GAE: MORE THAN JUST AN ASSOCIATION
Active in orchestrating, leading, and participating in North Carolina’s Moral
Monday and founder of North Carolina’s Forward Together Moral Movement,
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, advocates for and credits success on what he terms
a fusion coalition, a group that functioned as one, working to advance not only
their own priorities but also to advance the various causes of other coalition
members as well.
Indeed, Amendment 1 was soundly defeated because of the work in Georgia
of a modified fusion coalition: Keep Georgia Schools Local. This group of
like-minded, pro-public-education organizations, of which GAE was a part,
worked tirelessly and marched to the beat of the same drummer with only one
goal: defeating the ballot initiative that would have created the Opportunity
Still united, this group is continuing to work together under a new name: the
Georgia Coalition for Public Education. Power exists in numbers, and having
allies in these still-troubling, anti-public-education times is a bonus and most
definitely reinforces the concept of TEAM—Together Everyone Achieves More.
Being part of the Georgia Coalition for Public Education is wonderful; being
part of a national organization—the NEA—creates an ultimate
Why? What does having a parent organization mean?
Arising first are the sheer numbers of NEA members. NEA with its 3 million
members and affiliate organizations (such as GAE) in every state is the nation’s
largest professional employee organization. Our membership number translates
into one out of every 100 people in the United States being an NEA member.
Being a part of an organization this large means more knowledge, more
expertise, more resources, and more benefits for our members. If you have
not taken advantage of the benefits of being part of such a large national
organization, check out NEA’s Member Benefits (www.neamb.com) for
discounts on almost everything!
NEA also brings a long, rich history to the table. NEA is the oldest organization
dedicated to public education in the United States. According to the NEA
website, “In 1857, one hundred educators answered a national call to unite as
one voice in the cause of public education. At the time, learning to read and
write was a luxury for most children—and a crime for many Black children.
One hundred and fifty years later, public education and the profession of
teaching are transformed. In 1966 we joined forces with the American Teachers
Association. Since then, our voice has swelled to 3.2 million members, and
what was once a privilege for a fortunate few is now an essential right for every
American child, regardless of family income or place of residence.
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Since its beginning, the National Education Association has been ahead of its
time, crusading for the rights of all educators and children.”
Similarly, GAE, the oldest public education organization in Georgia, is the
result of a merger in 1969 of two organizations, one white and one black:
the Georgia Education Association and the Georgia Teachers and Education
Association. This merger was a result of a resolution approved five years earlier
at the 1964 NEA Representative Assembly calling for a unitary education
association in all states.
In addition, being part of a national organization means that lobbying for a
pro-public education agenda is not only happening under the Gold Dome but
also on Capitol Hill. For instance, the reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary
and Secondary Education Act) on December 10, 2015, as the Every Student
Succeeds Act (ESSA) did not happen in isolation. NEA lobbyists (which
includes us as members) were instrumental in enacting federal legislation that
eliminated Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as an impossible one-size-fits-all
goal and reduced the standardized testing mania by allowing states to set a cap
limiting the amount of time students spend taking annual standardized tests.
As a result of this national legislation, Georgia lawmakers in the last
legislative session passed Senate Bill 364, which, among other things, reduced
the weight that student test “growth” counted in teacher performance
(from 50 to 30 percent) and reduced the number of Georgia Milestones
tests from 32 to 24.
Most importantly, GAE has as its model in NEA a grassroots, member-
The NEA Representative Assembly, this highest decision-making body
within the over 3-million-member NEA is the largest democratic deliberative
assembly in the world. Each year, over 8,000 delegates (elected in their home
states) debate issues that impact public education and through the passage of
new business items and resolutions over the course of eight business sessions
spanning four days set the direction that NEA will take. Never been to an NEA
Representative Assembly? You, too, can put your name in nomination to be
a delegate next year, or you can just observe as a visitor this year. Need more
information? Visit http://ra.nea.org/about/faq.
Once again, GAE takes its lead from NEA, having its own Representative
Assembly at which elected delegates gather to take care of the business of the
Association. Never been to a GAE Representative Assembly? Attend this year
as a visitor to see your state grassroots, member-driven organization in action-
-March 31 through April 2 at the Marriott Macon City Center—and plan to
run as a delegate next year.
Part of our member-driven advocacy work means that both GAE and NEA
endorse candidates. Often, those on the outside of our organizations think that
only candidates on one side of the aisle are endorsed. However, this perception
For any candidate to receive an endorsement from either the state or national
organization, the candidate must participate in the endorsement process.
GAE IS THE OLDEST PUBLIC EDUCATION
ORGANIZATION IN GEORGIA