For the Media

Union capacity building will move vision forward, says Dennis Van Roekel

Union capacity building will move vision forward, says Dennis Van Roekel

By Dennis Van Roekel

President, NEA

At the heart of education reform is the teachers union’s relationship to students, parents, and community. We strive to lead our professions because it is a path to improve public schools – for our children and our communities. Regardless of your position – bus driver, secretary, teacher, counselor – if we believe in our professions, then we must believe that responsibility for improvement and growth rests with us, at the local, state and national levels. And if we believe that getting better every single day is what drives us, what motivates us, why in the world would we wait for someone else to do that for us or vest that responsibility in others? 

There is a desire among union leaders to move toward a professional model of unionism – where teachers as professionals uphold high teaching and learning standards. This issue brief offers an overview of the key factors influencing this process because the fundamental question comes down to capacity to unite behind a new vision.

Our labor union roots point the way if you look at trade unions. Throughout the nation, these unions serve as professional learning centers, setting standards and providing opportunities for achieving professional status and for mastery. That’s what I envision for us – I want us to own our own. 

The call for union involvement in school reform is not new to the association – building the long-term capacity to do this work is what will move the vision forward. We have to be champions for quality education, and put resources behind the ideas and energy of NEA members, working hard to transform their schools around the country.