WEAC is learning from the past and building for the future, WEAC President says

WEAC President Ron Martin addresses the 2017 WEAC Representative Assembly. Joining him at the head table are Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen and Secretary-Treasurer Arlene Braden.

Inspired by the legacy handed down by our past leaders and encouraged by the incredible promise of our current and aspiring educators, the future of WEAC is very strong, WEAC President Ron Martin said Saturday at the 95th WEAC Representative Assembly.

Despite what some media say, “It’s an exciting time to be a union member,” Martin said at the daylong Assembly in Stevens Point.

Martin cited the overwhelming re-election victory of public school advocate Tony Evers as State Superintendent, who specifically thanked WEAC members in his victory speech on April 4, as well as strong school board and school referendum victories throughout the state.

“Our success in this election shows us that our voices still matter,” Martin said. “Integrity matters. Public schools matter. Give yourselves a shout-out for a Job-Well-Done!”

WEAC members did not stop advocating for public education when the election was over. They have turned their attention to the state budget, fighting for public school students by speaking out at budget hearings throughout the state and submitting testimony to legislators who are making major decisions that affect our schools and students.

While the future for educators – through our union – is promising, there is no question that educators are facing major challenges, Martin noted.

“Nothing tears at my heart more than the increasing number of educators who tell me about the pervasive frustration, the loss of control, over their profession. I am deeply disturbed about the culture of testing and data collection forced down the throats of students and educators … transforming our profession into a scripted job that has no connection with what is best for students,” he said.

“I’m deeply disturbed over the number of educators who feel trapped, with no way out of a profession they once loved – the educators who don’t know what their salary will be next year, or the year after, and surely don’t know if they will ever pay back their student loans, afford a house or buy a car.”

But there is only one way out of this situation, he said: “It’s union, friends. Union is the way out. It’s us, together.”

“We come to this spot, today, to remind each other – in union – of the urgency of Now. This is no time to back off or drag our feet. Now is the time to make real the promise of our union – the promise of public education.”

Now is the time, he said, for less testing and more teaching. Now is the time to stand for racial justice, and now is the time to get politicians out of our classrooms.

The theme for this year’s RA was “Learn From the Past, Build for the Future,” and Martin said he has learned a lot about the incredible odds that those before us faced in forming this great union.

“Our union was in the hands of those before us. They formed WEAC. Not to serve themselves. Not only for a few. But for everyone. To secure the role of public education in Wisconsin. To be a platform for educators to work collectively.”

Successes like we experienced in the April election “are a reason why we choose to belong to this union,” and inspire us to move forward on behalf of quality public education and a strong union, Martin said.

“We care about kids. We care about every single one of them. We care about their families too. Our public schools work for everyone. Parents overwhelmingly choose public schools because they work. And public schools work because you work.”