AFT joins national movement with AROS

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Keron Blair is fired up about educational justice and convinced that building coalitions is the best way to achieve it. That's what the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, where he is director, is designed to do.

AROS, which includes 10 national organizations representing some 7 million people, is a unified, authentic voice for education and the driving force behind the school walk-in demonstrations, when students, parents and community members join together on designated days to "walk in" to their public schools to demonstrate their commitment to high-quality education and public services.

Keron Blair

"We are fighting for the schools that all our children deserve, and we are focused on achieving racial justice and racial equity for black and brown students who have not gotten the resources they need," Blair (pictured above) said at a July 19  general session. Specifically, AROS works against overtesting, disinvestment, privatization and the school-to-prison pipeline. "We are fighting to win a brighter future for every child, the teachers who teach them and the communities they live in."

"AROS gives us the opportunity to use local activism to build a national agenda," said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles, where walk-ins drew thousands of participants last year.

UTLA has accomplished much by working closely with parents and the community, said Caputo-Pearl: It helped elect school superintendent Steve Zimmer, whose pro-public education speech wowed the convention Monday. It hijacked Eli Broad's museum opening to demonstrate against the billionaire's school privatization efforts. And it used contract negotiations to gain public-good measures like small class sizes and better support for high-need schools.

Caputo-Pearl strongly supported the resolution titled "Building a National Movement for the Public Schools All Our Students Deserve with AROS and Through ESEA Reauthorization," which passed unanimously shortly after his presentation.

Cecily Myart-Cruz, also from UTLA, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying it "reshaped the narrative" for struggling Los Angeles schools. She called on every local represented in the convention hall to participate in the next walk-in, Oct. 6. "We can connect parents, students and communities, and build a national campaign for the schools all of our students deserve," she said.

As AROS's Blair, reminded delegates, "When we fight together, we can win."

[Virginia Myers/photo by Russ Curtis]