We, the administrators of United Opt Out National, in order to preserve a free and equitable system of public education in the United States, do solemnly issue an invitation to the leadership, members and ultimately Dennis Van Roekel to take direct and concerted action in the fight to terminate immediately the patterns of negotiation and capitulation leading to policies destructive of public education, of children’s lives, both of which are representative of a derogation of educational professions. We see the most damaging policies as follows: implementation of an untested set of national common standards, punitive high-stakes standardized testing, and the unreasonable evaluation and remuneration of professional educators based on these policies.
We expect the NEA leadership to step forward and live up to its mission of preparing all children to succeed by officially denouncing any policy that undermines public education and ignores the uniqueness of each student and the value of a rich, diverse and dynamic curriculum. While the nation’s eyes and ears are focused on the largest gathering of educational professionals in the world, we believe it is the undeniable responsibility of Mr. Van Roekel and the NEA membership to clearly state that the punitive use of high stakes testing is unacceptable and must stop. Additionally, the NEA leaders must denounce the implementation of common core curriculum, which places artificial barriers on teaching, learning and child development. In reckless pursuit of profit, corporations and other philanthro-capitalist entities are transforming public schools into sites of fear and surveillance meant to train a compliant workforce. Children are turned into little more than a profit motive for textbook companies and “big data” sets needed to track them as blue chips on the stock exchange.
We believe that a position of non-negotiation by the NEA is necessary for it to show its true commitment to education. The time for compromise with those who wish to compromise us, is over. These demands must be clear and unequivocal. By taking a public stand in solidarity against these measures, the NEA (as the largest organized body of educators) has within its power to redirect the course of disaster currently charted for education. We believe that a failure of leadership and advocacy on the part of the NEA will lead to complicit acceptance and the implementation of policies anathema to the preservation of a free and equitable system of public education. None of us can simply talk the talk any longer. It’s time to walk the walk. Will you, Mr. Van Roekel and the NEA leadership, stand up? Or will you sell out?
We issue this challenge with the optimism that the NEA is still an organization that cares more about the unique needs of students than back-room partnerships. And should Mr. Van Roekel fail to live up to his responsibility and make such a statement, we encourage each and every representative attending the NEA Representative Assembly to stand up and insist that these issues be brought forward, discussed, and voted on by the entire assembly. We remind every representative that they, too, have a mission, a voice, and a right to be heard. Please, this week, put integrity and the needs of students first. Bring a resolution denouncing high stakes testing and common core to the floor of the assembly. Do it now, for next year may be too late.
Should the NEA, its members, leadership, and President choose to remain silent on these issues, we will be forced to advocate for the erosion of support for the NEA and its mission, ultimately leading to its unfortunate, yet deserved, dissolution. Thus, the NEA’s eventual eradication as a legitimate organization in support of public education will be met with a bittersweet jubilation. Make no mistake: we do not negotiate with children’s lives. We hope you don’t either..