News & Event
Said NEARI Vice President Val Lawson, “The Children’s Fund illustrates our commitment to educating the whole child and Val is the remarkable individual who makes this happen. She works tirelessly all year long to meet the needs of those children who are in need. Her efforts allow children across the state to receive whatever item they need or deserve to feel loved.”
The NEARI Children’s Fund helps needy public school students who come to school with challenges that impair their ability to learn. This could be clothing, eyeglasses, medication, school equipment, or household supplies such as food or bedding. Staples has led the Children’s Fund for 23 of her 29 years on staff at NEARI. Each year, she manages day-to-day requests from members around the state, which could involve fielding phone calls, contacting any variety of vendors, procuring gift cards or items, and arranging delivery.
Staples manages special projects such as the holiday Gingerbread Express program, which matches approximately 2,000 students per year with anonymous donors willing to provide gifts when families cannot. She also organizes two fundraisers annually: “March Magic,” which encourages locals to design their own event, and a golf tournament every July.
“This court decision does not change the fact that NEARI will still proudly represent our educators, education support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, and our state and municipal workers. Through the collective bargaining process, we will continue to fight for our students, our schools, our paychecks and our benefits,” said National Education Association Rhode Island Lawrence Purtill. “Our members will still provide a quality learning environment for our public-school students, continue to safeguard the health of Rhode Islanders, and continue to ensure that we have one of the best public college systems in the nation.
“Unions remain the most effective way for workers to advocate for their rights and secure a better future for themselves and their families. For those who believe this decision is a setback, we believe our members understand the power of collective action and that their continued union membership and involvement will make us stronger.”
An equally divided U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision leaves intact the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has been working for nearly four decades.
At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could share the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share (agency fee) for the cost of those negotiations. The case was brought by the Center for Individual Rights, an organization funded by corporate special interests that are pushing their own agenda. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union with more than 3 million members, and the California Teachers Association, are two of the union respondents in the case in addition to the state of California.
“The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators to work together to shape their profession,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “In Friedrichs, the court saw through the political attacks on the workplace rights of teachers, educators and other public employees. This decision recognizes that stripping public employees of their voices in the workplace is not what our country needs.”
The case was thinly veiled attempt to weaken collective bargaining and silence educators’ voices. In response, hundreds of amici curiae or “friends of the court” briefs weighed in to support the union respondents. Twenty-one states, dozens of cities, nearly 50 Republican lawmakers, school districts and public hospitals rose in support of the value fair share fees provide in terms of the effective management of public services. During oral arguments, lawyers for the respondents argued that the current fair share system is a good compromise and common sense solution. Rhode Island is an agency fee state. The court’s decision today left that system in place nationwide.
The Friedrichs case provided a vivid illustration of what’s at stake when it comes to the highest court in the land. It also was an example of how corporations are using the Supreme Court for political agendas rather than what the court was intended: interpreting and upholding the Constitution.
August 31, 2016 - From fundraising to training, NEARI members worked this summer for the benefit of educators and students.
View the photos for:
The 2016 NEA Representative Assembly
The 25th Annual NEARI Children's Fund Golf Tournament
East Providence Teacher Leadership Academy Training
Thanks to members' unprecedented, year-long advocacy on behalf of students, the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) finally ended when President Obama signed the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) December 10. Students and educators lived with the unintended consequences of the failed NCLB for more than 14 years, including an over-emphasis on standardized testing.
Continuing to advocate for an effective law, more than 9,000 NEA members submitted comments this summer on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations on accountability under ESSA, far more than any other single group. Now it’s time to submit comments on the proposed regulations on another provision of ESSA: “supplement not supplant,” which requires federal dollars to add to, not replace, state and local dollars. Comparing expenditures among schools tells us little about the resource needs of the students in those schools—what matters is sufficient funding, equitably distributed, to ensure that every student has access to meaningful opportunities to learn. The comment period on “supplement not supplant” ends November 7. Check out the proposed regulations, and then submit your comments.
ESSA furthers all three of NEA's core goals:
"This new law is a well-deserved victory for our nation because the Every Student Succeeds Act will create greater opportunity for every student regardless of ZIP Code.
"Now our work begins in earnest as we shift our attention toward implementation. We look forward to working closely with state and local policymakers, as well as other key stakeholders, to raise our voice to deliver on the promise of ESSA and to provide opportunity for all students."
"ESSA returns decision-making for our nation's education back where it belongs - in the hands of local educators, parents and communities - while keeping the focus on students most in need.
"Educators will have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their students and classrooms. This legislation begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new system that includes an 'opportunity dashboard' with indicators of school success and student support. It reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools so students have more time to develop critical thinking while educators do what they love — teach.
"Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Congressmen Langevin and Ciccilline have always advocated for educators and students. We thank them for their support in passing this important bill."
WASHINGTON - On November 23, 2016, the Trump administration announced its plan to nominate Betsy DeVos, best known for her anti-public education campaigns, for the position of Secretary of Education. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:
NCLB - No Child Left Behind - is the federal education law that has imposed unrealistic mandates on states for the last 14 years. Specifically, its "test, blame, and punish" approach tied federal education aid into standardized test performance. Now, thanks to members' activism, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are poised to make significant improvements.
There stands an excellent chance that by the new year, President Obama will have signed a new, vastly improved national education law – the seventh reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Ending NCLB and replacing it with a law that focuses on opportunity for all students is a goal that NEA has been focused on throughout the process.
In July, both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed ESEA reauthorizations – the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) and the Student Success Act (SSA), respectively. The two bills are similar in some ways and different in others. It is these differences that Senate and House education committee staff and leaders are ironing out to produce a joint, bipartisan ESEA bill that President Obama can sign into law.
Specifically, NEA believes that the final bill should:
The Senate, in particular, addressed all these key issues. Unfortunately, the current House version includes so-called "Title I Portability," which permits federal funding for disadvantaged children to "follow" students to a public school of their choice (essentially a backdoor to vouchers), which NEA strongly opposes. Read more about the voucher expansion.
Nothing is certain with Congress – bills can be easily derailed – but the finish line for ESEA reauthorization is in sight, and educators and parents have been urging lawmakers to stay focused and deliver a new law. In early November, a coalition of ten leading education and parent organizations, including the NEA, launched a digital campaign urging Congress to "get ESEA done."
Our Rhode Island Congressional delegation - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, and Rep. Jim Langevin and David Cicciline - has been 100 percent in agreement with NEA's position, and has been working to achieve a new ESEA. Thank them for their efforts on behalf of all students.
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