AFT Public Education, the union’s oldest and largest unit, encompasses the AFT Teachers division and the AFT Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRP) division. More than 1 million members strong, this unit has become a major force for preserving and strengthening a national commitment to reclaiming the promise of American education.
It all began nearly 100 years ago: A group of Chicago teachers, reasoning that theirs was a noble profession, organized themselves to share resources and build respect for the invaluable work they were doing. Those early efforts led to the birth of a national teachers union that has been in the vanguard of every major advancement in American public education ever since.
The AFT led the fight to desegregate public schools, pass the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and establish due-process laws and academic freedom for teachers around the nation. We have championed educational improvement for urban schools, students in poverty, students of color, English language learners and other historically disadvantaged groups while also advocating for improving the status of the teaching profession through fair compensation, participation in decisions impacting classrooms, and the right to collectively bargain.
The AFT has organized school and college support staff since the early 1930s, when the first PSRP affiliate, the Education Secretaries of Chicago, was founded. Today, the AFT PSRP division sets a foundation for high-quality education by supporting meaningful professional development, promoting health and safety in the workplace, and demonstrating the importance of a strong and just work ethic in a bully-free environment. Most important is its commitment to safe and welcoming schools for students who deserve high-quality food programs; reliable school buses; clean, secure buildings; efficiently run offices; and well-trained paraprofessional staff.
Under the leadership of AFT President Randi Weingarten, AFT Public Education divisions are embracing innovation, standing firm against reckless school closings, promoting the sensible and effective implementation of standards-based instruction, and working within the community to reclaim the promise of American education—a promise of equity, access and opportunity that can only be realized by harnessing the collective voice of the profession. Member support encompasses much of the work: Share My Lesson, a joint-venture between AFT and TES Connect, and its rich and growing resource base for both teachers and PSRPs; an array of teacher development and evaluation resources created by the AFT; nationally recognized professional development; and assistance with school and district improvement efforts are some of these major supports. At the same time, the AFT relies upon rank-and-file members to keep leadership connected to the challenges our public school students, teachers and support staff face every day.
The steering body for the teachers division is the AFT Teachers program and policy council. It includes nearly 60 representatives from local affiliates nationwide and meets throughout the year to discuss and align the work of the division with those issues that make up the national AFT mission. Its counterpart, the PSRP program and policy council, includes 28 leader members from around the country, who provide guidance and advice on new programs and services for PSRP members, helping to enrich the lives of members and students alike.