News & Event
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2019
Cranston, R.I. – Several Rhode Island teachers, including the 2018 RI Teacher of the Year Kristin Hayes-Leite, will travel to El Paso, TX with their colleagues from across the country to take part in a teach-In aimed at calling attention to migrant children still in custody of the U.S. government. The Teach-In for Freedom, scheduled for Sunday, February 17, beginning at 9:00 a.m., is organized by Teachers Against Child Detention (TACD) led by 2018 National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning. They will call for the government to end the detention and criminalization of immigrant children and their families.
“As teachers, we are mandated to report abuse and neglect - it is our moral and legal obligation to take action to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of society,” said Hayes-Leite. “We see firsthand the effects that trauma and extreme stress have on our students’ ability to learn. So, when Mandy Manning asked all state teachers of the year to join her in speaking out, I answered the call.”
“We know there are children suffering while in custody of our government and we know there are potentially thousands more separated children then initially reported,” said National Education Association Rhode Island President Larry Purtill. “I applaud the teachers participating in the Teach-In for Freedom and encourage NEARI members here at home to show their support.”
On Sunday, February 17, 2019, TACD will stage a live-streamed “Teach-In for Freedom” on San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas to be broadcast across Facebook, YouTube and other media outlets starting at 9:00 a.m. Educators from across the country will deliver short lessons on topics including immigration, human rights, separation trauma, and why migrants flee their home countries.
Hayes-Leite teaches 9th Grade in Narragansett. She will be joined in El Paso by fellow Narragansett teacher Kathy Couchon; Amy Mullen, NEA Director and teacher from the Tiverton School District; and Mick Lefort, a teacher from the South Kingstown School District.
More information: www.neari.org/TIFF
Members have reached out to needy students through the Children's Fund since 1985. During the holidays, their generosity is overwhelming.
This December, the NEARI Children’s Fund celebrated 26 years of its anonymous gift-giving program, the Gingerbread Express. Nearly 1500 needy students were connected with generous NEARI members and friends, who shopped for holiday presents according to the students' needs and desires.
The Gingerbread Express helped students in South Kingstown, Cumberland, East Providence, Chariho, Providence, Westerly, Burrillville, North Kingstown, Narragansett, and Newport. Some gifts are filtered through the NEARI office, while other local NEARI unions collect their own names and find their own donors. In addition, many classrooms across the state adopt names as a group project. Parents preserve the pride of their children by discreetly picking up their gifts in their respective school offices.
In one case, however, the Gingerbread Express arrives with a flourish. On December 16, Providence’s D’Abate School received a tractor-trailer delivery, courtesy of Teamsters Local 251, which transported the huge gift packages donors purchased for every one of its 400-plus children. NEARI has adopted D’Abate every year since the program began, due to the economic level of its students.
Helping with gift donations this year were companies that adopted large groups of children.
Thanks go to:
The NEARI Children’s Fund was established in 1985 to answer the needs of students coming to school without the basic necessities, such as proper clothing, eyeglasses, school supplies, and more. Any member of the organization may nominate a student for assistance, which is generally provided within 24 hours.
The Children's Fund is fueled by donations and fundraisers. Learn how you can support the Children's Fund all year long!
Find out how
Call the NEARI Children's Fund directly if you see a student in need. The coordinator is Val Staples, and she can be reached at 401-463-9630 ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
January 27, 2017 - Yesterday Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, released a statement opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education:
“Every Rhode Island student deserves the chance to learn and gain the skills they need to get ahead. The mission of the U.S. Department of Education is to give them that chance. Promoting quality education for children no matter where they live requires a firm grasp of education policy and experience confronting complex issues. It requires an understanding that programs like Pell Grants, established by Rhode Island’s legendary Senator Claiborne Pell, often make higher education possible for aspiring college students. The Secretary of Education needs to understand what the Department can do to help make schools safe for all kids and how vital federal laws support children with special needs. Our Education Secretary must have this baseline knowledge and background. Mrs. DeVos’s record and testimony before the Committee show that she does not.
“Moreover, the brand of ideologically driven education reform Mrs. DeVos has championed is not what Rhode Islanders want. I have received thousands of letters, calls, and emails in opposition to her nomination, many of them citing the school voucher and privatization agenda Mrs. DeVos and her allies imposed in Michigan. Rhode Island parents, teachers, and students have seen the poor results of that agenda and do not want it in our schools.
“I am also deeply concerned with this nominee’s potential conflicts of interest and lack of transparency. Mrs. DeVos has failed to address these issues, despite numerous requests for information from me and other members of the Committee. We still do not know the extent of her ties to shadowy organizations designed to shield special interests from public scrutiny or whether she has disentangled herself fully from knotty investments. She needed to put these concerns to rest with thorough disclosures to us, but she hasn’t come close.
“This is why Mrs. DeVos is wholly unqualified for this role and I cannot support her nomination.”
January 27, 2017 - Today Senator Jack Reed released a statement in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. Senator Whitehouse yesterday announced his opposition to DeVos. Reed's statement follows:
“Ms. DeVos flunked her confirmation hearing and is not the right person for the job.
“Our Secretary of Education should be a champion for all children – not someone like Ms. DeVos who suggested that a landmark civil rights law should be left up to states.
“As a lobbyist, Ms. DeVos helped reduce school oversight and accountability in Michigan and promoted the diversion of taxpayer dollars toward private schools.
“Given her ties to for-profit education companies that will be directly impacted by Department of Education decisions, it is hard to fathom how she could fully untangle herself from a thick web of conflicts.
“Neither her background, nor her testimony before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee inspire confidence that she has the experience or vision necessary to oversee national education policy, including higher education and the management of a $1 trillion student loan portfolio.
“When our students have access to good schools, quality teachers, and high quality college and career education opportunities, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
“But if Ms. DeVos is confirmed, I fear she will take resources away from public school students and direct them to for-profit schools and institutions that share her views. I don’t think that is fair to students and I don’t think Ms. DeVos should be confirmed to lead the U.S. Department of Education. I will vote no.”
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