AFT fund supports innovative reopening projects

Every year since 2009, the AFT has awarded grants to members for innovative projects in their workplaces. This year, as the pandemic continues to turn schools upside down, the Innovation Fund has become a COVID-19 response resource, with grants funding new approaches to hybrid, remote and in-person learning; protective equipment for educators and students; and essential resources for the health and well-being of educators, students and families.

woman wears a face mask
OSEA members in Oregon are providing food and other essentials to families in crisis due to wildfires and the pandemic. Photo courtesy of OSEA.

From distributing food, clothes and school supplies to families hit by the pandemic’s economic recession to providing trauma training for educators, this year’s grants will help educators better address the unprecedented times in which we live.

“We started the AFT Innovation Fund in 2009 because we know that educators working together with the resources and freedom to teach will put their ideas, ingenuity and passion to work to benefit their students and communities,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Today, while our country grapples with multiple crises, these grants are a spark of hope for educators on the frontlines as they search for solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing schools today.”

Thirteen grantees will receive a total of about $275,000 in the first round of funding for the 2020-21 school year. A second round of funding will be announced later in the school year. This round’s recipients are:

AFT-Randolph (West Virginia)

Will provide sanitizer backpacks used to ensure everything from safer classrooms to safer playgrounds, as well as a considerable amount of personal protective equipment as schools reopen for in-person instruction.

Boston Teachers Union (Massachusetts)

Will support its existing Educators Thriving program, expanding it to become a series of professional learning modules for veteran educators, adding focus areas on social emotional learning and additional supports for parents.

Broward Teachers Union (Florida)

Will establish a blended learning academy for educators focused on social justice as well as numerous other professional learning opportunities.

Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (Ohio)

Will support school reopening by providing parents and community members an outlet to report safety violations as well as coordination for parent and community outreach.

Florida Education Association

Will invest in trauma training for educators to ameliorate the psychological and mental health toll the pandemic has caused for educators, students and families.

Massena Federation of Teachers (New York)

Will invest in mindfulness education, including a mindfulness room for students, professional learning for educators, and student mindfulness ambassadors trained to assist their peers.

McAllen Federation of Teachers (Texas)

Will focus on indoor air quality by servicing HVAC systems with MERV 13 filters for 33 schools across the district, and will also supply PPE to educators and students.

Penn Yan Education Association (New York)

Will expand its literacy clinic to help struggling readers during the pandemic and beyond.

Phoenix-Talent Schools (Oregon School Employees Association, Local 96)

In response to multiple crises, including the pandemic and wildfires, this PSRP local will provide food, shelter, water, toiletries, bedding and transportation as students continue to learn remotely.

Solvay Teachers Association (New York)

Will provide virtual and physical essentials for students and families, including food, clothes, school supplies and internet hot spots.

Texas AFT

Will promote and implement educator well-being through virtual sessions and professional learning as well as expand its National Board Certified Teacher efforts.

Washington Teachers’ Union (District of Columbia)

Will expand virtual learning academies for parents of English language learners to help ensure students have access to technology and can excel in school during remote learning.

Windsor Teachers’ Association (New York)

Will develop an engagement toolkit for virtual learners to improve student attendance and provide mobile hot spots for students lacking internet access

“We recognize that during these extraordinary times, educators are working in extraordinary ways,” says AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus. “They are going above and beyond to meet the needs of their students. That’s why the AFT Innovation Fund is proudly awarding COVID-19 response grants to help support locals’ efforts to mitigate the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 in our communities. Large or small, urban or rural and everything in between, this pandemic has affected all of us.”

[Communications staff]