A celebration of the past and rallying calls toward the future marked the Idaho Education Association’s Delegate Assembly April 20-21 at the Boise Centre on the Grove. About 450 educators representing 60 locals gathered to set policy, recognize their colleagues, toast the IEA’s 120th birthday, and raise nearly $20,000 for the IEA Children’s Fund.

The IEA honored Maria Greeley as its 2012 Friend of Education. Greeley was recognized for her work to help the recent Boise School District levy attain a 71 percent “yes” vote, as well as for serving as co-chair of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, a grassroots group which worked last year to put all three 2011 education reform laws on the ballot in November 2012. During their business meeting, delegates unanimously agreed to talk with family and friends to generate the “No” votes necessary on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 to overturn the laws and start a true conversation about education reform in Idaho.

Calling the new laws “incoherent,” IEA President Penni Cyr noted that the 2012 Idaho Legislature considered 16 bills in attempts to clean up the 2011 legislative mess. Referring to a deal that allowed lawmakers to claim they had fixed the education funding gap, Cyr said the action “mandates that nothing will be paid for – not transportation, not textbooks, not supplies, not gifted programs, not salaries – nothing, until the items mandated by last year’s bills are funded.”

Delegates also heard from first-grade teacher Erin Lenz of Coeur d’Alene, who was selected by the State Department of Education as Idaho’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. Lenz credited the labor movement for giving her own family strength, as well as for making America’s middle class strong. “For decades, union members have been the backbone of America.  From Detroit to Hollywood to Pittsburgh to Boise, it has been union members who have kept us safe, responded to our emergencies, delivered the mail, assembled the automobiles, erected the buildings, built our dams, roads and bridges, and taught America’s children,” Lenz said. “I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of belonging to a strong union.”

Rep. Brian Cronin (D-Boise) addressed delegates on Saturday morning. “Teaching must be treated as an elevated profession and the most serious of endeavors,” he said. “I fail to see how blaming teachers for all of our society’s woes – from the loss of global dominance to our greed induced, economically ruinous, depraved financial system on Wall Street – moves us in that direction or even contributes to an honest conversation. We want the best and the brightest – what (Superintendent Tom) Luna calls high-performing teachers – and yet we create policies that say, in effect, teachers should be seen and not heard.”

Delegates raised $19,087 for the IEA Children’s Fund in just two days. Teachers can access the fund to help students who face extraordinary needs including clothing, food, school supplies or health care.

Here's news coverage of Delegate Assembly from Boise State Public Radio and Public News Service.

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