Reg Weaver Urges Members to Get Involved
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College teacher Mary Sue Fenner (left) and
NWTC Faculty Association President Mary Quinnette Cuene escort NEA Vice
President Reg Weaver on a tour of the college.
these times of severe budget constraints, WEAC and NEA members are in
a powerful position to influence public policy, but only to the extent
that members become involved, NEA Vice President Reg Weaver said Thursday
night (January 24, 2002) in Green Bay.
Weaver, speaking to young technical college teachers
at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, said the economic downturn
is severely affecting state budgets throughout the country, and that institutions
of higher education are taking a hit. In Wisconsin, the governor's budget
adjustment proposal cuts technical college budgets by 4.5%.
"Unfortunately, we are going to hear more and more
about state colleges and universities trimming courses, increasing class
sizes, cutting staff, deferring maintenance and construction, and raising
tuition and fees," he said. Although NWTC is still considered affordable,
some of the University of Wisconsin campuses are now unaffordable to dependent
low-income students, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Lumina
"I wouldn't be dwelling on this, but we're talking
about Wisconsin here," Weaver said in prepared remarks. "Not
Mississippi or Alabama. Wisconsin invented the idea that every young adult
who graduates from high school should have the opportunity to attend a
state college or university, regardless of his or her income. .. Every
time we raise student tuition or fees for public colleges and universities,
we narrow the opportunity of young adults from low-income families, and
the bright light of the Wisconsin Idea dims a little more."
That is just one reason it is critically important for
educators to be involved in politics and elections, Weaver said.
"Some think it is unprofessional of us to climb
into the political arena with all those other influence-seekers,"
he said. "So let me be very clear about this. I think just the opposite.
I think it is unprofessional for us not to be involved in the political
arena where the big choices get made."
Weaver then posed a series of questions and provided
"Will we quietly submit, my friends, to cuts in
the budgets of our public colleges and universities at a time of massive
tax breaks and subsidies for the rich? No we will not.
"Will we quietly submit to closing the doors of
public colleges and universities to young adults from low-income families?
No we will not.
"Will we quietly submit to low pay, shrinking health
care coverage, and lack of professional respect? No we will not.
"That is what it means to belong to a union,"
he said. "We do not quietly submit to injustice. We speak up together
for our profession and our students. We bargain together so that we don't
have to beg alone. We work together to elect the candidates who will invest
in our schools, colleges and universities."
Earlier in the day, Weaver also toured several Green
Bay schools and met with the local media. For more photos, see the Share
Your Photos page.
Posted January 25, 2002