Clinton initiative praises union pension investments

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AFT President Randi Weingarten had a chance to brag a little about the positive impact that union pension fund investments are having on rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, and also discussed the AFT's work in areas such as career and technical education and rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, at the winter meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.

Clinton Global Institute panelWeingarten was part of a powerful lineup of leaders from business, philanthropy and global organizations in a Feb. 10 plenary session that looked at the future of initiatives to meet a variety of challenges around the world, including poverty, climate change, technology and education.

President Bill Clinton, who moderated the session, recognized Weingarten at the end of the session for her work with CGI and a variety of other unions to direct some of the $2 trillion of union pension assets into investments that upgrade our nation's infrastructure and create good jobs. To date, Weingarten reported, $14 billion in union pension funds has been invested in infrastructure projects that have created up to 140,000 jobs.

America's labor movement, she said, wants to "make sure we rebuild America so everyone can reach the American dream."

Earlier in the session, Weingarten talked more broadly about the need for public-private partnerships, like many of the projects the Clinton Global Initiative supports, "to address the public good." She discussed the promise of career and technical education, or CTE, programs that often bring together a variety of partners. Students in these programs, she noted, graduate from high school and go on to college at higher rates than the general student population.

CTE programs not only give students the specific skills and knowledge they need to pursue different pathways, whether higher education or employment, but also teach students how to work together and solve problems, she said.

On the ESEA, Weingarten said, the "total and complete fixation on testing" has led to schools that spend more time on testing than on actual teaching. That fixation, she added, "is eclipsing virtually everything else" in schools, and it's something the AFT is addressing through our proposals to reauthorize the law.

[Dan Gursky/AFT photo]