News in Brief

ILLUMINATING “A DARK TURNING POINT”

Vigil for CharlottesvilleThe deadly, hate-fueled events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the summer prompted a strong call for tolerance and justice from AFT members and leaders. Around the country, AFT members took part in candlelight vigils and rallies (like the one shown below in Washington, D.C.) that were cosponsored by the union, Indivisible, and other organizations committed to safety, tolerance, and justice. AFT President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker described the recent high-profile mobilization of white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups as “a dark turning point in America.” The AFT leaders also sharply criticized President Donald Trump for shirking the moral responsibilities of his office. The union is helping frontline educators support students through its online resource Share My Lesson, which is offering free lessons on civil rights, bullying, and coping with traumatic events.

DETROIT SCHOOLS KEEP DOORS OPEN

In a victory for community control of education, 24 Detroit schools threatened with closure have been granted a reprieve after Michigan and the Detroit school board signed a three-year “partnership agreement.” The move gives schools leeway to form their own leadership teams and get help from local universities, says Ruby Newbold, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees and an AFT vice president.

PARTNERING FOR APPRENTICESHIPS

The AFT and North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) are forging a nationwide partnership to promote apprenticeships. The effort will also develop and distribute information to guidance counselors aimed at advancing career and technical education (CTE). The two groups, representing millions of members across the education and trade sectors, will collaborate in the drafting of K–12  lesson plans and other resources. This partnership will help spread the word to U.S. high school students about the direct link between CTE and career opportunities, and the program will be informed by NABTU’s Multi-Craft Core Curriculum (MC3).

A SUMMER OF TEXAS PRIDE

AFT members, affiliates, and community partners across Texas played a major role in turning back a slew of state legislative proposals that would have undercut teacher rights and public education. Among the proposals introduced at the urging of Gov. Greg Abbott during a special summer session were bills to eliminate educators’ right to have union dues deducted from payroll and to divert state funding from public schools to private or charter schools through vouchers for special education. Also at issue was a “bathroom bill” targeting the rights of transgender students, and an overhaul of the process for property appraisals and tax rates that would further cripple districts’ ability to fund public education. The measures were rejected by a bipartisan majority of lawmakers, after spirited opposition from AFT members partnering with faith leaders, parent organizations, school board members, and administrators.

Separately, AFT members and affiliates have stepped up to the historic challenge of helping colleagues cope with the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, and the AFT’s disaster relief fund is directly supporting members and communities in need. To contribute, visit www.aft.org/disaster-relief-fund.

DEVOS WALKS BACK STUDENT LOAN PROTECTIONS

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are drawing fire for rolling back policies and rules to protect student loan borrowers. The Education Department “has withdrawn, delayed, or announced plans to revamp” more than six federal student aid protections crafted under the Obama administration, the Washington Post reports. The changes signal the Trump administration’s misguided plan to completely overhaul such protections.

HISTORY IN PUERTO RICO

Puerto Rico voteThe Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR), the union representing more than 40,000 Puerto Rican educators, voted in August to affiliate with the AFT. The move will bolster the fight against privatization in Puerto Rico and strengthen public education and economic opportunity for its people. Puerto Rico is facing a $70 billion debt crisis that has led to 60,000 fewer students in the school system, tens of thousands of people leaving the island, the closure of 164 neighborhood public schools, and the loss of benefits and retirement security for teachers and public employees. “With the AFT, we can work hand in hand to improve our working conditions and reclaim all that has been denied to us,” said AMPR President Aida Diaz.

American Educator, Fall 2017
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