By Will Potter
More than 1,700 educators joined NEA President Dennis Van Roekel for a tele-town hall meeting Tuesday night, launching a more targeted and aggressive grassroots effort to lobby for new Congressional legislation that will ensure schools have the resources they need.
During the call, participants were asked to rate the impact that budgets cuts and teacher layoffs will have on their schools. Nine out of 10 said they were “very concerned” about the impact of cuts on student achievement.
‘When educators lose their jobs, students lose too,’ Van Roekel said. ‘We’re looking at more crowded classrooms, and fewer counselors, teachers, nurses, and educators who help ensure that every student gets the individual attention needed to succeed.’
Educators are taking action, sending nearly 150,000 emails to Congress in support of the “Keep our Educators Working Act” (S. 3206). The bill provides the tools and resources to struggling schools, at a time when students are seeing layoffs at their schools and increased class sizes.
Educators are also taking part in other town hall meetings with their elected officials, to make sure lawmakers know that pink slips, closed schools, and budget cuts have left many teachers feeling like they are under siege in their own classrooms.
This week, Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon will take part in tele-town hall meetings with hundreds of educators in their districts.
More than 20,000 members of local education associations have been invited to ask these members of Congress questions on a variety of subjects including funding under the American Resource and Recovery Act, ESEA reauthorization, early childhood education, reducing class sizes, and teacher compensation.
Previous tele-town hall meetings have been held by Representatives Frank Kratovil, Parker Griffith, Walt Minnick, John Adler, and Jared Polis.
Educators have used the forum to cover a wide range of topics. When Rep. John Adler held a tele-town hall meeting, it attracted 1,336 participants from his district. They asked about his views on pressing education issues, including ESEA, merit pay, teacher recruitment, improving student achievement, and parental involvement.
Rep. Jared Polis is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, and heard from more than 500 Colorado citizens about their education concerns.
‘This is a very important year for education and for policy,’ said Polis. ‘We know a lot more now than we did 10 years ago. With the reauthorization of ESEA just around the corner, Congress has a historic opportunity to get it right this time around and help improve our nation’s schools and close the achievement gap’¦
‘We must support, engage and listen to the hard-working teachers who are the backbone of our education system,’ Polis said.