FUND OUR FUTURE
In March, the AFT announced a sweeping campaign to fund the future of American public education. Amid the continuing wave of teacher activism protesting education disinvestment, the Fund Our Future initiative aims to take the teachers’ megaphone into Congress, statehouses, and communities nationwide.
Launched by AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFT leaders across the country, this ambitious new deal for public schools and colleges zeros in on the concrete steps necessary to:
- Reverse the economic austerity masquerading as reform that has stripped support from K–12 and higher education, hurting children and sending tuition and student debt skyrocketing.
- Recognize those states that have made commitments to fund our future, where the campaign will be to sustain and build on that investment.
- Fight for a national commitment to the programs that can provide necessary and equitable investment in public schools and universities across America.
Fund Our Future includes an array of community- and state-based legislative initiatives. And on the national level, we’re calling on Congress to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, increase investment in school infrastructure, secure operating funds at the national and state levels to counteract disinvestment in public colleges and universities, and forgive outstanding student loan debt under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Read more here.
RECOGNITION FOR SCHOOL SUPPORT STAFF
Thanks to the activism of our members, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs) will be recognized in a new federal awards program, the first of its kind to honor public school preK–12 support staff. Every year, the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) program will honor one classified employee to acknowledge the excellence shown by PSRPs nationwide. “What’s amazing about the passage of the RISE Act is that, in an era of deep political division, this bipartisan bill passed in the Senate unanimously,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “As a union, we’ve lobbied members of Congress and explained to them how important classified school staff are. This is the culmination of a tremendous effort by our members and leaders to raise the profile of some of the hardest-working people in our schools.” Learn more here.
REPORT SERIES ON TEACHER SHORTAGES, LOW PAY
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is on a roll with a new report series on the teaching profession. One report highlights the challenges schools face in hiring and retaining teachers—challenges that are even tougher in high-poverty schools. It shows the struggles of schools to fill vacancies created by high teacher turnover. Such struggles are made worse by the shrinking pool of applicants and the reduced number of college graduates with education degrees or those completing teacher preparation programs.
In another report, EPI found that the teacher pay gap has hit a record high—public school teachers were paid 21.4 percent less than similar workers last year. This wage “penalty” has a huge impact on entire communities, as it keeps highly qualified teachers away from the profession. “To promote children’s success in school, schools must retain credentialed teachers and ensure that teaching remains an attractive career option for college-bound students,” the report states. “Pay is an important component of retention and recruitment.” Read the reports here.
–THE AFT COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT