by Jessica Dunn, Executive Director
A member recently asked what GEA and UEA do during the legislative session to advocate for public education and if anything is still being done to address needs caused by the ongoing pandemic. I realized that my response was full of information that others might like to know as well.
The Utah Education Association (UEA) is the statewide entity and has the responsibility to lobby and advocate at the state level. This includes USBE and the legislature. During the legislative session, UEA’s lobby team is at the Capitol every day. They take their guidance from the priorities identified by members in the legislative survey that is sent to all members ahead of the session as well at the UEA’s governing bodies (their Board of Directors which has a representative from GEA and House of Delegates which has member representatives from every district in the state, including ours). To learn more about UEA activities during the legislative session:
GEA is still actively advocating for safe schools as well as continuing with our focus to protect and improve working conditions for employees. Some of our recent advocacy outcomes include district provided COVID leave, three extra planning days, last week’s distance learning week, increasing the availability of masks to school-based employees, and district provided mental health resources. We communicate some of our outcomes in multiple ways – to our ARs at our monthly meetings, on our GEA Facebook page (@GEAUtah), on our website (www.gea-ut.org), to all members in periodic emails, and individually to members when the advocacy is specifically for them.
Other areas that we have recently worked on or are currently working on include SEP formats, PBL Gradebook update to allow for a Transfer Code, broader allowances for employees to work from home on distance learning days, district policy language not part of the Professional Agreement, updates to the Corrective Discipline handbook, analysis of and response to SPED employees’ circumstances, and so much more.
Our work is driven by our GEA membership. Sometimes that information is provided to us by individual member needs when they call or email us. Sometimes we see a pattern of concerns at a school, and we do a whole member meeting to get a better picture of what is needed. Thus far this year, we have done 7 of those meetings and then followed up with the principals, SLIDs, John Welburn, and Dr. Nye. We have committees comprised of members from all over the district that provide us current needs or concerns and problem solve how to address them. More information about those committees can be found on the GEA website under Standing Committees. We also address general concerns on a broad level. For instance, we recognized that educator morale was really suffering so we took that head on with district administration and the school board. This goes back to the list of recent advocacy outcomes but is also an ongoing commitment.
I haven’t even mentioned all the district meetings we attend so that we are part of the administrative decision-making processes, the individual advocacy that we do, or the work we do with the GSD School Board. And we can’t forget that negotiations are coming up in the spring. We stay busy for you!
GEA works relationally which is why we have good success in resolving concerns and reaching positive outcomes for our members. Part of that success is due to the depth of our leadership, including those of us that work in the GEA office, our Board of Directors, our ARs, and those members that actively contribute to the work of the association. I invite you to be more involved! That can be as simple as assisting the Association Representative (AR) at your school with some of their responsibilities, following the GEA Facebook page and sharing the posts, inviting your colleagues to become members, or attending EDOH. You can also be more involved by serving as a full time Assistant AR and attend our monthly meetings or fill a spot on one of the GEA committees. In the spring you will receive information about how to serve on one of those committees for the 22-23 school year. There are lots of ways you can be involved so if none of these are interesting to you, contact our office so that we can dialogue about what you would like to do and how that can be accomplished.
Thank you for being a member! Our strong membership makes a difference in our ability to represent you!