|Steve Nousen of the National
Education Association gives UE members a briefing on education issues,
asks for their assistance.
In visits on Capitol Hill, UE members made defense of
public education a priority. Rank-and-file lobbyists argued for school
construction and modernization and against vouchers, privatization and
Steve Nousen of the National Education Association
told Political Action Conference delegates, "You guys can really be
saviors of public education when you go out on Capitol Hill."
Nousen, federal lobbyist for the 2.6 million-member NEA,
gave UE members a briefing which stressed the urgent importance of
opposition to vouchers and support for school construction and
A history teacher for 14 years, Nousen traced the growth
of public education from the inadequate schooling of the child labor era
to the scientific revolution. "We are educating more people to a
higher standard than we ever have — and we’re told we’re
failing," Nousen said.
The NEA supports the goals of the Bush Administration to
"leave no child behind," literacy by the third grade and
generally higher standards. But the teachers’ union argues that all
schools deserve the investment that makes these goals attainable.
'GIVE US THE INPUT —
WE'LL GIVE YOU THE OUTPUT'
Lou Welter, Local 893, Sam Lopez, Local 896, and Mary
Dobrochowksi, Local 893, examine Conference documents. Just
barely visiible is Bill Austin, Local 893.
"Don’t tell us we need a $1.6 trillion tax cut
which benefits mostly the rich, when in fact you’re going to spend
less than one-fortieth of that on public education," Nousen said.
"That’s not fair. Give us the input, we’ll give you the
The NEA is currently under attack, Nousen said.
"Our union is fighting back as best we can against folks who are
telling us we’re no good, telling us because we’ve failed and take
money away from public schools."
The largest corporations in the U.S. are funding an ad
campaign on behalf of school choice. "But they don’t tell you
they want to give you $1,500 toward a private school education that
might cost $5,000, if you’re lucky, or $10,000," Nousen said. The
teacher reminded delegates of the arbitrary and discriminatory
admittance policies of private schools, or their exemption from
disclosing test scores. Special needs students are not welcome.
Vouchers are a drain on public school systems, he said.
"It’s discriminatory, it’s class warfare, it’s everything
this country has not been for, for a very long time," Nousen
MODERNIZATION & CONSTRUCTION
to Sen. George Voinovich respond defensively to District 7 Pres. Joyce
Clayborne, Nina Williams, Local 799, and Will Anderson, Local 792.
The NEA representative spoke at length in support of HR
1076, a school construction and modernization plan, introduced by Nancy
Johnson (R., Conn.) and Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) This bill,
which has 105 co-sponsors, including 20 Republicans, would allow the
federal government to buy up interest on local school bond issues to
free up money needed for construction and modernization.
The average school is more than 50 years old, and many
are older, Nousen pointed out. These buildings are not only not wired
for the Internet but suffer from leaky plumbing and other structural
Despite the need, the Bush budget contains no funds for
modernization and construction, Nousen said. "We must earmark at
the federal level — otherwise poor districts will continue to be
Many UE delegates followed through on the NEA lobbyist’s
request, speaking on behalf of HR 1076 in meetings with lawmakers.
See also: Who Cares About Public Education?
(UE News Feature)
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