WASHINGTON—The AFT executive council, meeting in Washington, D.C., last week to build on the union's work to strengthen public schools, healthcare and public services, unanimously passed a resolution calling for schools to be fixed, not closed, and bolstered the AFT's leadership by unanimously appointing National Federation of Nurses President Steve Rooney to serve on the council as an AFT vice president.
Following recent mass school closings in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and an increasing number of other cities, the AFT's resolution calls for a moratorium on mass school closures until the true impact of these closings can be properly assessed.The action also comes as a growing movement of parents, teachers, students and community members builds across the nation to demand that neighborhood public schools be invested in and fixed, not reflexively closed.
The resolution cites mounting evidence that mass school closure policies destabilize neighborhoods, creating a domino effect of destabilization; do not improve student achievement; contradict what parents, teachers and students want; and put children's safety at risk. It also cites evidence that claims of potential savings and the need to close underutilized schools are often exaggerated. The AFT's resolution highlights that these policies restrict the choice and voice of parents and are often designed to mask hidden political agendas to undermine and privatize public education. It also reaffirms the union's commitment to working with parents, students and community members across the country to develop a community-driven public school agenda.
"We need to fix schools, not mass close them and destabilize communities," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "What parents, teachers, students and community want is a high-quality public school in their neighborhood. Instead of reflexively closing schools, the powers that be need to be focused on working with parents and teachers to make every school a school where parents want to send their kids, teachers want to teach and kids want to learn."
The appointment of Rooney to the executive council follows the move by the 34,000-member National Federation of Nurses in February to affiliate with the AFT. Rooney, an intensive care nurse practicing at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., is also the current president of the Oregon Nurses Association.
"Steve is a relentless advocate for improving patient care and ensuring that care providers have the voice and tools they need to care for their patients and keep their communities safe and healthy," said Weingarten. "We are thrilled to have Steve's voice and expertise on the AFT executive council at this moment when the healthcare field is rapidly changing and as we work to implement the Affordable Care Act. Nurses work on the frontlines of patient care, and their voice must be heard as we work through these changes."