Hawaii delegates participate in virtual 2020 NEA Representative Assembly

NEA recognizes Polynesian Voyaging Society with Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award

For the first time in its more than 160-year history, the National Education Association (NEA) is hosting a virtual Representative Assembly (RA).

The NEA’s 99th RA was originally scheduled to take place this week in Atlanta.

“NEA’s Board of Directors has decided to convert the 2020 NEA RA into a virtual meeting, which is our safest option,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “We cannot take the risk of educators becoming infected and spreading the virus to students, their families and colleagues, or their communities.”

Nearly 8,000 educator delegates from every state are gathering virtually on July 2 and 3 with a streamlined agenda, packed with major speakers who addressed the many crises public education faces during one of the most trying times in our history.

Hawaii’s delegation caucus, made up of 111 elected delegates (104 active, seven retired), met earlier this week to conduct pre-RA business. Twenty-two are first-time delegates.

Among recent key votes by the caucus:

  • Support the adoption of the 2020 NEA Strategic Plan and Budget,
  • Support the PAC recommendation of Joe Biden for the Office of President of the United States,
  • Support Becky Pringle for NEA President,
  • Support Princess Moss for NEA Vice President,
  • Support Noel Candelaria for NEA Secretary-Treasurer, and
  • Support Amber Gould and Hanna Vaandering for NEA Executive Committee.

2020 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards

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Kicking off this year’s RA was the first-ever virtual 2020 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards: We Rise Together, which took place on Wednesday, July 1.

During the event, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was recognized with the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award, which honors a nominee whose activities in Asian and Pacific Islander affairs significantly impact education and the achievement of equal opportunity for Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society president, delivered his acceptance speech via video recording from Oahu.

“Our community works hard. They take high risk and ultimately they believe that education is the best pathway to peace,” he said.

Thompson recalled his relationship with Onizuka and the moment he learned the aerospace engineer died in 1986. “This award is so important because yes, that day we lost him physically, but we didn’t lose his story. We didn’t lose his memory, and the great challenge of time is not to forget our heroes,” Thompson said.

He added, “I’m honored to be here and to know that you, this Association, that have centered and focused and navigating by your values and carrying one of, if not Hawaii’s greatest, hero into tomorrow to immeasurably amounts of young people that need to be inspired. All they need is some inspiration. All they need is some light, and Ellison is the starlight. He’s the beacon for all that we would hope to live for, and you keep the story, and you scale it to so many, and I’m grateful and I’m thankful.”

Eskelsen García delivers farewell keynote

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The 2020 RA is also be the last for Lily Eskelsen García as president. In her keynote address on July 2, she spoke about her six years at the helm of the 3-million member NEA and about the organization’s work for equity and racial justice that reached a pinnacle this year in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and national protests.

“You will be leaders in defining what democracy will look like in our country,” Eskelsen García said. “And someday when you are asked what you did when democracy was in peril; when your country needed you – you will have a powerful answer: I was part of the collective voice and collective power that refused to be silent.”

How voter suppression hurts public schools

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Voting rights activist, author, Georgia House Minority Leader, and winner of NEA’s 2020 Presidential Award, Stacey Abrams also spoke Thursday evening, addressing the importance of fighting against voter suppression, which is reflected in voter ID laws, the drastic reduction of polling stations in Black and Brown neighborhoods, the barring of early vote options, intimidation and disinformation campaigns, and illegal voter roll purges.

When these suppression tactics target communities of color and students, important local issues go unaddressed and funding needs for education, health care, and other critical areas go unmet, driving inequity.

“Voter suppression directly impacts the issues most vital to the health and welfare of our nation’s children such as public education, healthcare and affordable housing,” Abrams said. “In 2020, we must vote for leaders up and down the ballot who address the needs of the whole child from cradle to career. Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter their ZIP code or background.”

HSTA encourages all members to vote in Hawaii’s upcoming primary and general election. Please click here for more information on how to make sure you are registered to vote and submit your signature capture card, and what to expect when you vote by mail.

Conversation with Vice President Joe Biden

On the second day of the RA, Friday, July 3, presidential candidate Joe Biden will take part in a live, virtual townhall conversation with NEA members. He will address the delegates and answer questions from educators and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

You can submit a question for Biden online here.

In March, NEA recommended Biden in the Democratic primary. Biden has been a champion for public education throughout this campaign and his career. Educators know that as president, Biden will boost opportunities for America’s students, build an economy that works for all Americans, work to dismantle systemic racism, and strengthen the voice of working Americans.

Other highlights of the RA on July 3 will include remarks from NEA Executive Director Kim Anderson, an address from Tabatha Rosproy, 2020 Teacher of the Year, Andrea Beeman, 2020 Education Support Professional of the Year, and Elizabeth Davenport, 2020 Higher Educator of the Year.

The 2020 Friend of Education will be presented to climate activist Greta Thunberg on July 3 for her work in engaging American students and young people worldwide in the fight to protect the planet and create a sustainable future.

Click here for more information on NEA’s RA.