MEA-MFT members go national

July 2010 - Several dozen MEA-MFT members from around Montana gave up part of their summers to help set national policy at the national meetings of MEA-MFT’s two national affiliates: the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT). 


MEA-MFT member and Director-at-Large Cecil B. Crawford of Missoula listens to the debate at NEA Rep. Assembly.

Both national meetings tackled the big issues facing public employees and public educators: a lingering economic recession, funding cuts, national education policy (Race to the Top and ESEA reauthorization) and one of the most potent anti-union political climates in decades.


Thousands of delegates from around the nation joined ranks at both meetings, ready to head off the attacks and fight for quality public services and public education -- the backbone of democracy.


NEA Representative Assembly 2010: “Turning Hope into Action,” New Orleans, Louisiana — June 26 - July 6
Twenty-nine MEA-MFT members joined more than 9,000 elected delegates from around the nation at the annual NEA Representative Assembly (RA) in New Orleans.


RA Delegates debated and voted on new business items, policies, dues, national officers, and more.


The top RA story for MEA-MFT members was passage of the “Gateway to Membership” amendment. This amendment to the NEA constitution recognizes all MEA-MFT members as members of NEA.
The action corrects a great inequity that has existed since the former Montana Education Association (MEA) and Montana Federation of Teachers (MFT) merged 10 years ago to form MEA-MFT.


At that time, AFT recognized all MEA-MFT members, but NEA only recognized our members directly engaged in education.


 With passage of the Gateway amendment, however, ALL MEA-MFT members are now members of both AFT and NEA, effective immediately. “This is a great victory,” said MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver. “We value all our members.  We are delighted NEA now does, too.”


MEA-MFT delegates Jackie Van Heel and Marilyn Hamer from Great Falls at NEA Rep. Assembly.

MEA-MFT members will NOT pay double dues as a result of this measure.  NEA and AFT will share member dues dollars as they have for all education employee members for the past 10 years.


“MEA-MFT had a lot to do with getting the amendment passed,” explained MEA-MFT Executive Director Erik Burke. “All our members do work that matters. They all should have access to the involvement, resources, and member privileges that NEA offers. Now they do.”


On education policy: NEA President Dennis Van Roekel vowed to make sure the Obama Administration listens to teachers’ and education support professionals’ voices in the shaping of national education policy. “WE are the people who can make all public schools great,” he said.


Speaker after speaker echoed that message. NEA Friend of Education award winner Diane Ravitch electrified delegates with an impassioned call for the defense of public education and the teaching profession.


“The current ‘education reform’ movement is pushing bad ideas,” Ravitch said. “It wants to end tenure and seniority, to silence teachers’ unions, to privatize large sectors of public education. Don’t let it happen!"  


Barb Fettig of Billings, Tammy Pilcher of Helena, and Mike Picking of Great Falls listen to debate in the MEA-MFT caucus.

Ravitch, an eminent historian of education who served as Assistant Secretary of Education under the President George H. W. Bush, supported some of those “bad ideas” for years. But she changed her mind when she saw the damage those ideas caused put into practice in No Child Left Behind.


Ravitch has become an outspoken national crusader against No Child Left Behind and similar policies proposed by the current U.S. Dept. of Education.  At the RA, she blasted high-stakes testing, saying it might lead to higher test scores but not to real learning. She attacked merit pay because it undermines team work and has no support in education research.


She warned that public school choice and more charter schools could split the public school system into one system for haves and one for have-nots, because many charter schools skim the best students. And she noted that national studies have repeatedly failed to find charter schools do a better job.


“Public education,” Ravitch declared, “is the backbone of this democracy, and we cannot turn it over to privateers.”


You can listen to Ravitch and Van Roekel’s speeches and read more about RA at


AFT Convention 2010: “Building Futures Together,” Seattle, WA, July 7-11
Twenty-eight MEA-MFT members joined 3,000 AFT delegates from around the nation in Seattle for the 81st AFT convention.


The convention provided AFT members with a forum to vote on major policy resolutions, to celebrate the union's growth and the outstanding work members do every day, and to hear from AFT president Randi Weingarten.


The theme “Building Futures Together” was woven throughout the convention as delegates heard presentations on topics ranging from organizing and working with the community, to political action, strengthening the institutions where AFT members work.


Delegates also debated resolutions covering issues such as teacher evaluation, staffing in higher education, healthcare reform, child labor, common core standards and community schools.


In addition to AFT President Weingarten, main speakers included Juan Andrade Jr., president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; NAACP president Ben Jealous; and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.


Read more and watch keynote speeches at

Eric Feaver: MEA-MFT President

Dave Severson: MEA-MFT Vice President, Missoula Education Assoc.

Jeff Greenfield: MEA-MFT Secretary-Treasurer, Billings Education Assoc.

Karin Stanford: NEA Director, Lone Rock Education Assoc.


Janice Bishop: Missoula Education Assoc.

Cecil B. Crawford: MEA-MFT Direcor-at-Large, Merged Missoula Classified Employees Assoc.

Deana Elder: Blillings Classified

Diane Elliott: Poplar Education Assoc.

Laurie Enebo: Glasgow Education Assoc.

Barb Fettig: Billings Education Assoc.

Mike Kujawa: Butte Education Assoc.

Kate McAuliffe: Billings Education Assoc.

Janice Muller-Kohn: Hamilton Education Assoc.

Mike Picking: Great Falls Education Assoc.

Tammy Pilcher: Helena Education Assoc.

Janet Spracklin: Sidney Education Assoc.

Wayne Stanford: Retired

Marilyn Hamer: Great Fall Education Assoc. delegate

Cathy Kuntz: Great Fall Education Assoc. delegate

Jackie VanHeel: Great Fall Education Assoc. delegate

Paul Phillips: Helena delegate

Carole Addis: Missoula delegate

Sue Furey: Missoula delegate

Amy Reed: District 4 cluster delegate

Annette Efta: District 17 cluster delegate

Lionel Ward: District 17 cluster delegate

Grant Mitman: District 20 cluster delegate

Erik Burke: MEA-MFT Executive Director

Judy McMaster: NEA RA Coordinator for MEA-MFT


Eric Feaver: MEA-MFT President       

Terry Minow & Marco Ferro: MEA-MFT staff

Angela McLean & Shawn Hansen: Anaconda Teachers Union

Colleen Kivi & Shannon Bender: Great Falls Child Development Federation

Mary Verploegen: Northern Montana College Federation of Teachers

Deb Willis: Probation and Parole         

Jill Cohenour & Christie Mock: Department of Public Health and Human Services

Bill Beehler, Trisha Dixon, Linda Nichols, & Mike McCaughey: Montana State Prison


Sheri  Postma: Merged Missoula Education Association

Beth McKenzie, Jim Wilcox, Linda Sather, & Seth Krupar: Dept. of Revenue

Kate McAuliffe & Barb Fettig: Billings Education Assoc.

Tami Phillippi & Mary Christiansen: Bozeman Education Assoc.

Megan May: Great Falls Education Association

Beckie Squires & Jeff Cowee: Helena Paras            

Juanita Moore: Missoula Education Assoc.

Back to News Listing