AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions

UNITING WITH STUDENTS FOR EDUCATIONAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE

WHEREAS, attacks on public education ultimately harm our students the most; and

WHEREAS, student organizations have historically and recently led struggles for educational opportunity and economic justice, as they did in 2010 in Wisconsin and 2011 in California and New York with the beginnings of the Occupy Education movement, where they provided the opening for broader labor and social justice struggles; and

WHEREAS, decades of legislative cuts to state higher education budgets have transferred more and more of the burden for financing higher education on students and their families via higher tuition and fees; and

WHEREAS, the escalating cost of higher education is making college less affordable and accessible to a growing number of students, especially students of color, low-income students and first-generation college students; and

WHEREAS, these escalating costs are also fueling a massive amount of student loan debt—a figure which has just surpassed $1 trillion—placing the individual lives of indebted college graduates and of our collective economic recovery in jeopardy; and

WHEREAS, currently, 66 percent of students who earn a bachelor's degree take out loans to finance their education; and

WHEREAS, the average student debt for all borrowers in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent of borrowers owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000; and

WHEREAS, the economic outlook and job prospects for recent graduates is such that many students have difficulty paying back these loans: Currently, payments are being made on only 38 percent of the balance of federal student loans, and nearly 10 percent of borrowers who started repayment in 2009 defaulted within two years; and

WHEREAS, while these attacks on public higher education are occurring, other steps are being taken, such as voter identification bills, that will limit the ability of young people to participate in the political process and have a voice about their education and other issues that matter to them; and

WHEREAS, student groups, higher education unions and their community allies must work together to ensure that a high-quality higher education remains accessible and affordable to those who seek it; and

WHEREAS, calls for continuing and intensifying austerity measures in higher education—measures that ultimately increase the cost of higher education for students—are wrongfully justified as responses to rising faculty and staff compensation in higher education; and

WHEREAS, higher education workers and their unions can play an important role in supporting student activists in their struggles for equity and justice in higher education; and

WHEREAS, alliances with student groups can not only lead to progress on issues in the short term, they can also provide a foundation upon which we can build deep and sustainable political alliances for lasting social change:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will work to broaden and deepen its work with student organizations around college affordability and accessibility, student debt, student voter engagement and other issues of common concern; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will identify ways in which it can support student organizing and enter into genuine partnerships with student groups; and

RESOLVED, that through the course of this work, the AFT will educate student organizations about how attacks on labor unions, public services and education impact students; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will encourage its state and local affiliates to seek out opportunities to work with state and locally-based student organizations to work together on issues of common concern; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will provide resources to state and local affiliates to assist them in reaching out to student organizations and developing these relationships.


(2012)