Florida Rises Up For Public Education
The AFT’s Fund Our Future movement is gaining momentum, with educators turning out by the thousands to win public school funding in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia. In January, the Florida Education Association led 15,000 public school supporters at a powerful and historic rally at the state Capitol, demanding more funds for public schools and amplifying the needs of their students. “This is a ‘which side are you on?’ moment,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “It’s time to make public schools the schools our children deserve—and the schools where our educators have the tools and respect they need for our kids to soar.” Read more here.
Defending College Students and Public Education from DeVos
The AFT is part of a landmark lawsuit suing the Trump administration for stripping protections from students at for-profit and career college programs. American Federation of Teachers et al. v. DeVos, filed in federal district court in January, targets the illegal repeal of the “gainful employment” rule, a measure that requires colleges to show that their students have found stable employment after graduation. The suit accuses Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of violating federal law by pushing through a repeal riddled with errors, putting students at the mercy of for-profit schools with a history of leaving borrowers with worthless degrees and tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Another case could have dire consequences for K–12 public education. In February, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which could mandate the use of vouchers for religious schools across the United States. Not only is this case a direct threat to the separation of church and state and religious freedom, it is an assault on public education bankrolled by wealthy right-wing donors. “Make no mistake, if a majority of the justices side with the petitioners, the Supreme Court will be responsible for unleashing a virtual earthquake in this country that threatens both religious liberty and public education,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. The AFT is among dozens of education, religious, and civil rights organizations and legal experts—along with 10 states—that have filed amicus briefs to protect the ban on religious school vouchers. Read more here and here.
Members Respond to Crisis in Puerto Rico
The recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico have done terrible damage. But they can’t shake our determination to be there for our fellow members in the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico—even if the federal government has failed them so far. AFT members and partners have raised more than $50,000 and donated necessities, including first-aid kits, tents, and solar-powered lights, being delivered at four ports by members of the Seafarers International Union. The tents and sidewalls, manufactured in America and provided by the Wisconsin-based company American Tent, will provide temporary classrooms for students and educators in some of the hardest-hit areas in the island’s south, where thousands of homes, schools, and commercial buildings were destroyed and damaged. We’ve heard what a difference these supports are making—and we won’t stop. Of course, we also will continue to urge the massive relief effort we should be seeing from the federal government. Read more here.
Success with Community Schools
A new study of New York City’s community schools program, Illustrating the Promise of Community Schools: An Assessment of the Impact of the New York City Community Schools Initiative, shows the program’s success in improving student attendance, discipline, and grade promotion. The RAND Corporation studied 113 schools over the course of three years and measured their results against similar schools that were not in the program. Among the findings were “a reduction in disciplinary incidents for elementary and middle school students” and “a positive impact on credit accumulation for high school students.” The United Federation of Teachers has a network of 31 schools in its successful United Community Schools program. Read more here.