RECLAIMING THE PROMISE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION
High-quality public education is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right. Without the foundation a strong education provides, our other rights can never be fully realized. We believe in and stand ready to fight for public education because it is the means by which we help all children dream their dreams and achieve them.
All children—those who have abundant advantages, and those for whom every day is a struggle; those who worry about getting into a good college, and those who worry about their parents getting deported—deserve the opportunity to succeed. The people who work in schools help students build lives of great purpose and potential by instilling essential knowledge and skills, including critical reasoning, problem solving and the ability to work with others, and by promoting civic participation.
Public education is under assault by people who demand that we pursue austerity, polarization, privatization and de-professionalization. They call for cuts to funding for public education and then argue that public education is failing. They fixate on testing rather than enabling educators to teach in a way that is engaging and enriching. They emphasize sanctions instead of support, and shift responsibility onto the backs of teachers. They promote vouchers and charters as alternative "choices" and promote the theory that only a few will succeed.
We are at a critical moment when we must reclaim the promise of public education—not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as it can be—to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed. Americans across the country are waking up to the fact that decades of top-down edicts, mass school closures, privatization, attacks on collective bargaining, high-stakes student testing with sanctions instead of support for teachers, and other "market-oriented" education experiments haven't moved the needle in the right direction.
Reclaiming the promise of public education means fighting for great neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning. Reclaiming the promise means ensuring that teachers and school support staff are well-prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child. Reclaiming the promise means making sure our children have an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and the sciences. Reclaiming the promise means ensuring that children and their families have access to wraparound services that meet their social, emotional and health needs.
By uniting educators, parents, students and the community around this vision, and by collaborating to develop solutions that are best suited for our neighborhood schools, we will ensure that all kids have the opportunities they need and deserve and we will put the public back into public education. It will make every public school a place where parents want to send their kids, teachers want to teach and children want to learn. It will make our public schools the center of the community and fulfill their purpose as an anchor of our democracy; a gateway to racial, social and economic justice; and a propeller of our economy:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will:
- Proactively press forward this vision to reclaim the promise of public education by assisting state federations and local affiliates to mobilize and organize members and unite with the community to fight those who degrade public education;
- Engage our members and the community to fight for federal, state and local legislation, policies, funding and collective bargaining agreements to ensure our children have the great public schools they deserve; and
- Begin by encouraging our local affiliates to bring together educators, parents, students, civic leaders and community members by (1) holding open houses in fall 2013 to discuss mutual priorities and concerns, and to share the vision of what reclaiming the promise looks like in their community; and (2) mobilizing a public activity during Dec. 3-10, 2013, for the national week of action to reclaim the promise.
This is a living document that must be continuously informed by the collective wisdom of our members, our affiliates and our community partners.