Making real change is not easy, but working together and pressing through difficulty can get us past old barriers – as evidenced by recent guilty verdicts in last year’s killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, MEA President Paula Herbart said in a speech to last weekend’s MEA Representative Assembly.
“Those verdicts are a step in the right direction for the long road ahead to correct decades of inequity under the law and other systems throughout our country,” Herbart said of the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin on three felony counts.
Similarly, “That is why we have a union – to advocate together for the change that we and our students need.”
Educators have an obligation to fight for equity for all students, both inside and outside our schools, Herbart said. “We cannot succeed in our shared mission to help our students succeed if they are not safe in our communities, and we will not rest in our efforts for racial justice to that end.
“I’ve heard it said that, ‘Everyone has potential, but not everyone has the opportunity’ – and that’s on us. We have the power to provide those opportunities – to make that change – together.”
MEA is engaged in change-making work on various fronts, she noted. From the Launch Michigan coalition seeking equitable state funding for schools to joint efforts with the Michigan Department of Education to address the educator shortage, union leaders have brought educator perspectives to policy conversations.
Our union’s aspiring educators are using collective strength to advocate for changes to student teaching requirements – reducing barriers for new teachers entering the profession so that socio-economic background doesn’t stand in the way of a lifetime of helping students achieve their potential.
Our locals – with the support of MEA staff – are advocating for safety within districts for students and staff alike amidst this pandemic. And organizing work is bringing in new members to join the ranks and build even greater strength in numbers, she said.
“Amid the turmoil around us, we can be a beacon of hope. MEA can be an example of how to step up, engage and dream bigger than we ever thought possible, by engaging each and every member in the work of this union.”
Herbart – a vocal music teacher from Fraser – concluded her talk by singing a snippet of the legendary Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”: “There’s been times I thought I couldn’t last for long,/ But now I think I’m able, to carry on./ It’s been a long, long time coming, / But I know a change gonna come.”
The business of last weekend’s virtual Representative Assembly included:
- Approval of the 2021-22 MEA budget and dues rates, which remain at the same level as the current school year, including a bracketed dues rate for lower-wage school employees.
- Election of three NEA Directors (Marcia Mackey and Alfonso Salais to full 3-year terms and Anthony Pennock to a partial term); two NEA Alternate Directors (Jon Fielbrandt and Kaj Holm); four ESP at-large MEA Board Members (Jeff Wilson, Theresa Dudley, Jennifer Shelito, and Antonella Piccirilli); two Legislation Commission members (Stephanie Brookhouse and Sarajane Eppley); and two Local Affiliate Commission members (Bryan Byars and Jackie Shelson).
- Adoption of a new business item suspending MEA’s continuous staffing plan due to the pandemic, as well as discussion and referral on other NBIs introduced by RA delegates.