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On the Road

with Valerie Wilk

In mid-November, “the road” came to the NEA. NEA’s Higher Ed Program and Research Department convened our fall training of higher ed organizers, UniServ directors, and researchers.

This year, staff from 15 states—from Maine to California—participated. At the same time, NEA’s Thought & Action review panel was meeting in the building, so the two groups lunched together to learn about each other’s work.

The staff training theme was “Research, Politics, and Organizing.” The attendees, with the help of NEA’s research staff, looked at the data available online on federal stimulus dollars disbursed to the states. Ohio’s Gregg Gascon is spearheading development of a tool for tracking how institutions are spending those dollars.

Luke Swarthout, senior education advisor to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, outlined key elements of the American Graduation Initiative (AGI), President Obama’s plan to pump over $10 billion over the next decade into community colleges to achieve five million new college graduates. Swarthout’s visit provided an opportunity for staff to raise our members’ concerns about class size and a required state and local match so that federal dollars don’t result in support being lost to other programs.

On another front, Montana’s Melissa Case recounted how finding talented leaders, building a diverse organizing committee, and making strategic decisions led to a union organizing victory for tenured and adjunct faculty at Montana State University.

—Valerie Wilk coordinates NEA’s higher education activities

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