Union Highlights


Randi Weingarten with Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer and AFT President Randi Weingarten.

On November 6, the American people sent two very important messages. First, at the federal level, they voted for a check and balance on President Donald Trump. Second, at the state level, they voted for leaders committed to high-quality public education, affordable healthcare, and workers’ rights.
In the months leading up to the midterms, AFT members knocked on doors and participated in phone banks, even for many of their own. Our members ran for office in more than 20 states to make sure elected leaders put students first.

Some key highlights include:

  • More than 300 AFT members ran for office, and more than 60 percent of them won.
  • AFT member Gretchen Whitmer and former AFT member Tim Walz won governor’s seats in Michigan and Minnesota.
  • When public education was on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly chose to invest in public schools and stand with teachers.

“Our values and aspirations were on the ballot,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, “and in district after district, voters like us turned out in droves and chose hope. We voted for funding for public education, for access to healthcare, for rebuilding infrastructure, and for finding solutions that make life better for all Americans.”


This summer, the AFT conducted a survey to determine the effects of student debt on AFT members who struggle financially. The results were overwhelming:

  • 97 percent  said student debt has increased stress in their lives.
  • 80 percent  have lost sleep over it.
  • 72 percent said it has strained family relationships.

We’ve seen the hardship caused by student debt, and we’re helping our members take action. Michelle Means, a teacher and mother of two, regularly reaches into her own pocket to provide urgently needed school supplies and snacks for her first-graders. Yet she is staggering under $60,000 in federal student loan debt thanks to misleading information and negligence from her loan servicer, Navient.

Means is one of nine AFT members suing Navient for misdirection, misrepresentation, and neglect. The suit demands Navient stop its abusive practices and seeks compensatory damages for people like Means.

We want to hear from you. We’re collecting our members’ student debt stories to show Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that something must change. Share your student debt story.


The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a partnership between the AFT and other education and civil rights groups, released a report this fall, Confronting the Education Debt, detailing the systemic underfunding of public schools, focusing specifically on black, Latino, and low-income students. According to the report’s findings, Congress has failed students from low-income families, students of color, and students with disabilities in particular. The historic underfunding of Title I and IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) has reinforced a separate and unequal education system, leaving a $580 billion funding hole that has shortchanged the futures of our nation’s most vulnerable students. Read the report.


American Educator, Winter 2018-2019