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HARRISBURG, PA (July 5, 2019) – Dolores McCracken, longtime public education advocate, union leader, and voice for students and educators everywhere, has received the prestigious NEA Friend of Education Award.
McCracken served as the president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association until her death on Nov. 13, 2018, following a brief battle with cancer. She received the award posthumously during the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly in Houston this week. She also received separately an NEA Human and Civil Rights Award for her decades of activism and commitment to equity in our schools.
In receiving the NEA Friend of Education Award, McCracken will join the ranks of Nobel-prize winner Malala Yousafzai, three former U.S. presidents, a Supreme Court justice, U.S. senators and representatives, governors, educators, journalists, and civil rights leaders.
“Dolores dedicated her life to advocating for great public schools, students, and the PSEA members she served and loved,” said PSEA President Rich Askey, who served alongside McCracken until her death last year. “She has left an amazing legacy for our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us. I can think of no better way to honor that legacy than with the NEA Friend of Education Award.”
McCracken was a local, region, and statewide PSEA leader for more than two decades, directing her talents and energy toward programs and initiatives that improved both public education and the lives and livelihoods of PSEA members.
McCracken was born in New York and raised in Philadelphia. After working for several years as a paralegal, she got involved in public education when her children entered elementary school, serving as the president of the Churchville Elementary Home and School Association. That experience propelled her into a nearly two-decade career in public education, working as a paraprofessional in a sixth-grade inclusion classroom in the Council Rock School District in Bucks County.
Throughout that time, McCracken took an active role in PSEA. She served as the president of her local association and later took on numerous other leadership positions in her PSEA region and statewide.
McCracken was elected PSEA treasurer in 2011, PSEA vice president in 2015, and in 2017, she became the first education support professional member to serve as PSEA president. She led the Association’s legislative and political programs, always focused on improving teaching and learning conditions in Pennsylvania’s public schools.
During her tenure, McCracken championed bipartisan legislation to promote school safety, reduce time students spend on standardized testing, and protect dedicated school support professionals from having their jobs subcontracted to for-profit companies. All those initiatives became law.
“Dolores worked tirelessly for positive change for our students, schools, and educators,” Askey said. “She strongly believed that our students were more than test scores, and that each one deserved a world-class education and opportunity at success. She strived to be the best she could be in all she did and inspired countless others to be their best, as well.
“Dolores listened to educators and support professionals. She respected opposing views, amplified diverse voices, and personally responded to members’ emails and calls. She traveled thousands of miles each year, visiting members in Pennsylvania schools and hospitals. She believed in the power of collective action and solidarity, always looking for solutions.”
The NEA Friend of Education Award recognizes a person or organization whose leadership, acts or support have significantly contributed to the improvement of American public education.
McCracken will join the ranks of such previous award recipients as Nobel-prize winners Malala Yousafzai and economist Paul Krugman, education policy writer and researcher Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, leaders of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and William Jefferson Clinton, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy.
An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 181,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.