Calling for a "New American Compact" between educators and their communities, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-Huntington, gave a stirring speech to the RA delegates in Buffalo outlining his vision for America's energy independence and stronger public schools.
"I'm on a mission to green our schools," he said, citing solar panels on school roofs, classroom lighting and retrofitting buses as examples.
"The work to transform our energy culture and school funding are closely linked. Energy costs are the largest controllable costs in school budgets," he said.
He spoke against the failed policies of the past decade that led to cutting school budgets and raising taxes on working people while billions in oil profits were being shipped to Saudi Arabia, where the money was often used to fund schools promoting anti-American sentiments.
"Those people in Congress who don't support teachers managed to find $14 billion in tax breaks for oil billionaires," he said to one of several rounds of applause.
Israel visits schools every week. Seeing the good work in the classrooms, he is reminded "that the last people on earth we should scapegoat are teachers. Pink slips for teachers are not the key for America's future."
President Dick Iannuzzi proudly referred to Israel as "my congressman."
Israel's district includes all of the town of Huntington and parts of the towns of Babylon, Islip, and Smithtown in Suffolk County as well as part of the town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County.
"He has spent five terms trying to change our energy-consuming culture," Iannuzzi said.
Israel made his mission clear. "I'd rather govern in times that are tough and the challenges are great, because that is when I know I can make a difference," he told delegates.