AFT Announces Powerful Partnerships Institute Grant Recipients, Provides $1.5 Million to AFT Affiliates, Community Organizations, Parent Groups to Help Kids Recover and Thrive
Sarah Hager Mosby
WASHINGTON—Today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus named the 2022-23 school year grantees for the AFT’s Powerful Partnerships Institute grants.
The grant program was originally announced earlier this summer in Weingarten’s speech at the AFT convention in July, when she reinforced the union’s commitment to parents and educators working in partnership, saying, “We don’t hope that happens; we make it happen. …We are deepening this work through the AFT Powerful Partnerships Institute, which supports family and community engagement. This year we are giving out 27 grants to AFT locals, totaling more than $1.5 million, to further this work.” The program directs funding to help strengthen and formalize the relationships that are critical to student success, giving educators, parents and the entire school community more opportunities to work together on the things kids need, whether that’s academic, social, emotional or something even broader.
The PPI aims to:
- Build capacity by giving AFT affiliates more time, tools and resources to do the community work that they want to do, and that they know works—whether that’s going door to door, organizing weekly meetings, or running local campaigns or initiatives designed specifically to engage parents and community members on an issue that affects their kids and their communities.
- Provide training and resources to meet AFT affiliates and community where they’re at so they can reach mutually identified campaign goals.
- Increase collaboration among AFT affiliates and community organizations to share best practices in tackling tough campaign issues and create solutions together.
- Build ties with others to form stronger coalitions to better the lives of our communities.
“Educators didn’t need to see declines in test scores to know what to do right now: Focus like a laser on helping our kids recover and thrive. But there are 50 million students in America in 100,000 schools, so there are no magic wands here. This takes strategic work. And based on what we know about kids, and about hope, we are focused on four strategies to help children: reading and literacy; career and technical pathways for high school students; improving conditions, from ventilation to class size to addressing shortages to expanding community schools with wraparound services; and bringing educators and families together.
“That’s why these PPI grants are so important. As extremist politicians are banning books and stripping our freedoms, we’re doing the total opposite.
“We are fighting to help all youngsters recover and thrive, to rebuild relationships and deal with the aftereffects of COVID-19. We are fighting for every public school to be a place where parents want to send their children, where educators want to work and where kids thrive: We’re mobilizing members and parents in New Haven, Conn., to fight for the funding our community schools need. We’re campaigning alongside parents and community organizations in Detroit to expand trainings and forums for school board candidates. And we’re expanding parent activism in Texas to win funding battles and the right to teach honest history. And these are just a few examples.
“The contrast couldn’t be clearer—our locals are working with the community to forge deep and sustainable relationships because we know the way our kids do better is when we work together.”
“Building strong relationships between students, their families, and their teachers and school support staff equals strong schools. And strong schools equal strong communities. Strong communities bring purpose and joy to those who live there, and that’s what these grants are all about. Our public schools can be safe havens and places of recovery, but they can also be incubators of ideas for powerful instruction and community engagement. That’s why, through the AFT PPI grants, we are helping our locals and the people they represent succeed by funding projects like creating reading and wellness programs and providing career and technical education resources and career-readiness courses, so that our next generation can excel inside and outside the classroom.
“Strengthening relationships, engaging, and organizing with parents, students and community inside and outside the classroom is not new to the AFT’s work. Examples abound—from the day-to-day work of building relationships with parents to support our students academically, to working together with parents in service of our community, to organizing together in advocacy, to mobilizing together in elections. In the wake of our successful AFT Back to School for All campaigns, which highlighted family engagement as key for a safe return to in-person learning, our Powerful Partnerships Institute will use this momentum to take the next step of sustainability, supporting AFT affiliates in building strong union-parent and community engagement in the classroom and in our communities. It’s an important piece of our What Kids and Communities Need initiative, and we’re so proud of this work.”
Some examples of grant recipients include:
- Michigan will strengthen the work of the Michigan Education Justice Coalition to advocate for community-informed ESSER funding priorities, support families and students, increase educator democracy in schools, and expand school board candidate trainings and informational forums.
- Montana will grow its base through Montanans Organized for Education by training and reaching out to thousands of public education-supporting Montanan families and educators across the state in preparation from expected attacks in its own Republican state Legislature.
- Houston will strengthen the work of Community Voices for Public Education to organize families, educators and community against right-wing attacks and for the schools Houston deserves. Long-standing issues of advocacy for CVPE members include reducing overreliance on STAAR testing, supporting teaching honest history, stopping expansion of unaccountable education privatization and fighting for equitable school funding.
- New Haven, Conn., will work to engage educators, families and students with Recovery for All Connecticut to advocate for progressive revenue and equitable school funding for New Haven and other deeply underfunded Connecticut districts.
- Peoria, Ill., will build from the ongoing parent and community coalition work of the Peoria People’s Project, which advocates for equitable school funding and social-emotional health in schools.
You can find a complete list of grant winners here.
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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.