Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ISEA-PAC Central Committee Meets to Take Action on Candidate Recommendations

On Monday, June 9th members of ISEA-PAC Central Committee met in Des Moines to bring forward candidate recommendations from their local interview teams.

With a few school districts still in session, a majority of the committee came together to discuss individual races and make recommendations to our membership.

The nineteen UniServ Units of Team ISEA have all appointed a team of four members, two (2) Republican and two (2) Democrats, to represent their membership.

The attendance at our June 9th meeting was as follows:

Cedar Wood: 2
East Central: 3
Geode: 1
Great River: 2
Hawkeye: 4
JDC: 2
Lincolnway: 2
Mississippi Bend: 1
Mid-Iowa: 3
Northern Pride: 0
Unit Nine: 1
Polk Suburban: 2
South Central: 2
Siouxland: 2
Southwest: 4
Unit Ten: 1
Unit Two: 1

Also in attendance in addition to myself: ISEA Vice President/President-elect, Chris Bern; ISEA Treasurer Paula Logan; NEA Director Jim Young; and ISEA Vice President-elect Tammy Wawro.
ISEA-PAC Central Committee members heard from Team ISEA Lobbyist, Brad Hudson, on a final report of the 2008 Legislative Session before beginning our candidate discussions.

Candidate recommendations were made in all but seven (7) state Senate races and twenty-seven (27) state House races. The body gave authority for an "Emergency Committee" to act upon candidate recommendations in the above mentioned races once the local interview teams complete their interviews.

Members of ISEA-PAC's "Emergency Committee" are:

(D) Chris Bern, ISEA President-elect

(D) Jim Young-NEA Director

(D) Roberta Rosheim, JDC

(D) Kevin Ericson, Mid-Iowa

(R) Roberta Hass, NEIEU

(R) John Morgan, Unit Two

(R) Leslie Dake, Siouxland

(R) Rob Hirst, Hawkeye

Before ISEA-PAC Central Committee members headed towards home, we thanked them for the work they've done thus far with candidate interviews, but also thanked them for their leadership in this fall's campaigns in making a difference in electing/re-electing friends of education!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

NEA President to Recommend Sen. Obama in General Election

WASHINGTON— National Education Association President Reg Weaver announced today that he will ask the 9,000 locally elected delegates to the Association’s Representative Assembly to take a formal vote to recommend that NEA’s 3.2 million members support Barack Obama in his bid to become President of the United States. NEA delegates will hold their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., over the 4th of July holiday.

“Ideally, NEA would have endorsed a candidate during the primaries, but our members were like voters everywhere,” said Weaver. “They were split between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. But it’s now apparent that Senator Obama has secured the necessary number of delegates to win the Democratic nomination. With such a clear picture of what Senator Obama will do for public education and his commitment to partner with NEA on issues that affect our members across the country, every public school employee needs to get squarely behind the Obama candidacy.”

Presidential candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties worked to get the NEA’s recommendation and access to its seasoned army of political member activists.

“Senator Clinton has an outstanding record of support for children and public education,” said Weaver. “As long as she was a viable candidate in the Democratic nomination process, many of our members felt a passionate need to return the loyalty she has earned over decades of support.”

The contrast between Obama and McCain on issues that matter most to NEA members – the economy, education and health care – is indeed stark. Obama opposes using public tax dollars to provide financial support to private schools. McCain is already on record with votes supporting vouchers.

Obama has made it clear that the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind law must be changed. McCain has been crossing the country saying he’ll expand the very provisions of NCLB that the nation’s educators cite as its greatest flaws, most especially its one-size-fits-all high-stakes testing provisions.

Obama supports making health care available to every American child. McCain has voted against expansion of existing federal programs designed to provide health care for the nation’s neediest children.

Obama has said repeatedly that, while teachers need to be held accountable for what goes on in the classroom, every teacher deserves a living wage. McCain has called for paying teachers based on student test scores.

Obama supports reducing class size to improve student achievement. McCain has already voted against attempts to reduce class size.

