Nation’s Largest Teachers’ Union Holds Annual Meeting in Florida
The nation’s largest union for public school teachers kicked off its annual meeting June 26 in Orlando. About 9,000 education leaders from across the country will converge on the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista hotel for the National Education Association’s 153rd annual meeting and 94th Representative Assembly.
For 12 days, delegates will establish the association’s budget for the next year and tackle issues related to Common Core standards, increased communication between educators and lawmakers, and the 2016 presidential election. “As we approach the presidential election, we would like for the campaigns to focus on education,” said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford who will attend the meeting.
“We hope that the candidates will voice their opinions on education issues so that voters can see whose interests are going to be met in the presidential election for whoever the winner is.”
Members of the NEA Representative Assembly will interview presidential candidates and vote on which contender to endorse sometime next summer.
Ford said having Florida host the national meeting could bring more attention to education issues in the state. Gov. Rick Scott signed in a law a measure that reduces the amount of testing in public schools and reduces how much student performance on those exams counts toward teacher evaluations. The legislature also increased education spending for the coming fiscal year by about $207 per student. Ford says it’s a step in the right direction but that more needs to be done.
“It still doesn’t get us back to the 2008 level where we were prior to the recession. And then when you adjust that for inflation, we’re really behind. And if you adjust that for the amount of students we have, because we grow somewhere around 50,000 to 60,000 students a school year, so therefore, we need more funding just to stay at the same level.”
The state legislature also allocated $50 million for public school construction and renovation. Ford said school districts haven’t had that kind of funding for several years. “We need more classrooms. We need to equip schools with the ability to install more computers and have the infrastructure there so that we can handle the technology needs of schools. And we do have quite a few old schools in Florida that are going to take substantial amount of investment in order to bring them up to today’s standards and the budget doesn’t really provide adequate funds to meet all those needs.”
The Nation Education Association and Representative Assembly meeting runs through July 6.