If you’re like me, you’re eager to see 2020 fade into the past and move on to 2021. Enough already.
But for all the pain, disruption, and chaos it brought, 2020 also provided us greater insight into some of our un-celebrated strengths. Through countless examples of sacrifice and service above and beyond the incredible job you have done in the past, this year proved once again just how dedicated and caring our members truly are.
Throughout the pandemic, as difficult as it was, we kept the focus on students. You have made it clear once again that our students are very important to us. But if this year proved anything, it’s that we can’t take care of them if we can’t take care of ourselves.
We also rediscovered the strength of our collective voice this November. While the outlook from the federal level looks promising for students and educators, here in New Hampshire, we face an uphill battle in terms of education funding, working conditions, and pension protection.
We need and deserve fair salaries and benefits. We need and deserve safe workplaces that respect who we are and what we bring to our students. We need and deserve the right to demand change. You shouldn’t have to choose between following your passion and making a living. Fair pay and fair benefits ensure the best and brightest can join and stay in our profession, because that’s what our students and communities deserve.
This year, more than ever, we’re tackling dignified pay, health care, debt support, career security, and pension maintenance so our incredible educators can stay focused on their students.
For too long, educators have faced increasing day-to-day demands and responsibilities, from bus duty to coaching, counseling to leading additional classes, and buying basic supplies for their classes. Yet they are not paid for their expertise, expenses, and time. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that teachers earn 19 percent less than comparable professionals, while the Learning Policy Institute reports that the wage gaps widens to 30 percent by mid-career.
Inadequate educator pay comes at a high cost for schools and children who must deal with the ramifications of high turnover and teacher shortages.
We also need to be aware of the move our communities are making to try and privatize the services provided by our support staff members. Privatization is a threat to public education, and we must take measures to prevent its dangerous impact on school communities.
In our nation’s history, public services like education were considered so essential to the functioning of society that they could not be left to the whims of the market or the opportunities of profiteers. When public school employees, especially education support professionals (ESPs) are “privatized” or “outsourced,” this means that a private contractor is taking over their services. The employees are no longer public employees working for the school district—they are employees of an individual or company with a contract to provide services for the district.
When ESP jobs are privatized, the primary goal becomes making a profit versus delivering a quality service. Whatever contracts, agreements, understandings, or board policies that existed between the district and their employees no longer exists between the new private contractor and his/her employees. ESPs won’t have the advocacy of the Association under the new employer.
Privatizers function by significantly reducing employee compensation, usually through the elimination or reduction of benefits such as pension, health care, and paid time off.
Caring adults who come from the community, and who overwhelmingly want to stay in their careers are not part of the privatizer business model.
Quality services focused on keeping students safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged, are replaced by tasks carried out as quickly as possible by individuals compensated as little as possible, all to make a profit for their employer.
We believe in taking collective action to ensure the collective good. When we raise our voices, we help every educator get the support they need to join, stay, and thrive in our profession.
But this year, we expect to face one of the most serious threats to collective bargaining in our state’s history. We believe the newly seated New Hampshire Legislature will immediately seek to pass so-call Right-to-Work legislation, outlaw the collection of dues through paycheck deductions, and limit, if not prohibit, public employee collective bargaining rights. If passed, these bills would be quickly signed into law by Governor Sununu.
We know collective bargaining and advocacy ensures that we enhance student learning and improve educator working conditions–benefiting our students, schools, and the community as a whole.
Collective bargaining and advocacy enable all stakeholders to work together so that students, educators, and the community benefits. It also gives NEA-NH members a genuine voice in their workplace, helping to ensure educator rights, fair compensation and benefits, retirement security, and enhanced, safe conditions for student learning.
Students, and student-centered issues, are at the heart of our bargaining, organizing, and engagement efforts. This type of advocacy is about taking charge and implementing educator-led solutions that work for our students and their schools. It involves leveraging collective power in new ways to raise the voice and vision of educators and build stronger partnerships with parents, students, and other community stakeholders that share common values.
NEA-NH is dedicated to protecting defined-benefit pension plans because these plans provide a predictable, guaranteed benefit. Schools and students succeed when talented young people in search of a challenging career are recruited into the profession, and stay in it for the long term. Pensions help do that.
A traditional pension plan provides retired workers with a steady income stream that is guaranteed for life — unlike 401k plans, which offer no guaranteed benefits and are leaving far too many Americans facing a retirement crisis.
We’re all pleased to see 2020 fade away and are hopeful about the prospects of a brighter 2021. But making sure that every student and educator succeeds this year, and beyond, will take as much effort and vigilance as we can muster.