Kennedy's leadership will be sorely missed by all educators and students

Statement by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Anne Wass on the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The educators of Massachusetts are mourning the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. For his entire career, Senator Kennedy worked to improve the quality of life for average citizens, to expand opportunities for the less fortunate and to illuminate the dark corners of society to prevent the spread of ignorance and prejudice. He understood that quality education for all was central to achieving these ends.

As chairman of the Senate committee that oversees education, Senator Kennedy fought to improve funding and services for students with special needs, for children who live in poverty and for college students in need of financial aid to fulfill their aspirations. In his fight for health care, the well-being of children -- our children, our students -- was always front and center.

As a lifelong advocate of civil rights, Senator Kennedy believed that all students are entitled to a quality education regardless of race, religion, gender or disability. He understood that separate is never truly equal and that discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated. His ability to learn from his mistakes and to dedicate his life to advancing his values is a lesson to us all. In this as in many other things, Senator Kennedy was a great educator. He worked with perseverance and courage so that the weakest among us were taken care of and respected.

His kindness, his dedication, his goodwill and his leadership will be sorely missed by all educators and students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Statement by Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association

Sen. Ted Kennedy was a strong, courageous leader in protecting the basic right of all students to attend great public schools. The NEA’s 3.2 million members recognized his work with our highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, for his leadership. He was a longtime advocate for teachers and students, and he left an indelible imprint on every major education law passed since the 1960s, including Head Start, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, direct student loans and the Class Size Reduction Act.

More than any single person, he shaped the modern landscape for public education. His contributions are as numerous as they are lasting. Kennedy’s legislative legacy affects all working Americans and their families. He set an example for all lawmakers by consistently working across the aisles on critical policies, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, COBRA, and health care. His leadership and lifetime of experience are needed now more than ever, and he will be greatly missed.