“You can go down any list of what public school employees believe they need to truly help every child be successful, and you’ll see that Senator Obama supports that list and that Senator McCain not only opposes it, but has probably already voted against it,” said Weaver. “There are big and important issues in this campaign, but none is more important to the long-term future of America than public education. And there’s a clear choice in 2008. I will be asking our members to make the right choice for public education and to support Senator Obama.”

Here I am (above) with Senator Obama in July 2007. Senator Obama visited the Iowa delegation at an early morning caucus during the 2007 NEA Representative Assembly in Philadelphia, PA.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Celebrating Memorial Day

Many people observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. US Eastern time. Another tradition is to fly the U.S.Flag at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers usually place an American flag upon each grave site located in a National Cemetery.

Memorial Day formerly occurred on May 30, and some, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars(VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), advocate returning to this fixed date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day

Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. These observances eventually coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.

The official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York. The village was credited with being the birthplace because it observed the day on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter, and because it is likely that the friendship of General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who led the call for the day to be observed each year and helped spread the event nationwide, was a key factor in its growth.

Many of the states of the U.S. South
refused to celebrate Decoration Day, due to lingering hostility towards the Union Army and also because there were very few veterans of the Union Army who lived in the South. A notable exception was Columbus, Mississippi, which on April 25, 1866 at its Decoration Day commemorated both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery.

The alternative name of "Memorial Day" was first used in 1881
, but did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967 . On June 28, 1968, the United States Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved three holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend and for the first time recognized Columbus Day as a federal holiday. The holidays included Washington's Birthday (which evolved into Presidents' Day), Veterans Day, and Memorial Day. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971 . After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply at the state level, all fifty states adopted the measure within a few years, although Veterans Day was eventually changed back to its traditional date. Ironically, most corporate businesses no longer close on Columbus Day or Veterans Day, and an increasing number are staying open on President's Day as well. Memorial Day, however, has endured as one holiday during which most businesses stay closed because it marks the beginning of the "summer vacation season," as does neighboring Canada's Victoria Day, which occurs on the prior Monday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are You a Smart Driver?

Think you're smarter than the average driver?

When's the last time you took a written drivers test? When you were 16? How do you think you'd score if you took it again today?

Take the GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test and see if you pass with flying colors, or if you could use a little brushing up.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Peace Corps Volunteer Shares Experience With Students

One of my childhood friends from Lincoln, Nebraska joined the Peace Corps one year ago. Cindy Swanson sold her business and her home and put things in storage in the summer of 2007 to travel half-way around the world to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer. One of the componets to her service was having a connection to school children in the United States. I introduced her to Erin Jones, a 4th grade teacher at Carter Lake Elementary (a part of the Council Bluffs Community School District) and they have been emailing ever since.

On Monday, May 19th, I joined Cindy in a visit to Carter Lake Elementary and to the 4th grade classroom of Erin Jones.

The children were excited to meet Cindy and put a face on the person they have been emailing this school year. The students had done their "homework" and did additional background searches on the county of Azerbaijan where Cindy is serving.

Cindy shared photos of the community and countryside of Azerbaijan as she spoke of the work she does with World Vision. We got a glimpse of her apartment as well as some of the other Peace Corps volunteers and the many Azeri people she's met. The students were full of questions and our time in Erin's room flew by!

Next school year when I return to Carter Lake Elementary as a teacher, I will pull together these students (who will move on to 5th grade in various classrooms) at lunch time or after school to keep our connection to Cindy and her work as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Cindy's service in Azerbaijan will be complete in September 2009. She is already looking ahead to possibly continuing her Peace Corps service in yet another country. Cindy, we are so proud of you!

Opportunity to Serve Nearing an End

My last ISEA Executive Board meeting serving as president was the weekend of May 9-10, 2008. At our August 2007 board meeting, the newly elected board members honored me with a crown and scepter. For the beginning of my last board meeting, I donned the gear one last time.

Each leader serves in this position with their own vision of how the job needs to be done. I promised members I would put a face on who we are as ISEA and listen to their concerns. Four years later I can say I have visited over 400 Iowa communities and thousands of classrooms, to bus barns, school cafeterias, Area Education Agency offices, and our great Community College campuses.

