NUEA Awards Four Scholarships

Three students from the Naperville area received scholarships from the Naperville Unit Education Association (NUEA) in the amount of $1500 each.  The NUEA annually gives three scholarships to high school seniors who are children of NUEA members.  Scholarships are awarded based on extracurricular participation and contributions to the community.  These scholarships were awarded in May, 2024.

The scholarship recipients are Grace Brady from Nequa Valley High School, Lucas Moen from Naperville Central High School, and Eliana Nungaray from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA).

A fourth scholarship of $1500 was awarded to a current college junior or senior who is entering into the field of education. The student must be the child of an NUEA member to be eligible to receive the scholarship. This year’s winner is Grace Lueken from Loyola University.

The NUEA scholarships were created by certified staff in District 203 through their union to recognize outstanding contributions among area high school seniors and college students.  The scholarships are funded by member dues and represent a small portion of the local support NUEA provides the community through scholarships, volunteerism, and charitable giving.

Grace Brady
Grace Brady plans to major in Sustainability in Food & Environmental Systems at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign this fall. Grace is winner of the 2024 Building Leadership Around Sustainable Transformation contest and has initiated an Illinois bill to require climate change education in all Illinois public schools, which just passed the general assembly and is awaiting the governor’s signature.  As the daughter of two educators, she is a strong supporter of the NUEA, the IEA, and the NEA. 

While at Nequa Valley High School, Grace participated in many extracurricular events, including the Naperville Sustainability Taskforce (NEST) and the Art Honor Society.  She was also a member of the French Honor Society, where she helped plan several service learning opportunities.  

Outside of school, Grace worked as an intern at Accelerate Climate Solutions, where she built their website, conducted research, and organized community events.  She also volunteered for Feed My Starving Children, participated in the Illinois Waterway Cleanup initiative, and helped paint holiday windows for local businesses.  She worked extensively with Rep. Janet Yang-Rohr to develop a bill to guarantee the right of students to contact legislators.  

Lucas Moen
Luke Moen will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he will major in Interdisciplinary Health on a pre-med track.  While a student at Naperville Central High School, Luke prioritized his involvement in school activities, such as the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) his junior year, Business Professionals of America (BPA) his senior year, and National Honors Society his junior and senior years.  As an athlete, Luke participated on the wrestling team for three years.  

Luke also worked hard in community-related services.  He was the Vice-President and Philanthropy Chairman of the Young Men’s Service League (YMSL).  He also was an active photographer and videographer, as well as a member of the Saint Elizabeth Seton Parish.

Luke particularly benefitted by becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  The training was extensive, requiring over 120 hours of coursework.  Despite the long hours and hard work at a local nursing home, Luke found his passion.  He states, “…caring for those around me fills me with so much pride that it’s nearly indescribable.”  Luke has made a huge difference in the community through his actions.

Eliana Nungaray
This fall, Ellie will be attending Stony Brook University with a major in Marine Science.  Ellie is an active participant in athletics, music, and academic activities at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA).  By balancing all three areas, Ellie found success as a student.

As an athlete, she has played soccer for the Team Chicago Soccer Club, Evolution Soccer Club, and the IMSA team, while also serving as a manager for the boy’s soccer team at IMSA in 2022.  As a musician, Ellie has played violin for three seasons in the prestigious Naperville Youth Symphony Orchestra.  And as an academian, Ellie has worked at IMSA as a writing center tutor, a teacher assistant for the STEMbassadors program, and a mentor for the Girls IN2 STEM program.  

Outside of school, Ellie has worked as an intern for the Field Museum of Natural History Mammal and Education Department.  She conducted research on the impact of UV filters on freshwater algae.  She also worked as a Parairie Volunteer for the Forest Preserve District of Will Country.  Ellie’s activities and research have made a major contribution toward benefitting the lives of Illinois residents.

Future in Education Award Winner Grace Lueken
Grace just finished her junior year at Loyola University Chicago.  She is majoring in Secondary Education with an emphasis on History.  Grace noted that the Social Sciences are becoming increasingly politicized.  As a result, teachers must be aware of implicit biases so that all voices may be heard and historical movements may be discussed with honesty and integrity.  Grace’s plan to help overcome these challenges is to teach students how to interpret and analyze primary and secondary sources to help them identify biases and think critically about the topic at hand.

Grace credits District 203 teachers in helping her develop her own critical-thinking skills.  She states that Naperville Central teachers gave her the foundation to help her develop her ability to analyze and organize information meaningfully.  They helped her craft her communication skills so that she could share her perspectives with others clearly and concisely.  She is a passionate and articulate advocate for marginalized people and, as such, will make an excellent history teacher when she completes her college career.  

About the NUEA

The NUEA is the association of 1400 certified staff members who work in Naperville School District 203.  They are a unified voice advocating for students and the teaching profession.  Led by President Ross Berkley, they work with the community, administration, students, and parents in District 203 to help provide the best educational experience possible to residents of Naperville, Bolingbrook, and Lisle with District 203.

Undo Tier 2

If you are an education employee hired after Jan. 1, 2011, you are enrolled in Tier Two of either the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) or the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). In a nutshell, this means you have to work until age 67 to retire with your full benefits. Your peers hired prior to this date only have to work until age 55, if they have 35 years of service. There are also drastic differences in the salary your retirement income will be based upon and on the cost-of-living adjustments your pension earns post-retirement. We believe Tier 2 is a major flaw in our pension system, and it is causing many to switch careers or choose not to begin a career in education in the first place. 

