Video: NEA Members Talk School Modernization with President Obama

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by Brian Washington

Diana Beatty teaches math at a Colorado high school where her classroom is one of several located in the basement—which previously housed the cafeteria when the school was first built almost 40 years ago.

She educates students in the one classroom that has a window, but it faces a brick wall. Her room is also not far from the school’s noisy boiler room and a loading dock. When trucks arrive with deliveries, students are treated to loud rumblings that hijack their attention and cause the desks and chairs to vibrate.

“I have classes of 36 and 37 teenagers packed into desks that are falling apart, and students are using textbooks older than they are,” said Beatty. “Our carpet is threadbare, stained, and approaching 40 years old, but can’t be replaced because there is an asbestos issue we can’t afford to address.”

However, Beatty is refusing to let her students suffer in silence. She took her concerns directly to President Obama Tuesday during a working meeting which also included NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, a delegation of Association members as well as education activists and stakeholders from across the country [ed note: see the complete gallery of attending members at the bottom of this page]. The policy discussion focused on the American Jobs Act (AJA)—which will modernize public schools nationwide, prevent hundreds of thousands of educator layoffs, and keep students out of overcrowded classrooms.

The President has recently visited several states—including Ohio, Texas, and Colorado—in an attempt to apply public pressure to lawmakers in Washington, DC to pass the AJA. So far, Republicans have stalled the President’s efforts to get this critical funding through Congress.

President Obama believes the challenges facing children, educators, and our public schools can’t wait. The President is now trying to get Congress to approve the bill in pieces. For example, funding for the school modernization piece of the American Jobs Act has been split off from the bill and is now contained in the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act. The funding piece that will benefit students by saving educator jobs and returning teachers and education support professionals back to work is contained in the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Beatty joined Van Roekel and thousands of other educators on a national conference call featuring Obama Senior Advisor David Plouffe. The call provided educators another opportunity to discuss the need for the American Jobs Act and advocate on behalf of students.

“It may seem like a small thing, but when students walk into a school with chipped paint and tiles, horribly worn and stained carpets, and desks that are falling apart when they sit in them, it sends a subtle message to them about how they and their educations are valued,” said Beatty.

Now is the time for those who support children, educators, and our public schools to stand up! Tell your lawmakers in Washington, DC to support the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act.

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