roles this year had you going from place to place in a whirlwind. Your perspective and insight help keep me grounded and moving forward! Lauren Hopson, your advocacy around bringing to light the plight of the NC14 was amazing and inspiring. Thank you for thinking of others. Pj Zive —thank you for helping me keep things in order with a smile and laughter. I am so glad you wondered into the caucus room last year! And sharing songs with you replenishes the soul.
Many of our caucus members attended the GLBTQ Gala. Marla Kilfoyle joined us at the BAT table. How can I even express the love, respect and admiration I have for Marla. She is our heart and soul in BATs and my GSD Sister!! The Gala night was filled with tears for the loss of life in Orlando. The program part of the dinner was heart wrenching. NO ONE should ever feel less than because of those they love. Shannon McCann and Joe Bento—Way to go! It was an amazing evening and time to be together in a loving, supportive atmosphere. One Love!
With NEA RA 2016 in the books, we headed into the People March for Education and Social Justice. The lineup of speakers was a litany of who’s who in education and social justice. Ravitch, Barber, Selder, Kozol, and that list goes on and on. When Asean spoke, he laid it out from a child’s perspective. We should be listening to him! On a personal note, singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a lifelong dream realized! Being surrounded by the Family von BATs warmed my soul. I always say “The more the merrier” and was just happy as a clam to have so many amazing advocates on stage with us there. You should have seen Jeb Binns’ face when we realized that “My Big Huge Class” was a bit low and he was going to have to carry the verses! Thank you Jeb for just smiling and rockin’ it. Amy Hepburn did you ever think we would get to sing on the Lincoln memorial steps?? Creating music with other activists is always a blast. Michael Flanagan —the time you put into getting the set straight paid off. It was so fun and organized. Thank you!
After three hours in the 90 plus heat and humidity, I was not sure I was going to be able to do the march. I went back and forth, but decided that my limited time of discomfort was nothing compared to the discomfort that my colleagues and community members of color had endured for centuries so I pulled up my big girl panties and did the march. I rested from time to time, but made it to the end just in time to see the wonderful flash mob that Tracey Drum had organized. Then the heavens opened and the downpour happened. The warm rains cooled us all down!
That evening, as we got back to our hotel, we saw the Black Lives Matter march pass us. The happenings of the week did not go unnoticed by those of us at RA and many joined the marching. Until we all unite and do not do our work in silos, the change we are calling for will not occur. Bishop Selders spoke about this that we need to work together uniting the different advocacy groups. We intersect and where we do, there is power! Once settled in hotel number 2, it was time to celebrate. After a much needed dinner, I ended up singing with Michelle Strater Gunderson, Linda Myrick, Michael Flanagan, Terry Moore, Pj Zive and Tamasha Emedi. What fun! We sang about 7:00 AM Sunday meetings, and about how the west coast is the best coast! HA!
The next day brought us together again, but this time at Howard University. We had the diversity at this daylong conference that was discussed at the SOS congress in 2011. It brought tears to my eyes many times. Terry Moore and I did a workshop with one student from Detroit. We rewrote “the Wheels on the Bus” to “The Schools We Deserve Need…” and filled in the blank. The student said he needed science class, time with friends, music class, lots of clubs, more good food, and freedom schools. It was a great time! As I left to head to my next class, I commented on the beautiful outfit a lady I passed was wearing. She came over to chit chat. Faya Rose from Selma and I ended up talking for the entire time. I learned so much from her about the struggle. She gave me her contact information and said she wants to take a trip to Seattle. Should that occur, we will be talking about how to have others get the opportunity I got. Learning and growing on our journey was what this whole conference was about. And listening…truly listening.
After the conference, we convened at one of my favorite places in DC: Bus Boys and Poets. We sang and broke bread together and celebrated the accomplishments and culmination of 9 months of planning. These people have been ingrained in my life for the past 5 years. We have supported each other through loss, through marriages and divorces, through job changes and through life in general. The bonds that tie us are strong and a night to celebrate those bonds was very much needed!
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel to hang out in the lovely garden and relaxed over more education talk. Marla, Mel, Michelle, Tripp Jeffers, Linda, Tracey, Kathleen, Tina, Denisha Jones (Who even at 3 AM was teaching me! and well!) and so many others that I learn from, grow with and can truly call brothers and sisters in this cause.
I can’t say how this movement has changed my thinking, changed my life and changed how I will move forward. Many people ask me why I do this. My answer is immediately for our students and it is so that teachers 20 years from now will not be taken away from their families to have to do this work. I will continue the journey to impact positive change for ALL of my students and ALL of my colleagues. It is the right thing to do. Thanks you to all the people who were involved in this past week. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead
It was one heck of a week! I am finally home, resting in my recliner, drinking coffee and reflecting. The words that keep running through my head are from the revered Ella Baker:
We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
NEA BAT Caucus Business
By: Julianna Krueger Dauble, NEA BAT Caucus Floor Strategist
Here is the business from the BATs and what happened to them:
7 - pass
9 - fail
33 - pass as modified - Using the successful complaint filed by the ACLU in NM as a model, NEA will collaborate with the ACLU and state member organizations to file complaints against state that limit or prevent educators from openly and freely voicing their opinions on CCSS, NGSS, or other state standards, and/or district/state mandated assessments as these laws/regulations/codes violate the First Amendment rights of educators. Cost - $12,500
37 - referred
41 - pass
42 - referred
43 - pass as modified - NEA will engage, collaborate, and perner with organizations prioritizing the crafting of federal legislation that will ensure public access to quality water supplies that meet EPA standards for public health free of poisons, toxins, and pollutants for all citizens regardless of race, income, or zip code. Cost - $500
44 - pass as modified - NEA will communicate, through digital media properties, the dangers of lead poisoning to infant, toddler, and child cognitive development, as well as the potential genetic effects on future generations born of our members that are exposed to lead through drinking water and other means. Cost - $8,000
48 - pass as modified - NEA will encourage and empower its members to question, challenge, and demand other stakeholders and themselves to provide facts and evidence to support their claims, ideas, and policies. Cost - $1,500
49 - fail
50 - pass as modified - NEA will educate and organize as many of their members to encourage its affiliates to utilize existing materials and programs to defend public education from the privatization process that threatens the existence of America's democratic school system. NEA will educate its members on how to identify and effectively correct and refute myths, misinformation, fabrications, half-truths, and lies that form the prevalent corporate reformers narrative that is allowing and validating the dismantling and privatizing of America's public schools system. Cost - $0
52 - fail
55 - pass
56 - referred
58 - pass with amendments - "using existing resources" in line one and deleting "anecdotal evidence" and replacing with news accounts. New cost - $28,750
72 - pass with amendment - add "digital" in line about existing resources. No cost change.
75 - pass
92 - referred
108 - didn't mark this one - sorry
111 - fail
Policy B-1 - referred
C-1 - referred
C-2 - referred
Leg Amen 12 - pass as modified - Section: Environment, page 24 line 13 add new item NEA supports "public access to quality water supplies that are free of poisons, toxins, and pollutants that meets EPA requirements;"
And Resolutions on
and Complex Trauma