05/05/2010

'Pink Hearts' Campaign Attracts Attention Across Country

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Pink was the color of the day as AFT members around the country wore pink hearts to work on May 4, National Teacher Day, as part of the AFT's "Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips" campaign.

In addition to national coverage—from media outlets such as USA Today, ABC News, the Christian Science Monitor and Education Daily—of the AFT's Capitol Hill press conference to officially launch the campaign (see earlier story), there was significant local news coverage in places where AFT affiliates were especially visible in promoting the campaign. A collection of press releases and news reports is available online (click on "Media resources" at the bottom right of the campaign webpage).

Pink Hearts Not Pink Slips ParticipantOn the state level, the AFT's Mississippi affiliate held a press conference to highlight the damaging impact of education cuts in that state and the need for federal funds to help alleviate some of the financial pressures. "It's really grim at this point, because we have had to let teachers go," said Nancy Kent, president of AFT Mississippi. "We have cut programs that were important."

One AFT local that attracted widespread media coverage was the Broward Teachers Union in Florida, which is facing the possible loss of as many as 1,000 teacher positions. Nearly 500 nonteaching staff already have been laid off. "This is just one of the many activities that the BTU is sponsoring to draw attention to the devastating cuts facing Broward schools, employees and students," BTU president and AFT vice president Pat Santeramo said of the Pink Hearts effort. "This isn't just about saving jobs; it's about developing smart solutions to save our schools for students."

Pink Hearts Not Pink Slips ParticipantsThe necessity for the Pink Hearts campaign was underscored by the American Association of School Administrators' new survey of school districts, in which 82 percent of the districts surveyed said they will cut jobs in the next school year. Based on that survey, AASA estimates that the national total of education job cuts for next year will be around 275,000.

The May 4 kickoff is just the beginning of what will be an ongoing effort to win passage of legislation, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), that would allocate $23 billion to states and districts to prevent education layoffs. The AFT is encouraging members to sign the online petition in support of the legislation.

The union's special Pink Hearts Facebook page also has generated lots of activity and enthusiasm. "Most of the staff members in my two buildings (middle school and high school) wore their pink hearts today and it was wonderful to see," Teri wrote. "There was one gentleman who didn't want to wear the heart, but as a show of support, he wore his pink shirt." From Matthew: "I wore my pink heart AND my pink shirt today. ... The kids couldn't stop asking WHY???" Gloria wrote: "I'm retired and am wearing my heart ... and blabbing all over Facebook about it." And from Sharon: "My school wore the hearts and pink shirts today!"

We are also collecting photos of members wearing pink hearts to display on the "Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips" website.

May 5, 2010