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NEA Conference Explores Value of Public Education

NEA Conference Explores "Value of Public Education"

In an effort to address the complicated and politically charged economics of K-12 education, the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest teachers union, hosted a conference May 11-13, 2006 in San Diego, CA. The conference addressed such questions as:

How does investing in public education positively impact a state's economy? What is the value of public education? How do current state economic and tax policies impact a state's economy and, as a direct result, impact school funding?

By focusing on the impact of economic policies on education, and of school quality on the economy, the conference addressed the ways in which improvements to these systems can be mutually obtained.


The conference centered on a major NEA research issue, a triumvirate of economic policy issues affecting education: Tax structure, Economic development policy, and Funding for schools, or T.E.F. Several conference pre-workshops covered the basics of this concept, as NEA researchers explained that "T.E.F. focuses on the inseparable connection between taxes, the economy, and funding for schools to illuminate the many benefits of public education," and introduced data to help conference participants communicate the concept to others.

The introduction to T.E.F. allowed conference presenters to delve into more specific detail during the full conference. An opening session covered "Investment Returns from Reducing Inadequate Education," a topic presented by Henry Levin that is based on the results of the Levin's symposium at the Campaign for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University. Other sessions included "Reversing the Tide: Taking Action to Close Tax Loopholes in Your State," "21st-Century Skills: The Economic Argument for Investing in Our Schools," "Tax Loopholes: Lost Revenue, Lost Opportunities," and a general session entitled "Working with Allies to Bring about Workable Fiscal Accountability Requirements."

Speakers and Participants

The NEA conference brought together experts from across the country. Presenters from Utah, Wisconsin, California, and other states also represented diverse areas of expertise, as some came from state-level NEA affiliates while others represented non-profit organizations or academic institutions. This diversity allowed conference participants to forge a broad-based understanding of the T.E.F. concept, and to develop a variety of strategies that will "increase public awareness," "ensure everyone's equal chance at success," and "reclaim and build upon the American Dream."

Reg Weaver, NEA president, delivered the keynote. He emphasized the need to give every American child a great public school in their community and, through anecdotes of schools he has visited recently, discussed the inequities that are the current reality for "too many of our children."

Molly Hunter, National Access Network Director, led a discussion about the school funding lawsuits across the country and how litigation can be a mechanism to secure better education resources and improved opportunity.

2006 Quality Education Conference

Many of the issues explored during the NEA conference will be touched upon when Access convenes its sixth annual conference, "Schools for Our Future: Ensuring Quality Education for All Children". The conference will feature sessions on real-world success in diverse communities, economic and tax policy and school finance reform, and assessing voucher, charter, and private school management options. For more information, please go here.

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