Thanks Team ISEA for the opporunity to serve as your president. Thank you for all you continue to do for Iowa students!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Governor Culver Vetoes Collective Bargaining Bill

Iowa Governor Chet Culver announced in a news conference late this afternoon that he will veto HF 2645, a bill which would have expanded the scope of collective bargaining for educators and other public employees.

Statement by ISEA President Linda Nelson on Governor Culver's veto of HF2645
We are deeply disappointed by Gov. Culver's veto of HF 2645. This legislation would have leveled the playing field for educators and other public employees at the bargaining table. It would have allowed us to negotiate over issues that impact student achievement like class size, preparation time, in-service, and a whole host of other topics that under the current law are deemed "permissive" and off-limits for discussion. While we appreciate the Governor's support for funding public schools and for making teacher salaries competitive, he missed a great opportunity to recognize educators as true professionals and full partners in educational decision making. We are committed to working with Gov. Culver Culver to craft a bill which accomplishes that objective.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lincolnway UniServ Unit Hosts Annual "Friends of Education" Recognition Dinner

For just my second time in four years I was available to attend Lincolnway UniServ Unit's annual "Friends of Education" Dinner in Carroll last night. The weather was threatening with thundershowers, but inside the mood was festive!

The Lincolnway UniServ Unit Executive Board met for a short board meeting beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Carrollton Inn prior to the Friend of Education Dinner.

Over 60 guests attended this annual Lincolnway event. We were entertained by a solo vocalist, Nick Andersen, of Lawton-Bronson followed by the Ogden High School Jazz Band, directed by Ogden EA member Jeff Robilliard. Wow, such talented young people led by great educators!

The following were recognized as:

Lincolnway UniServ Unit's
2008 Friends of Education

Nancy Ertz
Lions Club of Audubon

Battle Creek-Ida Grove
Donna Miller
Carol Gronstal
Bill Fish
John Bernholtz

Carroll Education Support Professionals
Joanne Vogel

Coon Rapids- Bayard
Faye Seidl

Jim Harms

John and Cindi Van Horn

Steve Vollstedt
Roxanne Peters
Kara Thompson

Cheryl Greenwood

Crista Miller

Judy and Charlie Swanson

Sac City
Sue Ricke

Wall Lake View Auburn
Carol Scott

Kathy Belvin

Deb Sprecker

Congratulations to all 2008 Friends of Education! Thank you for all you do for Iowa students!

Before heading back to Des Moines, I had the chance to pose for a photo with our great Lincolnway Team ISEA staff. Pictured (from left to right) Lincolnway's great Administrative Assistant, Linda Sporrer; Peri Van Tassel, UniServ Director in both Lincolnway and Polk Suburban; myself; and Myron Halverson, Lincolnway UniServ Director. This is terrific team that work their hearts out for Team ISEA members in Lincolnway UniServ Unit. How lucky we are to have them on Team ISEA!

Polk Suburban UniServ Unit Holds Annual Recognition Dinner

On Monday, May 5th, Team ISEA members from Polk Suburban UniServ Unit held their annual Recognition Dinner at Traditions Restaurant in Ankeny.

Leaders from across the UniServ Unit gathered early to enjoy the social time with colleagues from other school districts.

We were treated to musical entertainment by Wagner and Walter Caldas, 22 year old twin brothers from the community of Grota do Surucucu, an impoverished neighborhood located on the outskirts of Rio de Janerio, Brazil. Wagner and Walter were introduced to Team ISEA member Gilmara Mitchell and her husband Martin in October 2006 and with the connecting of many prominent individuals, Wagner and Walter are now students at the University of Northern Iowa in the School of Music.

For the second year in a row PSUU holds the honor of having one of their own leaders be named Iowa Teacher of the Year! This evening we heard from our 2008 Iowa Teacher of the Year, Andy Mogle, of the Norwalk Professional Education Association.

PSUU recognized local associations for: 1) largest percentage of membership increase; 2) largest numerical membership increase; 3) locals meeting/exceeding bargaining goals; 4) ISEA/PSUU Five Star Locals. Congratulations to all for the fine work you do on behalf of the association!

