They will discuss issues such as ‘Every Student Succeeds’ Act & school funding.
About 8,000 educators from across the country are in Washington DC for the National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly. They will hold a dialogue on issues which affect school systems around the country, and shape the annual agenda for the NEA’s three-million members.
“These decision, we hope, are going to help us navigate through legislative, legal opportunities for our students, including the 2016 election and the ‘Every Child Succeeds’ Act,” says Betty Weller, the President of the Maryland Education Association, who is attending the event, which will take place from now until Sunday, July 7th.
The “Every Child Succeeds” Act was passed this year, and replaces “No Child Left Behind,” which was criticized for its heavy emphasis on testing. Weller says this new law will return much of the control for education to local teachers, parents and the community, and reduces the number of tests students need to take to measure their academic progress. But it will continue to focus the need on students who are most in need. “We know they’re not going to test their way out of poverty. And so we need to provide our students with the things we know are going to make school successful, things that include smaller class sizes, and access to a well-rounded education,” says Weller.
“It’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for us,” she says. “It also allows us to make some of these decisions at a local district level.”
The Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly will also discuss school funding, a hot button issue on both the local and state levels. “In the last state legislative session, we were able to pass legislation that’s going to create a new funding commission tasked with increasing state K to 12 state education funding so that we can meet the needs of the students in schools with concentrated poverty,” says Weller.
And, she says, poverty has been on the increase in a number of public school students in Maryland. “I don’t know how many people in Maryland know this, but the percentage of Maryland public school students living in poverty has more than doubled since 1990. It’s gone from 22% to 45%. And that puts our statewide student population on the verge of becoming a majority, low income population,” Weller says.
But despite funding issues and poverty, there is some good news to report about public education in Maryland. “Despite the continued mandates and over testing and limited resources, the educators in Maryland are still getting the job done,” she says. “Our educators rise to the challenges and work very hard to meet the needs of all of our students. We have a very supportive legislature that understand the importance of a quality public education for students. And we think the public is listening to educator voices now when we say we need less testing time and more learning time for our students.”
Participants at the NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly will be discussing and making recommendations regarding the 2016 elections.