09/10/04 — NEA president says schools lack resources to meet law

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NEA president says schools lack resources to meet law

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 10, 2004 1:59 PM

The president of a national teacher's association said Thursday during a stop in Wayne County that public schools across the country need more resources to meet federal requirements.

"We are in a battle," said Reg Weaver, president of the National Association of Educators. "Public education is battling for its life."

The battle is over the resources necessary to make sure the school children have what they need, he said.

Sometimes, he said, the powers-that-be try to pit the teachers and principals against each other. But what the schools need is an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.

"It's rough out there, folks," he said. "They took the page from your book saying, 'We need these things,' but they did not take the rest of the book about how to do it. They don't know how to implement it. Where I come from, they call it 'unfunded mandate.'"

The National Education Association, the largest professional employee organization in the United States, has 2.7 million members, including teachers and support staff. About 100 teachers and other educators came to hear Weaver at Tommy's Road Elementary School. The event was sponsored by Wayne and Lenoir counties' members of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Weaver is a middle school science teacher with 30 years of classroom experience. As the NEA president, he travels across the country.

"They don't tell people that to have state-of-the-art technology, it costs money," Weaver said. "I tell them I want for all the kids access to what the most affluent child has.

"They say, 'Mr. Weaver, that takes money.'

"I don't care where the money comes from. People in this country, when they decide they want something, find the resources to get it."

He said the most Draconian part of a new federal law imposed on educators is "average yearly progress." He said everywhere he went Thursday, people were talking about "No Child Left Behind, and what they were saying wasn't very nice."

He said a teacher knows best what a child needs in the classroom. The goals of the federal law are good goals, he said. They're goals educators have always had, he said.

But he said it's not fair when the new law labels a school a failure because of what one group does not achieve. The exceptional children have to take the same test as the other students in the same school. If they could do what the others could, they would not be in a special classroom for exceptional children, he said.

He told the Wayne and Lenoir educators they're not alone, that 30 other states have called for changes in the new law. "If we're not going to shape the circumstances we're in, somebody else is."

He told the teachers not to let anybody put them down and give the impression they're not doing what they need to do.

"Thank you so much for who you are and what you do," he said. "Sometimes a kid comes to you and has nowhere else to go. Make sure you're there for them."