SEATTLE—A top American Federation of Teachers official toured Seattle-and Tacoma-area schools today, visiting school sign language interpreters, early childhood educators and an award-winning green schools program as part of a coast-to-coast back-to-school tour of schools making a difference in the lives of students despite education budget cuts and other challenges.
“Education budgets are being slashed everywhere, but the educators in Washington state never let their kids down,” said AFT Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson. “Despite the distractions, teachers and other school staff continue to give their all to their students.”
Johnson—who was joined on the tour by AFT Washington President Sandra Schroeder, principals, and state education and school district officials—met with sign language interpreters at Tacoma’s Mount Tahoma High School. The interpreters must be knowledgeable about the subjects that the deaf students, who are mainstreamed in regular classrooms, are taking. “Tahoma makes sure that all students receive a quality education, and these interpreters are just one of many examples of why this school is so successful,” Johnson said.
At Scenic Hill Elementary School in Kent, head custodian Ginger Ott described her award-winning lunchtime recycling program, where students separate and sort recyclable materials from lunch trays. The school’s recycling rate jumped from 12 percent to 48 percent, and Scenic Hill is the first school to complete level three of King County’s Green Schools program. “The staff and students are working together on an environmental project that’s making a difference not only for Kent but for our planet,” Johnson said.
Johnson also met with early childhood educators and others at the Community Day Center for Children in Seattle, where they discussed the state’s application for the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, which could mean as much as $60 million in additional resources for early childhood programs. Johnson emphasized that the application must include a robust section on workforce development for the staff, who will be responsible for implementing the plan.
The AFT’s “Making a Difference Every Day” back-to-school tour includes pre-K to higher education stops from coast to coast, highlighting approaches that are sustainable, are scalable and will help all kids succeed. The tour includes stops in Charleston and McDowell County, W.Va.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Hartford, Conn.; Tacoma and Seattle, Wash.; Detroit; Austin, Texas; and Long Island, N.Y.
For stories and photos of the “Making a Difference Every Day” tour, see: www.aft.org/difference.