News in Brief



American Educator Summer 2016

Educators, parents, students, and community activists gathered in nearly 80 cities on May 4 to hold rallies and early morning “walk-ins” at neighborhood public schools. The events, which were coordinated by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a national coalition that includes the AFT, showed support for educational justice and equity, particularly for schools serving low-income and working-class communities and neighborhoods of color. The day of action included more than twice as many cities as a similar action held in February. A recap of the day and field reports are available online.

A California appeals court on April 14 issued a unanimous reversal of a lower court decision in Vergara v. California. The appeals court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims that California’s workplace protections for teachers deprive poor and minority students of a high-quality education. While similar suits have been filed in New York and Minnesota, the AFT applauded the California appellate court for rejecting what AFT President Randi Weingarten labeled an “either/or” argument pitting students against teachers. As Weingarten explained, such an argument ignores the fact that opportunity for all students “starts with recruiting, retaining, and supporting teachers, not blaming educators for societal problems or stripping away their voice.”

The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves existing rules that require all schools in a district to receive comparable state and district funding. But the Department of Education appears to be pushing changes by using a separate part of the law—the “supplement-not-supplant” provision, which mandates that federal education funding for needy students should be provided in addition to, not instead of, state and local dollars. Concerns about the department’s draft arose in April when a committee of education stakeholders, including AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker, reviewed it. Ricker and others argued that the proposal must be revised to preserve flexibility at the state and local levels, to guard against unintended consequences in schools, and to preserve the will of Congress. How this issue gets resolved could have big implications, as AFT President Randi Weingarten writes.

Joined by students and supporters, 500 City College of San Francisco (CCSF) faculty members walked picket lines on April 27 in a one-day strike to protest the district administration’s unfair labor practices and the plan to reduce course offerings over the next few years by 26 percent. District spending on CCSF instructors, counselors, and librarians has declined 9 percent over a four-year period, while the budget for administrators has risen 29 percent. The faculty strike was the first in the eight-decade history of CCSF. Read more.

The Albert Shanker Institute sponsored a conference on April 8 in Washington, D.C., that offered a compelling case for schools to break out of the organizational “egg crate,” traditional school arrangements that isolate individual teachers in their classrooms. The meeting underscored the need to look at school systems in context, including the communities they serve, and to approach education reforms collaboratively. Featured presenters included Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, labor economist Kirabo Jackson of Northwestern University, Susan Moore Johnson of Harvard University, Phi Delta Kappa International CEO Joshua Starr, and Vivian Tseng of the William T. Grant Foundation. Literacy teacher and Meriden (Connecticut) Federation of Teachers President Erin Benham and AFT President Randi Weingarten highlighted the perspective of classroom teachers. Video and materials are available online.



American Educator Summer 2016

The AFT joined public employee and education unions and their pension funds to speak out this April at education publishing giant Pearson’s annual general meeting in London. The groups called for a review of the company’s business model, which pushes high-stakes testing in the United States and United Kingdom and school privatization in the developing world. AFT President Randi Weingarten presented a shareholder resolution, signed by more than 100 pension funds, labor unions, and individuals, highlighting the damaging effects of the high-stakes standardized tests that Pearson sells to school districts and its promotion of private and costly schools in the developing world. While the resolution ultimately was voted down, the stepped-up shareholder activism captured headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. This AFT short video captures the event.

American Educator, Summer 2016