January 26, 2007

Midwest Peace & Justice Caucus Minutes

January 19-21, 2007 Chicago,
Illinios Sheraton Hotel & Towers
Superior Room

Midwest Regional P&J Summary: At this year’s Midwest Regional Caucus in Chicago, the Peace & Justice Caucus had a table, sold a lot of materials which raised money for the caucus, and added ten new memberships: three from Indiana, four from Iowa, and three more from Wisconsin. In addition, we held a scheduled caucus at the ungodly hour of 6:15 a.m. on Saturday, January 20 where 23 sleepy people appeared, and an unscheduled one at 4 p.m. that day where ten people attended. We canceled the one scheduled for early Sunday morning. The agenda used for both caucuses is printed below, followed by notes from our presiding secretary, Nancy Porter.

Tom Wolfe,
Midwest Peace & Justice Director

Midwest Peace & Justice Caucus Agenda

I. Introductions

II. Our blogsite: http://midwestpeaceandjustice.blogspot.com/

III. Military Opt-Out Program Updates.

IV. Review Peace & Justice Executive Board Focus.

A. The Iraqi War (Read the Farr bill.)

B. Human Rights and civil liberties

C. NCLB (Our Executive Committee believes we should call for the repeal of the Bush part of ESEA, but he NEA leadership opposes it.)

D. The rest of the Jonathan Kozol program printed in the fall newsletter, such as the following:
  • "To halt and to reverse the rapidly increasing pattern of resegregation of black and Hispanic children. (Most Americans are not aware that the proportion of black children who attend an integrated school has reverted to its lowest level since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. In California, New York, and other major states, nearly 7 out of every 8 black children not attend a segregated public school. The legacy of Brown vs. Board of Education has been shredded and abandoned: the most alarming change in social policy in more than 50 years.
  • To defend the institution of the public school itself against the privatizing interests that hope to dismantle public education through the instrument of vouchers.
  • To open a national debate about the funding mechanism for our public schools, which relies primarily upon the worth of local property and guarantees a basically hereditary meritocracy by the organized short-changing of the children of the poor."

Peace & Justice Caucus Minutes

Tom Wolfe brought the meeting to order as Midwest Regional Director of the Peace & Justice Caucus in the Superior Room.

Caucus Attendance & Introductions

Twenty-three members and two guests were in attendance for the morning session. Some of whom included the following: Linda Alloway, IA; Jason Ewing, IL; Sharon Frazer, IA; Chris Jordan, IA; Carol Kula, IA; Tom McLaughlin, IA; Nancy Porter, IA; Kim Schroeder, MI; Bill Rogers, IN; Saul Simon, WI; Melissa Spencer, IA; Carolyn Walker, IA; Sherry Watkins, IN; Jill Willey, IA; Jill Wright, IN; Tom Wolfe, IA.

Ten additional members were in attendance for the afternoon session.Jason Chapman; John Kealey, IA; Barb King, IN; Rebecca Menard, IA; Nancy Porter, IA; Andrew Rasmussen, IA; Deborah Sernus, IN; Peggy Smits; Rich Toohill, IA; Tom Wolfe, IA.

Special Guests in the Morning Session

Paula Monroe, NEA Exec Board Candidate, a member of our caucus, ESP asked for our support in her upcoming election.

Mark Cebulski, NEA Executive Committee, was a guest in attendance for the morning session.


Mark Cebulski discussed how bipartisan NCLB was when it passed. Our efforts to address this, then, are complicated in the politics of bipartisanship that were rampant when it passed. According to Mr. Cebulski, this Bush administration has 2 agendas: NCLB and Iraq. Cebulski further stated that Secretary of Education Spelling stated that schools had no discussion of passing students to different grade levels until NCLB. This is interesting information to us! Mark Cebulski reminded us that there has to be a better way than testing until they (students) fall over...and drop out.

There was a limited discussion that we should move for lack of authorization within the House Ed committee Tom McLaughlin shared concerns that we exercise message discipline and provide our leaders with these tools. Let's make our message united.

Huge cross section of folks represented on the NCLB message from NEA: nuance, beef it up.

Linda Alloway reminded us that our message is important.

The War in Iraq

Carolyn Uhlenhake-Walker reported that the Iraq war has been mentioned at Executive Board level of the NEA. Our own NEA Vice President Dennis Van Roeckel said, “War and education are intertwined: no meaningful education questions concerning the war...next elections we need to make sure those education questions are asked.”

The Peace & Justice RA focus will be to get the United States out of the war in Iraq. NEA President, Reg Weaver, (in accordance with a directive from the 2006 RA) has written a letter of support of getting out of Iraq war. U.S. Representative Farr introduced a bill (that was read aloud in the afternoon session and available at the Peace & Justice Caucus Booth) that has garnered some support from notable leaders. Several other U.S. Senators have joined as sponsors of this bill including Barak Obama.

Military Opt Out Program

The military and government have access to all records of those who register and enroll in schools by way of a clause of NCLB/ESEA. As a result, recruiting is easier for the low social economic and at risk students who have fewer options.

It was the Peace & Justice Caucus who demanded that schools and districts have opt out information delivered to parents so their children can “opt out” of having their records so freely shared.

Peace & Justice Caucus Work at the State Level

Wherever possible the local delegates to the RA and state delegate assemblies should intro NBI to state assemblies and get state support on these items:

The repeal of NCLB/ESEA as a law in the United States.Our desire to have NEA adopt Jonathan Kozol’s program which examines the alarming trends of resegregation and savage inequalities within our public schools. Resegregation is more than troubling than ever: Shame of the Nation by Kozol, is worth a read as it outlines reasons for the achievement gap and provides some welcome suggestions to reverse the trend.

We need strong anti-vouchers language in each of our states (which is timely considering President Bush’s attempt to sneak this through in his NCLB Reauthorization).We need to re-examine school funding. TEF section has some good information, research and data on funding session and the use of a more equitable formula of funding for public education than property taxes.

Additional Concerns from the Floor of the Caucus

Jason Ewing shared his concerns that we need to advocate for full funding of early education and preschool programs. He also shared that we also need PELL grants for ALL students.

Mark Cebulski, mentioned that we need to represent all of our students and their future work lives including all ends of the spectrum in the job market are not being met. Mr. Cebulski spoke of the “dignity of working with one’s hands.”

Carolyn Uhlenhake-Walker shared her concern that we need to be advocates for a mandatory education through the age 18 with no dropouts allowed until after then. We need to work to make sure that we do whatever it takes for our students to become educated.

Tom Wolfe has presented to ISEA resolutions/NBI concerning these items which will be published in our Iowa Delegate Handbook and presented at Delegate Orientation, with the exception of the Kozol idea which is a little hard to deal with in Iowa. Respectfully submitted,

Submitted respectfully,

Nancy Porter
NEA Peace & Justice Recording Secretary

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