2012 NEARI Legislative Program
Adopted by the NEARI Delegate Assembly on November 30, 2011
The philosophies and operating guidelines of the National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) are expressed in its Continuing Resolutions, which are updated yearly and adopted at the annual meeting of the Delegate Assembly. The Resolutions address issues relating to education, collective bargaining, state law and policy, social reform and professional development. The NEARI Legislative Commission uses the Resolutions to design the Legislative Program.
Each year the Commission reviews and updates the program. In addition, under the direction of Chairperson Raymond J. Pouliot, NEARI vice president, the group of about 40 member volunteers decides a position on each General Assembly bill that relates to NEARI issues.
Following these positions, the president, vice president, executive director, government relations director, and at times other members and staff lobby extensively to insure that the NEARI legislative goals are realized. Whenever possible, we support legislation to include all NEARI members.
The Legislative Program is organized into seven major categories to encompass the issues that are important to NEARI members. Depending on the issues, NEARI will take the following action:
- Draft legislation
- Work for bill introduction
- Work for bill passage
- Work in coalition with other organizations
- Monitor legislation
- Support an increase in state funding for quality pre K-12 public education; i.e. an equitable funding formula, minimum amount for regional school districts, and minimum amount for regional vocational schools.
- Support an increase in state funding to an adequate/appropriate level for higher education institutions and other state agencies.
- Support a shift in the reliance of public education funding from property owners to state equitable funding.
- Support an increase in state funding, above and beyond national funding, for a state adult literacy program.
- Support removal of the full-time equivalent (FTE) hiring cap from the state budget.
- Support the establishment of lower class sizes as informed by current education research; i.e. pre K-3 class size of 15 students.
- Support the establishment of a state funded method to enhance professional development jointly managed by public school employees and employers.
- Support requiring Department of Education certification for all crisis intervention counselors, substance abuse counselors, student assistant counselors, pregnancy counselors, et. al.
- Support the establishment of a Rhode Island DREAM ACT, providing in-state tuition rates for graduates of RI high schools at RI colleges and universities, as long as students have attended high school in RI for at least three years prior to graduation and meet all other attendance requirements.
Salary, Benefits, and Working Conditions
- Support changing health standard "recommendations" to "requirements" in order to create a safe workplace environment.
- Support increasing compensation to teachers, faculty, and support staff for educational degrees, certification and professional licensing.
This section will be updated to reflect changes to retirement benefits enacted in the special General Assembly session this fall. However, NEARI remains committed to the core issues reflected in the statements below. Check in the coming weeks for a complete update.
- Support safeguarding against any tampering with or deferring payment of retirement contributions.
- Support the maintenance of a cost of living adjustment (COLA).
- Support allowing teachers at state facilities to purchase out of state credit as all other members of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI).
- Support an actuarially sound mechanism for retirees to receive health and dental coverage through the ERSRI.
- Support insuring that pension rights (defined benefits) are protected in statute as property rights.
- Support allowing time purchased to be credited as part of the vesting requirement for each of the member categories in ERSRI.
- Oppose changing the ERSRI from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.
- Support requiring binding arbitration on all issues, both monetary and non-monetary, when impasse exists in public school pre-K-12 negotiations, municipal employees' negotiations and state employees' negotiations.
- Support stopping municipalities and the state of Rhode Island from privatizing/contracting out any jobs currently performed by public school pre-K-12 employees, municipal employees and state employees.
- Support protecting the rights of public employees when they are involved in a labor dispute.
Human and Civil Rights
- Support providing health care for all Rhode Islanders.
- Support providing immunity for all school employees when they report suspected substance abuse.
- Support a state Equal Rights Amendment.
- Support promoting a set of standards and procedural safeguards protecting teachers' rights, including academic freedom and tenure.
- Support a constitutional amendment to provide a quality free public education for all Rhode Islanders pre-K through higher education.
- Support allowing state and municipal employees and their spouses to seek public office and to remove all legislative and municipal barriers to such.
- Support the passage of marriage equality legislation.
Other Rhode Island Issues
- Support protecting the State of Rhode Island's natural environment.
- Support encouraging educators, parents, and social service agencies jointly to examine and monitor day care centers for adequate facilities, proper supervision, appropriate education programs, and professional personnel who are qualified, screened, and trained for their areas of responsibility and to seek legislation governing day care center facilities, personnel, and programs.
- Support any issues endorsed by coalitions such as Working Rhode Island to enhance the quality of life of all the citizens of the State of Rhode Island.
- Support a representative form of government where elected officials make legislative decisions, and oppose the implementation of voter initiative.
- Support encouraging the growth of "green jobs."