From early educators in New England to college faculty in Southern California, members represented by more than 100 AFT affiliates are planning to mobilize and engage with their communities on Oct. 6 in a national school "walk-in" and day of action.
Organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, this is the third round of national school walk-ins, and the AFT executive council took time at its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 21 to learn how AFT local involvement in this work is exploding. Council members heard how affiliates are discovering, with each successive round, how effective, uplifting and constructive these public shows of union-community collaboration and solidarity can be, and how they generate momentum that can lead to investments in the services, staffing and approaches children need at every stage of development. When parents and other community members take the time to visit schools and colleges en masse and stand with educators, demonstrating how much they care about public education, policy makers pay attention.
It's vital work and could open the doors to a true "tipping point" in public discourse on schools, AFT President Randi Weingarten said after hearing updates from affiliate leaders from Massachusetts to California, Illinois to Florida. They explained how they plan to participate in ways that will deepen the dialogue and keep the voice of frontline members engaged in issues that range from state funding, to the Every Student Succeeds Act rollout, to the 2016 elections. October also will mark the first time that higher education locals will participate in the action; they will host a variety of events including student debt clinics, demonstrations advocating for free college, and rallies to restore funding for public higher education.
During the 2016 AFT convention, the walk-ins were lauded as invaluable, community-based work, in a resolution crafted by affiliates and overwhelmingly adopted by delegates. Planners of the walk-ins are offering tools to get activities up and running—and to keep the conversation going at the building level well beyond Oct. 6.
For help and guidance in setting up an effective Oct. 6 event, email Eric Zachary, the AFT's director of the human rights and community relations.
[Mike Rose, Virginia Myers, Eric Zachary]