Press Release

Advocates Representing over 4 Million Educators and 1,000 Higher Education Institutions Fight Back Against Attacks on Freedoms

K-12 and Higher Ed Groups Unite to Call Out Extremist Attacks on Public Education

For Release:


Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603

WASHINGTON—Advocates from across the K-12 and higher education spheres have united in a joint pledge to fight back against extremist political assaults on public education, academic freedom and vulnerable students in the nation’s public schools and universities.

The American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the American Association of University Professors, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Network for Public Education today launched a Freedom to Learn pledge to call out laws and rhetoric in multiple states aimed at banning books and curriculums, attacking teachers, and shaming LGBTQIA+ students, while pushing voucher and privatization schemes to undermine and gut public education.

The statement, from groups that together represent more than 4 million educators and 1,000 higher education institutions, is one of the first attempts to show how far-right attacks on public education and academic freedom, which span K-12 and college, are part of the same extremist push to hurt learning and undermine trust in public schools.

The pledge proposes solutions in the form of federal and state bills to increase funding for all levels of public education, the vigorous defense of individual educators facing discipline or termination, and a renewed fight for more resources in the face of universal voucher schemes and austerity budgets.

The pledge was launched today at the 10th Anniversary NPE/NPE Action National Conference in Washington, D.C.

The full text is below and online here:

Public education at all levels is under assault. Political operators, partisan media and ideologically driven think tanks continue to churn out racialized and anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, sow distrust in the role of education as a public good, and feed attacks on individual educators. Many hostile state legislatures across the country are enacting laws that undermine public schools, community colleges and universities through curriculum bans; eradication of diversity, equity and inclusion programs; attacks on science and public health; funding cuts; and voucher and privatization schemes.

We must recognize these attacks for what they are: Public education—pre-K through higher ed—is a fundamental pillar of American democracy, and attempts to control and reshape education are part of a larger effort to weaken the very institutions that prepare students to engage in a robust, vibrant, multicultural, pluralistic democracy. Simply put, the assault on public education is an assault on our freedom.

We are educators from preK-12 and higher education; teachers and administrators; labor and management; parents, grandparents and caregivers. We are united in our commitment to our students and to education as a public good—a pathway to individual opportunity, civic and democratic health, and economic growth. We pledge to defend the freedom to learn by:

  • Promoting freedom to learn and access to education through working with coalition partners to support bills to increase federal and state funding for all levels of public education and protect the freedom to teach and the freedom to research.
  • Fighting back against legislative bans on the teaching of U.S. history, science and psychology, and other educational gag orders, and by defending individual educators who face harassment, discipline or termination as a result of these laws.
  • Supporting efforts to provide more resources to our public schools, colleges and universities and the students who depend on them every day, and resisting efforts to defund our preK-12 and higher education systems.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.