NEA, TSTA leaders: Education key to strong democracy

TSTA and NEA leaders on Monday urged educators to redouble their fight for a strong public education system in the face of economic and political challenges that threaten the public school foundation and very democracy of our state and our country.

“This is not a fight that we are going to lose,” TSTA President Rita Haecker told graduates of TSTA’s annual Emerging Leaders Conference in Austin. She challenged them and more-experienced TSTA leaders attending the Organizing Institute to continue the fight to “save public education in Texas.”

That battle, she pointed out, already is well underway, following the decision by the governor and the legislative majority last year to slash $5.4 billion from public education funding. TSTA responded with a Stop the Cuts campaign that so far has gathered thousands of petition signatures from educators, parents and other concerned individuals throughout the state.

The fight will continue, she said, until TSTA changes the policymakers in Austin, and the key to success in the political arena is organization.

“Texans all over our state support public education and want it to be the No. 1 priority for our children,” Haecker said. TSTA’s job, she said, is to continue to take the lead for quality schools and “find others to lead” through effective organizational efforts.

NEA Executive Director John Stocks applauded TSTA for its embrace of the organizing culture. He said more was at stake than improving education and the salaries and working conditions of educators.

“We also have a critical role to protect democracy,” he said, against political forces that want to shrink government, destroy unions and privatize education.
Stocks warned that democracy was “truly at risk” in the United States in the face of a growing concentration of wealth in the top 1 or 2 percent of Americans, a growing number of voter identification and other voter-suppression laws and increased attacks on the public schools and public school employees.

“Public education is the connection to assuring we have democratic rights in this country,” he said.

And collective action by organized educators is essential to saving public education, he added.

Some 28 TSTA members, all younger than 40, completed the three-day Emerging Leaders Conference and were awarded diplomas in a graduation ceremony conducted by TSTA Vice President Noel Candelaria.