NEA honors Patrick as 'Greatest Education Governor'

DENVER — Thousands of educators attending NEA’s Representative Assembly cheered Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick July 3 for earning the association’s accolade of America’s Greatest Education Governor as well as the respect and admiration of its nearly 3 million members.

The annual award recognizes and honors governors who have made major state-level strides that improve public education. MTA President Paul Toner accepted the award on behalf of the governor. Due to unexpected weather circumstances in Massachusetts, Patrick was unable to attend in person. He addressed the delegates via video.

“Governor Deval Patrick embodies the spirit of this prestigious award on behalf of the nation’s educators,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Despite taking the helm of Massachusetts in the middle of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, he resisted the temptation to balance the budget on the backs of students, educators and working families.

"To the contrary, he’s made students and education a top priority," said Van Roekel. "He has outlined an inspiring vision and executed an ambitious agenda for the public schools, colleges and universities of the Commonwealth. His approach to governing is refreshing at a time when some politicians across the country insist on doing the opposite of what Governor Patrick is doing.”

“I am so humbled by this honor and so sorry I can't be present to accept it personally,” said Patrick. “Massachusetts is first in the nation in student achievement because we have consciously invested time, ideas and money in public schools, and pursued reforms with labor at the table. Thank you to the NEA for this recognition, and for your shared commitment to investing in our future.”

Patrick has been passionate about having a strong and vibrant public education system, from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.

His education priorities include narrowing achievement gaps and making sure that all students are educated to meet the demands of the 21st century. He has listened to and collaborated with educators. He created the first Executive Office of Education, elevating the position to cabinet level. He also established a “kitchen cabinet” of teachers to serve as his sounding board on education policy and practice, and he funded public education at the highest levels in the history of the Commonwealth while closing corporate tax loopholes and demanding that rich corporations pay their fair share.

The governor came from humble beginnings on Chicago’s South Side and was the first in his family to attend college. His experiences have made him a staunch advocate for working families and the labor movement. His beliefs are unwavering, and he has used his State House bully pulpit to enact policies around them. While right-wing Republican governors in places such as Wisconsin were systematically attacking labor unions and working families, he unequivocally and famously declared the Commonwealth off limits to national GOP efforts to dismantle collective bargaining and silence the voices of workers. In fact, he did the complete opposite.

He signed the state’s Employee Free Choice Act, which has led to growing union membership. Massachusetts is the only state in the nation to have such increases. Patrick also signed legislation into law raising the minimum wage to the highest in the nation, strengthening worker protections and reforming unemployment insurance.

“I am proud to call Deval Patrick a model governor, a champion of students, and a relentless advocate for our Commonwealth’s families and students,” said Toner. “I have had the privilege of serving as MTA vice president and president during Governor Patrick’s years in office. He has been a passionate advocate for public education and for the promise it holds for all students — but especially for those in our lowest performing and underfunded districts.

Toner continued, "He has done everything he can to increase investment in our schools — from pre-kindergarten through higher education. He truly believes that education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty and improving the lives of the students we serve. And he believes in working in collaboration with teachers and their unions. I am very happy to have Governor Patrick receive this honor from NEA.”

NEA created the “America's Greatest Education Governor Award” in 2008. Past recipients of the award include Governors Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Michael F. Easley of North Carolina and Jerry Brown of California.

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