PORTLAND, Ore.—As part of a back-to-school tour across the country, the president of the American Federation of Teachers today visited two Portland-area public schools that focus on sustainable design and community partnerships, spoke with Portland Community College nurse educators, and addressed Oregon AFL-CIO leaders on education and healthcare reform.
AFT President Randi Weingarten visited Portland Public Schools’ Rosa Parks Elementary School to see its pioneering "green" design and some of the school’s community services. She also stopped at Lake Grove Elementary School in the Lake Oswego Public District to see the school’s first student garden community project and its child care center. At both schools, Weingarten also met with classified school support staff, who are AFT members.
"Many Portland-area public schools could be models for other cities looking at ways to design sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings and have community-centered programs at the school site, Weingarten said. "Lake Grove’s student garden is a great way to teach students about science and the importance of working with the community." The AFT’s "Building Minds, Minding Buildings" campaign promotes safe, clean and energy-efficient school environments that are conducive to learning and teaching.
At Portland Community College’s Sylvania campus—where the AFT represents faculty and classified employees—nurse educators spoke with Weingarten about the shortage of nursing instructors and classroom seats to accommodate the growing interest in nursing schools. "Safe staffing levels are key to improved patient care but it can’t happen unless there are more nursing graduates," Weingarten said.
Weingarten also visited with nurses and other health professionals, who are AFT members, at Sunnyside Hospital.
The AFT president told the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board during a luncheon speech that the nation’s education and healthcare systems must be improved the right way.
"Education reform requires programs that are good for kids and fair to teachers and school staff. This means the focus must be on what I call the ‘four C’s’—children, community, collaboration and curriculum," she said. "Healthcare reform means that quality, affordable healthcare should be accessible to all. Even those of us fortunate enough to have access to quality care are affected by the spiraling costs. Our economy can’t be healthy until we address this issue."
Weingarten said the AFT is fighting for healthcare reform that includes a comprehensive public-option plan, lower healthcare costs, safe staffing levels in healthcare facilities and no new taxes on employer-provided health insurance.
The AFT tour, which already has stopped in St. Louis, Houston and Baltimore, continues in San Francisco (Sept. 4); Kenmore, N.Y. (Sept. 8); Boston (Sept. 9); and Philadelphia (Sept. 10).
To read stories, view photos and watch videos from each stop along the road, go to www.aft.org/tour.