110 HSTA delegates wrap up NEA convention in DC

Teacher delegates from across Hawaii concluded the four-day National Education Association’s Annual Meeting in the nation’s capital Thursday after voting on policies and priorities for the country’s largest union, hearing from a top presidential candidate and honoring a former HSTA member with a national award.

When the final day of the Representative Assembly (RA) concluded at 9:33 p.m. Thursday night after almost 12 hours at the Washington Convention Center, NEA’s 7,500 delegates had voted on 125 new business items (NBIs), along with bylaw amendments and other measures.

One proposal calling for more scrutiny of what is causing some Asian-Pacific Islanders (APIs) to fall through the cracks of the public education system passed in the final minutes of the RA, an item championed by many Hawaii delegates. Delegates from the islands served on numerous caucuses to review and debate proposals about such subjects as APIs to English language learners and special education.

Leeward Chapter delegate Juli Patten was selected by Hawaii delegates to continue for another year as representative to the NEA’s resolutions committee. She will meet with other delegates from around the country this winter to go over NBIs and related items that NEA received so far and she’ll also travel to Boston a few days before the 2017 NEA RA to continue that work.

A legislative amendment proposed by HSTA Vice President Justin Hughey passed the RA Wednesday aimed at bringing back a federal rule that requires news outlets to report straight news.

“It’s time to democratize the media and that means it’s time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and to reinstate media ownership rules,” so a small handful of billionaires no longer dictate the direction of this country, said Hughey, a special education teacher on Maui, in a speech to delegates in the convention hall before winning passage of his proposal.

NEA’s LGBT caucus announced it raised more than $20,000 for the 49 people killed and 53 others injured in that mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando, Fla. that happened in June. The RA began with a moving tribute to the victims.

The NEA honored a former HSTA member and Hawaii transgender community leader at its Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner July 3 at the Convention Hall. The NEA recognized Hina Wong-Kalu, a kumu hula, teacher and strong advocate for Hawaii’s transgender people, giving her the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for her work supporting civil rights and social justice. Wong-Kalu received two standing ovations from the audience. She was one of 13 people across the country honored for her civil rights work.

Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addressed the RA July 5, saying public school educators would always have a seat at the White House if she’s elected president and delivering several criticisms against the presumed Republican nominee, businessman Donald Trump.

Hawaii’s delegation shared the Crystal City Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virginia with the delegation of more than 80 teachers from Oklahoma. One of the Oklahoma teachers was so touched by the Hawaii teachers’ spirit that she delivered a hand-written letter to HSTA’s group.

“I’ve been coming to RA for several yeas and as a small state, we always share a hotel,” said Oklahoma teacher delegate Jennifer Thornton, “I’ve never enjoyed the company of a delegation more than yours. You all were very kind and friendly.”

Hawaii delegates began their work days as early as 6:30 a.m., when two teams met to review new business items before official RA programs started each day at 10 a.m. in the convention center.

Before and after the Annual Meeting, delegates toured numerous historic sites in and around Washington, D.C., including the U.S. Capitol, the White House and some of the newer monuments such as Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as World War II and Korean War memorials.