All Team ISEA members gathered were treated to an extra special keynote speaker this evening too. Team NEA's Vice President (and President-elect) Dennis Van Roekel. Dennis gave an inspiring message that gave us all a boost to continue the great work that Polk Suburban UniServ members do every day.
Pictured (above, left to right) NEA Vice President Dennis Van Roekel; Jan Reinicke, ISEA Executive Director; and Randy Richardson, ISEA Associate Executive Director for Field Services.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tell Candidates for President What YOU Think!

NEA's "EducationVotes" Web site is up and running. All three remaining candidates for President are U.S. Senators.

Check out their:

** Voting records in Congress.
** Grades on NEA's congressional report card.
** Positions on education and other important issues.

Check out all three candidates at www.nea.org/educationvotes/index.html

Thursday, May 01, 2008

After a Full Day of Work, Time to Relax

After a full day of legislative briefings, NEA-PAC Council meeting, meeting with members of Congress and their staff, and topping it off with a two-hour NEA Midwest Regional meeting, it is out for dinner with friends.

A long-standing tradition for Team ISEA-NEA Directors is to enjoy a meal in the evening with NEA Directors from Indiana. This tradition has stretched over the years as new NEA Directors transition in and retiring directors leave the NEA Board of Directors. Retiring from our postions this year are myself (third in from left) and Rick Wright (right/end). The time we take to build these relationships in invaluable as we share initiatives from our states as well as tell of successess that take place in our educational workplace.

Good luck, Rick and thanks Team ISTA for your continued friendships over the years!

Visits to Capitol Hill Today

At 8:00 a.m. sharp this morning, Team NEA Directors from across the nation gathered at the NEA building for a legislative briefing from our Team NEA lobbyists. Most state presidents attend as well.

I joined Team ISEA-NEA Directors from Iowa, Jim Young of Cedar Falls and Kathy Williams of Davenport to hear about issues that are pending Congressional action.

Following the legislative briefing, all NEA state affiliate presidents participate in the NEA-Political Action (PAC) Council meeting. Our meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and concluded around 11:30 a.m. I joined NEA Directors Jim and Kathy at mid-point in their Congressional office visits.

NEA Directors Jim Young and Kathy Williams had appointments this morning with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, U. S. Senator Charles Grassley, and Congressman Steve King before I joined up with them at the Longworth House Office Building for the final three appointments.

Pictured above (from left to right) are NEA Director Kathy Williams; U.S. Congressman Leonard Boswell, IA-CD 3; NEA Director Jim Young, and myself. We next visited U.S. Congressman Bruce Braley's office (IA-CD 1) where we met with Rob, Cong. Braley's education staffer. Here (above) I'm pictured with Cong. Braley's Chief of Staff Sarah Benzing, who is originally from Underwood, IA. I've known Sarah and her parents (both life-long teachers) for many years. Our finaly Congressional office visit took us to see U.S. Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-CD 2). Pictured above (from left to right) are myself, Congressman Dave Loebsack, Kathy Williams, and Jim Young.

Team ISEA has much to be proud of for the great work our two NEA Directors do on our behalf. For a number of years our directors have appointments to meet with 6 and sometimes all 7 of our Members of Congress. Thanks, Jim and Kathy for your terrific work!

Summit on State 21st Century Skills Initiatives

On Wednesday, April 30th, Team ISEA Executive Director Jan Reinicke and I participated in a day long meeting at the NEA building with other state affiliates that have created partnerships with their state's Department of Education (and Chief School Officer), Governor, state education association, and business/corporate partners.

We heard from our colleagues in Wisconsin and West Virginia who have worked on building these partnerships within their states.

We had the opportunity to have table discussions around the possibilities, questions and concerns, does this fit our overall education vision/agenda?

One of my great friends that participated today was Donna DeKraii, president of the South Dakota Education Association (pictured here with me).


Regional Conferences – National Success
Over the past three months, NEA has held a series of Regional Leadership Conferences across the country, culminating with the ESP Conference in Baltimore in early March. At each conference, NEA Government Relations staff either spoke at or made materials available for NEA Republicans during special meetings of the Republican Educators Caucus or in other venues. At the Midwest Regional Conference in Minneapolis, and the Pacific Regional Conference in Boise, Republicans and non-Republicans alike heard from senior Republican political consultants Matt Keelen of the Keelen Group and Bob Carpenter of American Viewpoint. They discussed the political landscape in Washington, D.C., and ways Republican NEA members can be proactive about becoming involved in the political process.

One result of these meetings has been impressive growth in the number of NEA members who will be receiving this newsletter, an expression of interest in our activities to reach Republican members and help them become involved in the Republican Party.

If this is your first issue, welcome! Please spread the word!

Reminder – "How to Become Involved in the Republican Party" Available on CD or by Email
NEA has published a manual to encourage greater involvement by NEA members in the Republican Party, "How to Become Involved in the Republican Party." The manual was distributed at NEA's first Republican Leaders Conference as well as at the Regional Leadership Conferences over the past three months. Each manual is specific to state laws and party rules, and includes resources regarding the political process in each state at each level from county and district chair to state party chair. This is great background information to help NEA Republican members navigate the political organizations in their states.
If you would like a copy of this manual, please email Erin Duncan at NEA Government Relations at eduncan@nea.org or call Erin at (202) 822-7394.

GOP National Convention – Join the Fun in the Twin Cities!
Where is the hottest place to be over Labor Day weekend? If you're one of the nearly 45,000 people planning to descend on Minneapolis-St. Paul – not to mention the eyes of the world's media – the answer is the Republican National Convention!

While the Republican primaries conclude and Sen. John McCain solidifies his likely nomination to the presidency on the Republican ticket, Republican National Convention planners are gearing up for what promises to be a fascinating, fun, and historic occasion in the Twin Cities. The convention will officially start on Labor Day, Monday, September 1, and last until Thursday, September 4, 2008. The convention itself will take place in the beautiful Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, with other events related to the convention taking place at other locations throughout the Twin Cities.

Who will be at the convention?

The numbers are impressive: 2,000 delegates, 2,000 alternates, 15,000 members of the media from all over the world, and 25,000 observers and volunteers. We hope to see many NEA members there, too. If you are running for or have been elected a delegate to the Republican National Convention, please let us know by contacting Erin Duncan at eduncan@nea.org. NEA offers a travel and lodging stipend for member delegates and alternates. Information about the stipend can be found at www.nea.org/lac/conventionstipends.html. We have a number of special events planned for our delegates and friends and want to be in contact with you prior to the convention.

Regular updates about the convention can be found at www.gopconvention.com.

Not a delegate, but want to get involved?

Also important to the success of the convention will be the use of motivated and energetic volunteers. According to convention organizers, volunteers will be needed to help with logistics, transportation, and other key aspects of hosting such a major event. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Republican National Convention go to: http://msp2008.com/volunteer.php.

Save the Date for NEA Republican Leaders Conference II
NEA is in the process of planning the NEA Republican Leaders Conference II for August 27-30, 2008, the days immediately preceding the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The NEA conference will take place at the Millennium Hotel, located on Nicollet Mall in the heart of Minneapolis. Building on the success of the first NEA Republican Leaders Conference in August 2007, we hope to enhance NEA Republican outreach efforts by providing advanced training to selected Republican NEA members.

NEA will pay for travel, hotel, and meals for up to four Republican NEA members for each state. These participants will be nominated by their state presidents.

The NEA Republican Leaders Conference II will feature two days of panel presentations and workshops for Republican members. We expect panels to include Republican NEA members active in the Republican party at all levels, as well as other party activists and political consultants. Topics will include online activism, grassroots organizing, volunteer strategy, press relations, communications, and messaging. We expect many Republican local, state, and national officeholders and party officials to be in the Twin Cities the week before the Republican National Convention and we expect to draw upon their expertise as well.

The goal of the conference will be to help NEA attendees conduct effective Republican outreach in their states, including preparing them to organize fellow NEA Republican members. Following the conference, we will ask attendees to help recruit NEA Republican members from their states to become party activists, run for office, or take other leadership roles.

We are looking forward to seeing you at a wonderful NEA Republican Leaders Conference II in Minneapolis!