As you know, educators in TRS and SURS do not pay into Social Security. Federal law allows government agencies to do this, as long as the benefits those agencies offer are at least equal to what Social Security pays, a law known as the “Safe Harbor” provision. There are real concerns that the current Tier Two system for these educators will violate the Safe Harbor provision this year, which could trigger financial repercussions for the state of Illinois. We are trying to change this and have filed legislation (Senate Bill 2024) to do so. We will be needing your help. 

For more information, see below, and watch for opportunities to take action. 

Get the Facts

IEA Reports on the State of Education

The Illinois Education Association released the results from its annual State of Education survey. 1000 Illinois residents were polled in January, 2024, about their views on education in Illinois. The participants were chosen randomly, and the poll has a 95% confidence rate.

The survey found that the public supports the following solutions toward making education better in Illinois:

  • More funding for schools, teachers, and paraprofessionals
  • Ensuring fair benefits for retirement
  • Investment in mental health and making schools safer
  • Students with special needs having the resources they need to succeed
  • Teachers and parents leading in the classroom without input from politicians.

Illinoisans’ grades for local schools have improved and continue to outpace statewide and national equivalents. The pubic supports policies that support school employees. Illinoisans have strong feelings about the challenges facing education and educators today, especially with questions regarding book bans and Critical Race Theory.

For the press release and full results of the survey, please visit the IEA State of Education website.

JB Addresses NUEA Delegates

Thursday, March 14, 2024 – The Illinois Education Association begin its Representative Assembly (RA) in Rosemont with an address from governor JB Pritzker. During his address, Pritzker offered his support to all educators, including certified staff members and Education Support Personnel (ESP’s).

Pritzker also highlighted the following achievements under his tenure as governor:

  • Increased education funding by $1.7 billion
  • Dedicated $5 million toward the Teacher Vacancy Program, resulting in adding 5384 new teachers to public schools in Illinois
  • Tripled scholarship for new teachers
  • Quadrupled the teacher minimum wage
  • Increased pension contributions every year
  • In 2023, US News and World Report recognized Illinois high school students as #2 in the nation for college readiness.
  • In 2023, CNBC named Illinois as the #2 best state overall in education quality.
  • Illinois has the highest graduation rate in 13 years.
  • Teacher retention is at an all time high.

The Naperville Unit Education Association has 15 delegates attending the RA out of a total of 1032 delegates in attendance. Special thank you to Gov. Pritzker for addressing our members and for continuing to advocate for our staff and our students.

Judges Visit NUEA RA

Two local judges addressed NUEA building reps and the Executive Board at their February representative assembly meeting. Joe Hettel is currently running for Appellate Justice in the Third District and Jennifer Barron is running for DuPage County Judge in the 18th Judicial Circuit. Both candidates are currently running in contested primary elections.

They spoke about how recent changes to the appointment process by the Supreme Court have placed more experienced judges into positions for which they are most qualified, rather than simply relying on cronyism to fill judicial vacancies. Both Hettle and Barron were appointed to their positions by the Illinois Supreme Court, and they are now running to remain in those positions.

Hettel spent his career defending women’s rights and protecting children. He values compassion and common sense, and has the experience to do the job well. Barron is endorsed by Personal PAC, which is Illinois’ leading pro-choice organization. She is an active leader in District 204, where she served as PTA President at Owen and Still, and she still serves on the board for the Indian Prarie Educational Foundation.

NUEA does not take a formal position in judicial primaries, but many other labor organizations have endorsed Hettel and Barron.

Time to Fix the Broken Tier 2 Pension System in Illinois

The Tier 2 pension system affects ALL public educators (teachers, education support professionals and higher ed) who started employment on or after Jan. 1, 2011. In this video, IEA member Jessica Ward breaks it down perfectly for teachers, who pay into TRS. Fixing the Tier 2 pension system for all educators–participating in TRS, IMRF and SURS–is our union’s #1 priority for the Spring legislative session. For more info on Tier 2, check out our fact sheet: bit.ly/Tier2FactSheet

Tier 2 pensions are unfair, inequitable and undermine the retirement funds of educators that first started teaching after 2010. Teachers shouldn’t have to work until they are 67 years old to access their full retirement. We should fix Tier 2 because it’s the right thing to do and it would also mean making strides in addressing the teacher shortage crisis. This week, IEA members testified in front of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee to fight the system that serves to divide our union and find solutions. The IEA was joined by the IFT, AFSCME Council 31 and IL AFL-CIO. Thank you to our members for advocating for a Tier 2 fix and to our lawmakers for hearing our concerns.For more information on Tier 1 and Tier 2.

WEP and GPO restrictions are not fair to our members!

More than 2.5 million Americans, including many educators, have their social security benefits reduced–or lose them entirely– due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). That is not fair!

What is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)? ESP members qualify for social security. While Illinois teachers & higher ed members do not qualify, the reality is that some of them work second jobs. WEP reduces the ss benefits teachers & higher ed members earn from those jobs.

What is the Government Pension Offset (GPO)? The GPO reduces–or eliminates–the social security spousal or survivor benefits. This means if you are an educator who loses a spouse, you could see your survivor benefits drastically reduced or eliminated entirely.

NEA has created an action page to contact your representative and tell them to stop unfair social security penalties. We need to FULLY REPEAL GPO and WEP!

NEA Leadership Summit

Registration for the 2024 NEA National Leadership Summit is NOW OPEN! Join us March 1-3 in Chicago. This year’s theme: Education. Democracy. Freedom. Our Right! Our Responsibility! The NEA National Leadership Summit is designed to develop activist leaders and prepare them with the knowledge and skills needed to lead thriving locals. Open to ALL members, regardless of experience level.

NUEA