January 26, 2010

Midwest Caucus for Peace and Justice Minutes– Saturday January 22, 2010

The NEA Midwest Regional was held in Minneapolis the weekend of January 22-24, and the Peace & Justice Caucus made itself known. We had a table with displays all three days, enrolled a record thirteen new members, and sold many materials, bringing in a total of around $445 for the P&J Caucus. (I don’t know the exact figure, but that’s approximately what I was told by Nancy Porter, our national chair and money holder at the table.) We also held a caucus Saturday morning, and you will find Roberta Rosheim’s minutes for it printed below.

Thank you,
Tom Wolfe
P&J Midwest Director

Midwest Caucus for Peace and Justice – Saturday January 22, 2010

Tom Wolfe called to order the meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis at 7:20 AM. He explained the caucus and the goals that we have, reminding us that membership is the lifeblood of the caucus and that state contacts make this happen. When the state contacts are known before the RA and will work at the RA to get new members, it is most helpful.

Introductions: Nancy Porter is the national chair, Carol Kula is the floor manager at the RA, Roberta Rosheim is recording secretary for this meeting, Josh Wager is the national website author, Josh Brown and Andrew Rasmussen are the Midwest Blog authors, a state contact that was present was Carol Kula from IA. Nineteen people were in attendance: Michelle Cooper, Bryan Milz, Roberta Rosheim, Nancy Porter, Andrew Rasmussen, Joshua Brown, Michele Cooper, Erin Hinds, Bev Stolfus, Carol Kula, Gail Maison, Jodi Tupper, Joshua Wager, Stacey Kimberlin, Kristen Henningfeld, Curt Christenson, Rich Baldwin, Tom Mc Laughlin and Tom Wolfe.

Tom announced who the state contacts are: Germaine Light from IL, Rhondalyn Cornett from IN, Carol Kula from IA, Mary Anne Schwartz fro MI, Kimberly Corbert from MN, co-contacts Rebecca Bauer and Clara Hutchinson from MN, Lori Zanitsch from MO, and Stephanie Kortyna from WI.

HAITI – There is a fund called El Solidarity Fund for Haiti, which is a good opportunity to contribute directly to help teachers in Haiti. There are no administrative costs. Send donations to
Haiti Earthquake Recovery
National Education Association
1201 16th Street NW, Suite 614
Washington DC 20036
Constitution: Tom said there might be recommendations for changes in the Constitution because Retired dues are currently $5 and just one newsletter costs $3 to send out. State caucuses now need 50 members and there are only 3: California, Iowa, and Washington. States creating their own P&J caucuses must elect their own state chairs. In return, they will receive rebates from the national P&J Caucus to support states.

Websites: Josh Wager is the author of the national website. There is a blog and the newsletters are on it, and the Paul Mann Award for Youth Activism is explained and announced. He is working on the format now.

Andrew Rasmussen and Joshua Brown talked about the Midwest website. Andrew thanked Tom McLaughlin for helping to improve it. Andrew puts articles on the website, and he wants people to post comments so there can be discussions. It is a way to share and organize events and activities. Joshua Brown said it would be great to get people involved from throughout the Midwest.

Gail asked what the purpose of this meeting is. Tom said it is to persuade the NEA to promote our issues, for example to oppose torture, to ensure civil rights for everyone. We bring forth new business items to the Representative Assembly of the NEA. We try to change the climate of the NEA through the Rep Assembly and through state assemblies. Carol Kula said we also influence NEA to support international unions. We must emphasize that war funding affects students and explain how. Tom McLaughlin also mentioned that we are active in Chiapas. We raise money for schools in Chiapas, including one school that is named after an advocate for Chiapas, Paul Mann.

We were encouraged to seek those young people who best exemplify P&J ideals and nominate them for the Paul Mann Youth Activism Award and then recognize them at our various state assemblies here in the Midwest as well as throughout the nation.

Information was shared about the problem of Object to Consideration, which has been used at the RA and in our state assemblies to avoid discussion of our issues. Nancy said that Paul Mann helped to pass a rule in Iowa that the maker of the motion may speak at least once before the vote is taken to Object, a rule that has been in place at the national level for some time. Nevertheless, OCs block debate of our controversial issues, and that is frustrating.

Tom reminded us that our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are hugely expensive and that it costs 1 million dollars per soldier per year to keep an American soldier in those two countries, money that could go a long way to funding our schools.

Nancy reminded us that we need to get new members and to volunteer to be at the booth. The minutes will be posted on our websites.

When the Executive Committee of the National Peace and Justice Caucus met last fall, it developed its own tentative list of major issues to focus on during this year and to develop a list of new business items around them, but any final list would await input from the regionals. Tom asked for our suggestions to make a list of items we believe are most important in order for the Executive Board to consider them before making its final list.

The items suggested were:
1. Support relief for Haiti;
2. Rebuild Haiti and keep an eye on the international effort to rebuild Haiti;
3. To relate each of our issues to public education;
4. Work for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan/
5. Focus on what wars do to people;
6. Promote schools in Afghanistan and use the Pennies for Peace program as a guide;
7. Teach social justice in the classroom and include within the curriculum the teaching of labor history and other examples of social activism; and
8. Promote soap drives for homeless shelters – to donate toiletries from the hotel to local shelters
Tom reminded us that we want to effect change in the NEA and then to effect the US Government through lobbying by the NEA. Andrew reminded us to continue this discussion on the blog.

The meeting adjourned at 8:05 a.m.
Respectfully submitted by Roberta Rosheim

January 25, 2010

Student's take action!

Let's help support other organizations in their efforts---spread the word

The Student Peace Alliance engages our communities and policy makers in building sustainable peace. The Student Peace Alliance is active on over 80 campuses in over 30 states and is growing every day. Millions of young Americans are aware of the dangers created by relying solely on brute force to end violence both at home and abroad. We know that peace is more than the absence of war; it is a positive condition in and of itself. The goal of the Student Peace Alliance is to harness the power of this realization, mobilizing its adherents into a serious political constituency.

Our generation must begin to build the culture that supports not only a peaceful tomorrow, but a peaceful today. Student Peace Alliance members partner with local community organizations that are effecting change in the areas of violence prevention and conflict resolution. SPA members work to create an environment on campuses and in local communities that promotes education and discussion about peace building on both the domestic and international levels. SPA also works in close partnership with The Peace Alliance to advocate for breakthrough pieces of legislation, such as the Youth PROMISE Act, and to work towards our goal of establishing an infrastructure in the federal government that makes peace a priority.

Our network aims to create change not only at one level of society, but at all levels by combining a community service approach to building peace locally with a political advocacy approach to sustaining and funding peace through the government.

We, the youth and students of the United States declare that NOW is the time for peace, and NOW is the time for action. The people of the United States are rising up for change, and we the youth stand in solidarity with them. Please join us. While this is not the space to explain our entire philosophy, we encourage you to learn more about the movement by visiting www.studentpeacealliance.org or by joining us on our monthly conference calls. We are always willing to answer any questions or comments you may have!

January 23, 2010

Let's Get To Work

We will post a quick summary or minutes from our caucus meeting at the Midwest Regional Leadership Conference later but we do not want to wait until we get those to get to action.

One of the things that is going on at the national level in our caucus is trying to find a focus and set some of our priorities as we work to influence NEA and the world.

Please post any suggestions you have and we will make sure to share those ideas with our national caucus chair and the rest of the NEA Peace and Justice executive board.

Once we have some topics from you, we can begin to discuss those ideas out as well on this blog to create action items to be implemented at the local, state, and national levels.

We are only as strong as those who join us and get involved so please share your ideas.