"Great Schools" Could Have Major Impact
WEAC members working through the Great Schools
initiative "could well shape the very future of public education
in America," NEA President Bob Chase said Saturday (September 25,
1999) in a speech to officers of WEAC's local affiliates.
NEA President Bob Chase congratulates local
association officers on taking the brave and bold step of launching
the Great Schools initiative. Looking on are (left to right) WEAC
President Terry Craney, WEAC Executive Director Michael Butera and
WEAC Vice President Stan Johnson.
"You are on the verge of writing a new history
of public education, and NEA, 2.5 million members strong, is proud to
walk with you in your Great Schools initiative," Chase told about
Chase said no other NEA state affiliate has a
program as ambitious as Great Schools, which he described as extraordinarily
"Not only are you seeking to hold a one-on-one
conversation with each of our 88,000 members, but in every public school
in Wisconsin and I understand there are 2,006 you are seeking
to seriously engage the public ...," he said.
"To engage citizens in a conversation about
how their schools can best meet the needs of their children I can't
imagine a more important undertaking. I can't imagine a better way to
begin putting the public back into public education. I can't imagine a
more worthy venture for our association," Chase said.
"Like you, I am convinced that our union
can and must play a decisive role in revitalizing public education for
all children of this country. 'Great Schools Every Kid Deserves
One.' With that as our beacon, we can and must take the initiative."
Chase noted that Wisconsin public school students
are No. 1 on the ACT and that 72% go on to post-secondary education. But
he also noted that Wisconsin has the longest-running private school voucher
program in the nation, an unequal distribution of public school resources,
and "the most serious abridgement of our members' collective bargaining
rights" with the Qualified Economic Offer law.
The Great Schools initiative can help reverse
these negative public policy trends, and not only in Wisconsin.
"What you do here in Wisconsin to reconnect
with your communities could have implications far beyond your borders,"
Chase said. "What you do here could well shape the very future of
public education in America."
Chase also promoted new unionism, saying union
members can "take the first step to end the head-butting between
union and school management."
"We can put issues of school quality front
and center at the bargaining table," he said. "We can promote
community and parental involvement in public schools. We can insist on
a more robust role for teachers and support staff in organizing their
schools for high performance. We can be the champions of school reform
measures such as smaller class sizes that our members know will work.
"We must move forward and create a new NEA
and new style of unionism with sharp new emphasis on maximizing
learning for every child. This is not a matter of repudiating our past,
but building upon it."
Posted September 25, 1999