'Reclaiming the Promise' gets backing of AFL-CIO

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The AFL-CIO pledged on Sept. 11 to join the AFT, parents, and community and civic leaders to help reclaim the promise of public education by fighting for safe, strong neighborhood public schools to meet the needs of all children.

Delegates to the AFL-CIO convention approved the AFT's "Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education" resolution unanimously.

Reclaim the Promise video

"It is incredibly important that the AFL-CIO and its affiliates vowed to work with our members, parents, and community and civic leaders on our movement to reclaim the promise of public education. We will fight for safe, strong neighborhood public schools where parents want to send their children, teachers want to teach, and students will have a well-rounded, engaging curriculum," says AFT President Randi Weingarten.

The resolution reflects the AFT's prescription for ensuring that all children have the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

"Reclaiming the promise of public education will help make every public school a place where parents want to send their kids, teachers want to teach and children are engaged in a strong, well-rounded curriculum. It makes our public schools the center of the community and fulfills their purpose as an anchor of our democracy and a propeller of our economy," she says.

Instead of failed strategies such as top-down edicts, mass school closures, privatization, attacks on collective bargaining, and increased testing with sanctions instead of support for teachers, the AFT says reclaiming the promise of public education involves:

  • Fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.
  • Ensuring that teachers and school support staff are well-prepared, are supported, have time to collaborate and have tools, like small class sizes.
  • Enabling teachers to teach an engaging curriculum that includes art and music and the sciences.
  • Ensuring kids have access to wraparound services to meet their emotional, social and health needs.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says, "Every child deserves the promise of an excellent education. The AFL-CIO will join educators, parents, students and community members to reclaim the promise of public education so that today's students will be well-prepared to help build America and its economy."

Among those speaking in favor of the resolution was Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, who spoke about the effect in Chicago of policies that resulted in mass school closings and layoffs of more than 3,800 educators and school employees. The Chicago Board of Education refused to listen to parents, educators, students and the greater Chicago community, he said.

The Rev. Michael Livingston, national policy director of Interfaith Worker Justice, questioned policies that disinvest in public education.

"What kind of future can our nation expect if we allow school administrators and lawmakers to simply give up and outsource our public schools?" he asked.

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, used the AFT's Reconnecting McDowell public-private partnership in McDowell County, W.Va., to illustrate the positive impact on public schools and the community when unions, community members, lawmakers, business and foundations collaborate.

"By working with both traditional and nontraditional partners, Reconnecting McDowell is reclaiming the promise of public education and revitalizing a community. If it can be done in the rural mountains of West Virginia, it can be done anywhere," Roberts said. (video by Matthew Jones and Brett Sherman)

Read the resolution.

September 11, 2013