Nearly 400 IEA members, staff and guests came together for the Idaho Education Association’s 130th Delegate Assembly (DA) in Boise April 21-22.
From every region and representing 58 IEA locals from across Idaho, the delegates gathered for this annual business meeting to reinvigorate the IEA spirit, celebrate successes from the past year and set priorities for the year ahead.
“IEA’s Delegate Assembly is an extraordinary, democratic gathering that drives this association forward in so many ways,” said IEA President Layne McInelly. “The work our members do in their classrooms is foundational to our society, and their engagement with IEA ensures public education will be here for generations to come.”
Throughout the two-day event delegates caucused with others from their region, proposed the new business items (IEA policy proposals), approved the IEA’s budget, endorsed new resolutions and heard updates from IEA leadership and staff. But for some members, the opportunity for connecting with colleagues from across Idaho is what makes traveling to Boise for the meeting worthwhile.
“One of my favorite parts is getting to interact with people from all over my region and other regions,” said Sarah Bender, a member of the Twin Falls Education Association in IEA’s Region 4. “I was only here for a couple of minutes, and I was already saying ‘hi’ to people from all over the state and having people from all over the state coming up to say ‘hi’ to me.”
On Friday, delegates heard from Mary Kusler, senior director of the National Education Association’s Center for Advocacy during a midday keynote speech. Kusler told members that IEA’s model of being “political, but not partisan” in its lobbying efforts at the state level is very effective. She praised IEA member engagement during the 2023 Idaho Legislature and their successful fight for a historic pay raise for educators and the defeat of seven voucher bills.
“That would not have happened without the members of IEA,” Kusler said.
She also told members that a coordinated national attack by enemies of public education squarely hit a roadblock in Idaho, but that they will redouble their efforts on issues like vouchers, criminalizing librarians for providing access to age-appropriate materials and tying educator pay to culture war issues.
“They are not seeking to privatize the education system in this country. They are seeking to dismantle the education system in this country,” Kusler said. “This is the latest threat to our democracy.”
DA is the most important fundraiser of the year for the IEA Children’s Fund and delegates dug deep. The annual two-day silent auction at DA raised $13,709 and delegates offered up and additional $11,032 in cash donations to the fund. Also, the Children’s Fund Raffle contest and other donations added another $6,195 — bringing DA’s total contribution to the Children’s Fund to $30,936.
“It’s super inspiring to in an environment full of people who are really passionate about what they do,” Katelyn Dougherty, an aspiring educator from Lewiston, who will graduate from Lewis-Clark State College next year. Dougherty is also the aspiring educator representative on IEA’s Resolutions Committee. “It gives me a lot of hope going forward in the profession.”