CHICAGO TEACHERS AND SUPPORT STAFF WIN HISTORIC FIGHT FOR STUDENTS
This fall, after months of negotiations and an 11-day strike, the Chicago Teachers Union reached a contract agreement that was about much more than pay. “This historic fight for what students deserve—nurses and counselors in every school, librarians, class-size caps, and additional investments in special education—represents a paradigm shift: it wasn’t simply a fight to mitigate the damage of austerity, it was a fight to create the conditions that both students and educators need,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. Read more here.
GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE
On September 20, cities and towns across the globe swelled with millions of activists demanding their governments address climate change. Led by students and supported by hundreds of organizations, including the AFT, the uprising, held days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York, is thought to be the largest demonstration for climate action in history, and it underscored young people’s passionate commitment to saving the planet.
“From students walking out in solidarity against gun violence, to young people marching for action on climate change across the world, we see powerful examples of what happens when young people take action for change,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, who marched with members in New York City. “If we can help students learn about the science of climate change, help them understand free speech and citizen advocacy as part of civic education, and encourage their belief in themselves, we’ve done our job in helping the next generation secure their future.” Read more here.
COMMUNITY SCHOOLS IN ROME, NEW YORK
In October, AFT President Randi Weingarten visited Rome, New York, where the AFT Innovation Fund is providing a $350,000 grant to expand community schools. Rome’s community schools program includes two in-school food pantries; an emergency closet with clothing, household goods, and hygiene products; five satellite mental health offices in schools; homework help; healthy cooking classes for adults; and a referral network to outside agencies. “This really fits in the strategic plan of how you turn around rural America,” Weingarten said. Read more here.
PARAPROFESSIONALS BRING BOOKS AND JOY TO STUDENTS
It truly was an OMG moment—first, when the Springfield (Massachusetts) Federation of Paraprofessionals won a $30,000 OMG (Offering More Great) Books grant from AFT partner First Book, and next, when thousands of kindergartners attended a read-aloud party held at schools October 4 across the city—and also got to take home free books. The Books for Kindergarten Joy program, a labor-management partnership by the paraprofessionals and the Springfield Public Schools, is just one way the AFT supports programs that help students and educators in all schools thrive. During the event, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson read the story of a Korean immigrant girl, My Name Is Yoon, to children at Boland Elementary School—many of whom come from immigrant families themselves. Before reading to them, Johnson introduced herself to the kindergartners and told them the significance of the number 5 million: “That is the number of books my union, the American Federation of Teachers, has given to parents, paraprofessionals, librarians, and teachers all across the country, thanks to our partnership with First Book.” Read more here.