Education Support Professionals Learn Organizing Skills in Idaho


by Julie Fanselow/pictures courtesy of the Idaho Education Association

Meridian, Idaho, was at the center of the labor organizing universe for four days in October. More than 120 people – most of them Education Support professionals – came from Alaska, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to contact current, past, and prospective Idaho Education Association members. Together, they had frank conversations about what it means to be a member and how the association can better serve public school employees, especially in times of attacks on our public schools.

Organizing for Power, as the program is known, is a growing movement within the National Education Association. Often called O4P for short, the program empowers educators to talk about association membership through “cold call” home visits. Participants often find that by talking about what makes membership worthwhile, they recognize more fully how the union has been valuable in their own lives and careers.

Paula Monroe (at left), the ESP representative to the NEA Executive Committee, told participants at a Saturday morning breakfast kickoff that Meridian was the only place holding such an event that weekend. “Every time I am able to be on the ground with members and do this kind of work, it energizes me,” she said, encouraging participants to look at the experience as a gift that will keep giving as lives are changed in Meridian and beyond. (The October session in Meridian was the second of three that participants have committed to attend. The first was in Portland in September; the third will be in Seattle in January.)

IEA President Penni Cyr welcomed the group and offered a brief primer on how Idaho educators were blindsided last January by the three harmful education bills that are now law. “That’s what we’re living with,” she said, “so we need to keep the laws in the public eye by telling our stories, which is what we do best.”

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