Florida, Florida, Florida!
Florida has always been a pivotal state in politics – from Tim Russert's whiteboard analysis during the 2000 presidential election to the current controversy regarding Florida's delegates. The state's diversity and importance makes the efforts of its Republican educators all the more critical to advancing the public school agenda. After the first NEA Republican Leaders Conference, Sandra Ross and Linda Francis, two participants from Florida, went home loaded with ideas and energy to get involved in Florida politics and advance public education's agenda within the Republican Party.

The work began almost immediately. Linda Francis filled out an application to become a precinct committeewoman. After a lively debate within her county's Republican Executive Committee, Linda was elected to the Marion County, Fla. Republican Executive Committee. Since then, Linda has been asked to join the statewide African American Republican Leadership Council; she is also working on becoming a delegate to the Republican National Convention. In addition, she is involved in minority outreach and recruitment in Marion County. She is also working on forming a Republican Educator's Club that will be affiliated with the Marion County Republican Executive Committee. Linda says that she believes the club has great potential — more than 600 of the nearly 1,800 teachers in the greater Ocala area self-identify as Republicans.

Sandra Ross has also been very active in her work to raise the profile of Republican educators in Florida. She has become a precinct committee woman for the Orange County Republican Executive Committee and is in the process of starting a Republican Educator's Club through the County Executive Committee. Sandra was interviewed on television and identified as an NEA member during a debate among Republican candidates for president. In addition, she has been asked to serve on the Education Advisory Council for U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney and is helping Republican candidates for the state legislature to build their education platforms. Sandra says, "I am currently trying to meet with as many candidates for office as I can so that I can help make a connection with them now, in hopes that when they get in their desired position, we have a friend in office." Sandra applied to become an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention and is awaiting that decision.

Both Linda and Sandra represent the focus, hard work, and leadership that NEA's first group of Republican Leaders has demonstrated over the past year. We'll highlight the activities of other NEA Republican Leaders in future issues of this newsletter.

Bipartisan Efforts Produce Pro- Public Education Results in Wisconsin Working in a bipartisan fashion is an important quality for many of NEA's affiliates. This month, we highlight one affiliate that has taken bipartisan advocacy in a highly productive direction. To facilitate conversation with its congressional delegation, the NEA-Wisconsin Education Association Council (NEA-WEAC) created Federal Advocacy Teams. One such team, working in the 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin with U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, has successfully worked to open the lines of communication between the member of Congress and NEA-WEAC.

Made up of NEA-WEAC members from the Congressman's district, the Federal Advocacy Team meets with the congressman on a quarterly basis. NEA-WEAC began the relationship by meeting with the congressman's staff in Wisconsin, explaining how the Federal Advocacy Team would work to support and educate Congressman Petri on education issues that are important to NEA-WEAC's members. "It's about building the relationship with the congressman," says Bob Fullmer, a Federal Advocacy Team member. "We've been doing it about three years, and Congressman Petri has been very tenacious on some of our issues. [In some cases] He's stepped up when no one else would."

In addition to meeting regularly to share issues and insights, stressing NEA's political agenda as it impacts public schools in the 6th Congressional District, the Federal Advocacy Team helps organize school visits for the congressman. Congressman Petri has done two major school visits as well as one large listening session with teachers, administrators, state officials, and NEA representatives testifying. He has also had his staff organize other school visits with NEA-WEAC's encouragement. Each school visit is staffed by a NEA-WEAC photographer and journalist. After each visit, NEA-WEAC creates a mailer to publicize the congressman's visit and sends it to all 11,000 members of NEA-WEAC in the congressman's district. "These school visits allow him to see programs and problems schools may be having," Bob says. In some cases, the school visits have resulted in legislation.

Putting together the Federal Advocacy Team has allowed NEA-WEAC to activate its rank-and-file members who have participated in local politics, but who were perhaps not in local leadership. To do so, NEA-WEAC conducted a database check of its members and picked out about 20 people who looked moderately active politically. From that list, approximately seven or eight people committed to being involved. These people were put through a training program on lobbying and did homework to become well-informed on federal education issues. The Federal Advocacy Team coordinates directly with NEA Government Relations. In addition, team members were encouraged to meet with local administrators to continue to build understanding of federal education issues. Members of the team report to the UniServ on local meetings and keep them informed about advocacy efforts.

