Will George Floyd's birthday be commemorated? Teacher's union calls for 'day of action'

National Education Association lists plan to mark October 14 as 'a national day of action' and teach students about 'structural racism and opression'

                            Will George Floyd's birthday be commemorated? Teacher's union calls for 'day of action'
Balloons decorate a memorial site for George Floyd as people prepare to celebrate his birthday on October 14, 2020, in Minneapolis (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The National Education Association (NEA), the largest teacher's association in the US has called for George Floyd's birthday on October 14 to be marked as a "day of action." The plan was unveiled on the NEA's website, under new business item 39. That page also lists several other controversial actions, including adopting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the 1619 project in American schools.

Educational reform, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement has been a highly controversial topic in the US. In May, a New York father pulled his daughter out of a private school over their CRT curriculum, and called it "ridiculous". In June, another father in Maine was banned from his daughter's graduation after he called CRT "indoctrination". Days after that, an NJ school teacher quit a private school claiming the school was using CRT to create a “hostile culture of conformity and fear”.


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Critical Race Theory: Full list of states that have banned teaching of CRT

The focus on CRT gained massive prominence after the death of Floyd, with his killer Derek Chauvin, a White former cop, recently being sentenced to a landmark 22 plus years in jail. The death of Floyd has brought a renewed focus on racism in the US and now the NEA wants to use him as the catalyst for the greater adoption of race-based education in the country.

Protesters gather in Manhattan’s Foley Square to protest the recent death of George Floyd on May 29, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Will Floyd's birthday be commemorated?

According to the NEA's plans, the union will join with Black Lives Matter at School and the Zinn Education Project for a rally on October 14. It is unclear if the rally will be a national event or localized to one state. Specifics were not listed out on the website, but merely that the item was adopted. The website says the rally will be used "as a national day of action to teach lessons about structural racism and oppression."

The website says the National Day of Action will be sent to "all its members", so it seems likely that the union wants it to be a nationwide event. The NEA represents 3 million public school employees in all 50 states with its members spanning 14,000 local communities. The adoption of October 14 will be followed by another day of action that recognizes "and honor lives taken such as Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, and others," the website adds.

It's unclear how the NEA plans to use this day of action, further details are awaited. However, it appears as if the day of action won't take place in 2021 due to budget constraints. "This item cannot be accomplished with current staff and resources under the proposed Modified 2021-2022 Strategic Plan and Budget. It would cost an additional $127,600," the page concluded. 

Attendees at the NEA's 95th Representative Assembly in Washington DC, on July 4, 2016. (Utah Educational Association)

Another challenge the NEA faces is getting into action its plan to adopt CRT in curriculum around the nation. As of June, 26 states have either introduced or announced plans to introduce bills limiting the teaching of CRT in schools. Nines states have already imposed complete bans on CRT. Despite that challenge, the NEA says it will "publicly convey its support for the accurate and honest teaching of social studies topics, including truthful and age-appropriate accountings of unpleasant aspects of American history."

Along with that, the union announced it will "share and publicize information already available CRT -- what it is and what it is not; have a team of staffers for members who want to learn more and fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric." For now, though, all these plans appear to be stalled over the lack of funds. The NEA did not detail how it plans to raise the additional $127,000 required to implement the changes.

The commemoration of Floyd's birthday appears to be part of an already existing movement. In 2020, Minneapolis gathered at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to celebrate what would have been Floyd's 47th birthday. It wasn't the only city to do so. Milwaukee Artists for Racial Justice held a celebration for Floyd's birthday in Milwaukee in 2020 as well. On June 25, there were celebrations in Washington DC and Cleveland for Tamir Rice's birthday as well, inspired by the celebration around Floyd. The life and death of Floyd have sparked a massive change in the US, which makes it a good vehicle for the NEA to use to continue its push for justice and equality.  

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