LOS ANGELES — New Yorkers were at the forefront today at the American Federation of Teachers' national convention, which runs through Monday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Several Empire State parents and community activists spoke from the convention floor about their efforts to reclaim the promise of public education for all New York children. Speakers included acclaimed actor Cynthia Nixon and her wife Christine Marinoni, who serves as a special adviser for community partnerships for the New York City Department of Education, and Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education. In addition, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke to the convention via video, and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew addressed the crowd.
On Friday, AFT President Randi Weingarten launched the convention from her home delegation, the UFT, and talked in her speech about how the UFT, together with the Professional Staff Congress, which represents faculty and staff at the City University of New York, has worked with the community to fight for teachers, students and parents.
"In New York City, the UFT's new contract puts students' needs and teachers' voices front and center. Schools have the flexibility to innovate, and educators have access to career ladders. And they secured raises that the former mayor tried his damnedest to withhold," Weingarten said. "In New York, the community engagement of the UFT and the Professional Staff Congress is so embedded that every democratic candidate in the 2013 mayoral election put a commitment to public education—pre-K through 16—in their platforms. Labor and community organizers built on that."
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who is an AFT vice president, also commented on the mayoral race that resulted in the election of Bill de Blasio.
"We now have a mayor in New York City—Bill de Blasio—he is a partner to every teacher in New York, and he is a partner to every teacher in the United States of America," Mulgrew said.
In his video address, de Blasio spoke about his support for public education in the city.
"I stand with you in your theme of reclaiming the promise because that is what we're trying to do in New York City," he said. "The [UFT] contract is a testament to what we can achieve when people of good will work together."
Zakiyah Ansari spoke about how she, as the mother of eight children, has spent the past 14 years working to transform New York's public schools, and how de Blasio has ushered in a new era for public education.
"We need to make sure this works. It's not enough to say that we are going to do it," Ansari said. "We can't let up—we have to stay involved, we have to stay engaged. Our children can't wait any more."
Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni also have been tireless advocates for New York City's teachers, students and families. They spoke about their efforts to secure equitable funding for New York City schools and to fight against school closure and privatization.
"We're at the beginning of a whole new era of change in our public schools—redefining education reform," Marinoni said.
"It is time to take back our schools. The moment has arrived," Nixon said.
Ansari will participate in a press conference regarding the importance of due process for educators on Monday, July 14, at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. Eastern time). Press may dial in at 855-865-8879.