While the bulk of the Federal Advocacy Team's activities are in the congressional district, team members have been sent to Washington to meet with the congressman and share NEA-WEAC's position when a crucial vote is looming. "We always get in to see the congressman," states Fullmer, "because he knows our members from the visits in the district."

Meeting on a regular basis with the Federal Advocacy Team has been a terrific way to open two-way bipartisan communication. It has helped Congressman Petri to see first-hand how federal programs are operating in his congressional district and it has helped members of NEA-WEAC get to know a member of Congress on a first-name basis.

"The message of the Federal Advocacy Team is that if you step up for education, we will step up for you," says Fullmer.

How Candidate Recommendations Are Decided
Every two years, the NEA's PAC, the Fund for Children and Public Education (the Fund), recommends (endorses) about 300 candidates for Congress. Ideally, decisions about which candidates to support not only reward past support of public education, but also encourage successful candidates to support public education more frequently in the future. Candidate recommendations are a critically important lobbying tool for Association activists.

The process by which congressional candidate recommendations are decided is relatively simple: state affiliate leaders and activists initially evaluate candidates and their education views, then decide which candidates should be recommended. NEA's fund — governed by a 68-member council comprised primarily of the 50 state affiliate presidents or their designees — ratifies those decisions before deciding the level or type of support to offer each candidate.

State affiliate decisions about candidate recommendations usually reflect at least two considerations: the candidate's views and votes on key education and employee issues, and the candidate's overall relationship with the Association.

To help members assess a candidate's views, the Fund Council approves every two years a written Congressional Candidate Questionnaire, which asks candidates to express agreement or disagreement on about 20 federal issues. In recent years the questionnaire has focused on core education and employee issues in order to open our recommendation process to Republican candidates.

NEA Government Relations also prepares annually a Legislative Report Card which grades each member of Congress' education record based on their votes, bill co-sponsorships, committee work, behind-the-scenes advocacy, and their accessibility to educators both in Washington and back home.

For many Republican candidates, having a strong relationship with Association leaders and members can make a difference. Republican activists play an important role in this – they help build connections key to congressional lobbying efforts.

By developing stronger working ties to interested Republican candidates, you can persuade them to share our views on key issues, help them build relationships with NEA members and key Association leaders, and help steer them through a recommendation process that pro-public education Republicans otherwise might choose to avoid. This work is particularly important in Republican districts and states, and in instances where competitive two-party elections occur.

For more information on NEA's candidate recommendation procedures, contact your state affiliate's Government Relations Department or chief NEA lobbyist Randall Moody at rmoody@nea.org.

Kansas Traditional Republican Majority: Creating a Pro-Public Education Majority One Step at a Time "A vote is a vote" says Ryan Wright, executive director of Kansas' Traditional Republican Majority (KTRM), summarizing how pro-public education Republicans in Kansas have successfully worked to create a pro-public education majority within the majority in Kansas state government.

Created in 2005, KTRM, a state affiliate of the NEA-supported Republican Mainstreet Partnership, has facilitated the formation of a strong centrist Republican majority within the majority, based on the traditional Republican values of strong public education, limited government, and lower taxes. One of the first goals of the organization was to work with its partners to change the composition of the Kansas State Board of Education, which infamously voted to mandate teaching creationism as an alternative to evolution in Kansas public schools.

Working with partners like the Kansas NEA, as well as with the business community and other leadership organizations, KTRM helped identify and support candidates who would promote a more balanced education position. The result was a successful change in the State Board of Education.

KTRM worked first to identify its potential legislative partners by looking at voting records and connecting with incumbent members of the Kansas legislature, encouraging them to work together on issues of shared interest. "Our legislators do fantastic work," Ryan says. "Our role is to make sure they have the information they need to make their decision about what would be best for their districts."

"Kansas is truly a three-party system," Ryan explains. "The Republicans hold 30 seats in the 40-seat Kansas Senate. Of those, approximately 16 are members who identify with our values." Together with others who share these values, these core members have tremendous influence in the outcome of the legislative process. "If we have a litmus test at all," Ryan adds, "it's being pro-public education. We are unwilling to waver on that point.

