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NEA News

At 2023 NEA Representative Assembly, Freedom to Learn in the Spotlight

Educators from across the nation come together in Orlando to set goals and priorities for the upcoming year—and demand an end to book bans and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
2022 Representative Assembly
Published: June 23, 2023
This article originally appeared on

Educators from around the nation will soon be gathering in Orlando, Florida, for the 2023 National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA). The RA is the world’s largest democratic deliberative body and the top decision-making body for NEA’s nearly 3 million members. Every year, delegates come together to draft and debate new policies, adopt a strategic plan and budget, listen to speeches from NEA leaders and other prominent educators and activists, and elect new leaders. 

Approximately 6,000 delegates—representing state and local affiliates, student members, and retired members—will be in Orlando this year from July 3-6, the first fully in-person RA since 2019. 

Standing with Florida Educators 

At every RA, delegates advocate for racially and socially equitable schools that prepare every student to succeed—and 2023 will be no different. Although delegates will discuss and debate a wide range of critical issues affecting public education, one recent and disturbing trend will be front and center at this year’s gathering: the attack on the freedom to learn.  

Across the country, certain politicians continue to distract, fuel fear, and divide citizens by banning books that represent marginalized and oppressed people and imposing “gag orders” on educators who are committed to teaching the truth. These politicians hope that targeting inclusive curricula and stoking fears and sowing discord in communities will bring them closer to their ultimate goal: discredit and dismantle public education.  

Nowhere has this destructive anti-public education and anti-democracy campaign been more prevalent than in the state of Florida, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis. By holding the 2023 RA in Orlando, NEA will bring true democratic values and a movement for public education to DeSantis’ backyard. Members and leaders of the Florida Education Association (FEA) have asked NEA to stand with the hundreds of thousands of students, educators, and community members in the state.  

Throughout the 2023 RA, delegates in Orlando will join forces with their Florida colleagues and allies to support inclusive classrooms and teaching the truth. At a Freedom to Learn rally on July 5, NEA President Becky Pringle and FEA President Andrew Spar will be joined by speakers representing local and national racial and social justice organizations to demand an end to book bans and the politicizing of public education.  

“Our students must be free to learn, free to read, and free to be who they are,” Pringle said at a recent Freedom to Learn Day of Action. “It is unconscionable that we have been forced to come together to speak out against politicians who want to prevent educators from upholding our responsibility to teach the truth. We are disgusted and outraged. But we aren’t just angry. We are organizing. We aren’t just angry. We are taking action.” 

Pre-RA Highlights 

Prior to the RA, the Annual Meeting will kick off with NEA’s Aspiring Educator (AE) Conference, held June 28-30, where the next generation of educators will learn and plan together to be advocates for their future profession. At the close of the three-day conference, AE members will elect a new program chair. 

The 2023 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting will be held June 29-30. Attendees will establish legislative and political action goals and celebrate winners of annual communications and distinguished service awards   

The Conference on Racial and Social Justice, held June 29-July 1, will address the fundamental issues of equity and social justice facing public education and explore ways to build community across all identities and perspectives. NEA will acknowledge 10 outstanding social justice champions at its Human and Civil Rights Awards ceremony on July 2. 

Education Leaders at the Podium 

NEA President Becky Pringle will open the four-day RA on July 3 with her keynote address.  (Follow President Pringle throughout the convention at @BeckyPringle.)   

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will also address the delegates on opening day. Secretary Cardona has been a vocal advocate for inclusive classrooms, higher educator salaries, and college affordability and accessibility. Cardona has led the Department of Education during a time when U.S. schools have benefitted from the nearly $170 billion set aside by the American Rescue Plan—the single largest-ever investment in education funding.   

The RA will also hear from 2023 National Teacher of the Year Rebecka Peterson and Education Support Professional of the Year Pamella Johnson. A behavioral interventionist in Washington, Johnson uses her skills and expertise to ensure her students’ emotional, social, and academic needs are met. Additionally, Johnson has used her platform at her high school and as a member of NEA to fight for equity-based practices in public education and her community. A high school math teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Peterson believes in storytelling and uses her platform as a teacher and an internet persona to highlight the beauty in everyday life. Rebecka is also passionate about equity and makes her lessons accessible to all.  

Disability justice will be in the spotlight on the second day of the RA, when 14-year-old disability rights activist Helena Donato-Sapp will address the Assembly on why we must all work to end disability discrimination.  

Follow all the latest RA news at and #NEARA.

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