On the issue of racism, the IEA has work to do.


Gina HarKirat Harris, newly elected member of the NEA board of directors from Illinois.

The restructuring plan that would reduce the numbers of members of the IEA board of directors was shot down at this weekend’s Representative Assembly.

The restructuring plan was two years in the making, I was told.

Gina Harris, newly elected member of the NEA board of directors, said to me that she did not believe this was the best use of IEA time and organization.

And she expressed serious concerns about the inclusion of IEA members of color in the development of the proposal and the impact on members of color if the proposal had passed. Would the reduction of the size of the Illinois state board of directors reduce the number of directors of color?

“I went back and forth on this whole restructuring thing in my own mind.”

What Gina does not go back and forth about is getting experienced IEA members of color better represented on committees and in shifting the focus from time spent on restructuring proposals to time spent on organizing proposals.

Nearly a year after the NEA RA decision to make institutional racism a focus of the entire union, Illinois leadership had yet to take any action until the Human and Civil Rights Committee introduced a New Business Item at this RA  – nine months later.

The IEA HCRC, of which Gina is a member, brought up the issue of institutional racism and offered an NBI that passed. It directs the IEA’s training center to incorporate the issue of institutional racism in all membership training.

“I’m concerned about organizing and I’m concerned about relationships,” Gina told me.

Ironically, the HCRC’s New Business Item was followed by the rejection by delegates of an NBI calling for nothing more than a campaign of awareness about the use of racial stereotypes in school mascots, offered by delegate Louise Stompor. It was voted down with virtually no debate.

Only 13% of the RA delegates were members of color.

Today, Eric Brown, a member of the NEA Executive Committee sent me a copy of a model school board resolution on removing the Confederate flag from school buildings.

This has been the single thing that the NEA has done, to my knowledge, in response to my New Business Item 11 on the Confederate flag that was passed following the longest debate in the history of the NEA RA.

“We have work to do,” Gina Harris told me.

10 Replies to “On the issue of racism, the IEA has work to do.”

  1. Exactly, although it was too open ended as written. “Black Hawks” was another term that has debated.

    A NBI that addressed the inappropriateness of ANY cultural/historical group might have passed.

    One that specifically addressed the specific use of derogatory cultural terms might have passed.

    As it was the drafters left the NBI too vague

  2. What is the significance of Eric Brown giving you a “copy of a model school board resolution on removing the Confederate flag from school buildings”? Will this model resolution be used to prepare a statement / position for the NEA? Or will the NEA disseminate this resolution to all pertinent school districts as a recommendation?

  3. In addition to the model school board resolution language, Fred also received model state legislation language. Both of these documents were developed by NEA and thus far have been shared with national civil rights partners and with Members of Congress who have taken a leadership role regarding this issue. There will be more to come…especially to ensure members and leaders gain access to both of these documents and can push them locally and at the state level.

    1. Eric,
      That’s great news!
      Which civil rights partners and members of Congress got copies of this model resolution and legislation language? Will be interested in hearing about their responses.
      Looking forward to hearing more.

      1. The NAACP and Urban League were the civil rights partners we worked with, and Congress has a number of different pieces of legislation involving ridding the US of the Confederate flag: HR 3007, HRes 341, HRes 342, HRes 344, HRes 355, HAmdt to HR 2822, HAmdt 592 to HR 2822, HAmdt 606 to HR 2822, and S 1689. Additionally, all 50 state affiliates government relations directors received them.

  4. All right. What are the next steps towards getting the confederate flag removed from public schools and public spaces? Will the NEA be involved in this effort? Would you post here the model resolution language or at least key parts of it?
    Thanks Eric.

    1. Eric sent them to me Clare. I couldn’t post them in the format the came in. But Eric says they are available to local leaders. I assume IEA will distribute them.

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