"In an overwhelmingly Republican state like Kansas, KTRM strives to identify state races where a pro-public education candidate has the potential to win. In addition, KTRM works to help its incumbent members protect their seats against attacks from the far right. Last year, KTRM raised approximately $315,000 total, and was able to increase its membership in the Kansas Statehouse by five members. "We take a realistic, practical approach," Ryan says. "People still want to be governed by Republican Party principles. A handful of very passionate people can keep moving the pro-public education ball down the court. No one wants a failing school in their backyard."

Ryan sees organizations like KTRM as being key to helping the Republican Party move toward the future. "In the last election cycle, conservatives liked to brag that the reason Republicans lost was that conservatives didn't turn out and that Congress had lost sight of conservative principles. This is a myth. The exit polls in 2006 show that Republicans did turn out.

Republicans are not winning because we are not appealing to a broad audience," Ryan says. He believes that groups like KTRM offer a model for working within the Republican party and providing independents, moderates, and nonaffiliated voters a reason to vote Republican. "We have to engage younger votes," he says. "Education is an issue that's very important to them."

To learn more about Kansas Traditional Republican Majority, go to http://www.ktrm.org/.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

On Tuesday evening, April 29th after a full day of training for the outgoing NEA state presidents, I headed out to the ballpark with fellow midwest regional president from Illinois, Ken Swanson.

This is the inaugural year for the Washington Nationals in the ballpark here in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening's game had the Nats pitted against the Atlanta Braves.

It was a crisp spring evening and the ballpark filled nearly to capacity. After hotdogs, nachos and beverages, the ballgame was underway.

One of my favorite things about taking in a new ballpark is seeing the team mascots. In the 5th inning four mascots appeared--the four U.S. Presidents that are on Mt. Rushmore! They raced around the infield to the amusement of all gathered!

Then to top it all off, at the top of the 8th inning--over the loud speaker they play "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond! Gee, I thought I was in Fenway Park (or maybe heaven)!

By the way, the Nationals won 6-3. The Nationals have won five out of their past seven games to improve to 10-17.

A Special Stop Here in Washington, D.C.

Today before Team ISEA Executive Director Jan Reinicke and I headed to a day-long meeting at the NEA building here in Washington, D.C., we were able to participate in United States Senator Tom Harkin's weekly constituent breakfast at one of ths U.S. Senate office buildings. U.S. Senator Harkin has always been considered a "friend of education" with his advocacy for students and their families and can back it up with his 100% voting record with Team NEA. Here Team ISEA Executive Director Jan Reinicke (on left) and myself are pictured with Iowa's and NEA's friend of education, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.

Today, one last friend I had the chance to say "good-bye" to was one of U.S. Senator Harkin's great education staff person's, Rob Baron. Rob has been extra special to work with as he's always accessible to Team ISEA for calls from Iowa or when our NEA Directors are in Washington, D.C. to call upon the senator. Thank you Rob for your partnership in working with Team ISEA and Team NEA!

Team NEA Provides Training for Outgoing (Nearly Dead) Presidents

In February and again here in April, Team NEA provided the opportunity for two (2) all-day trainings for outgoing (or some teasingly say--nearly dead) state presidents. For many, they have come up through the ranks of their state organization and served 4-6 years as state president. These state leaders are to the point in their careers they still have much to contribute to the association and public education as their term(s) as state presidents come to an end.

For me, my two terms as Team ISEA president will come to an end on June 14, 2008. While it has been a magnificent opportunity to meet members in their worksite and put a face on Team ISEA, it will be time for me to step aside and allow our newly elected leadership team to lead.

Participating in the two training dates in Washington, D.C. are some terrific friends and mighty fine Team NEA leaders who are also leaving office (left to right): myself; Donna DeKraii, president of the South Dakota Education Association; Donna New Haschke, president of the Texas State Teachers Association; Bill Bjork, president of NEA-Alaska; and Roy Bishop (completes his terms 7/09), president of the Oklahoma Education Association. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve alongside these great state leaders!