Press Release

AFT Celebrates Passage of RISE Act to Nationally Recognize Contributions of Classified Public School Employees

For Release: 

Friday, April 12, 2019


Elena Temple

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson issued the following joint statement on the passage of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Act, which authorizes an awards program within the U.S. Department of Education to recognize outstanding classified school employeeswho work with students in prekindergarten through high school.

The act covers many AFT members, including paraprofessionals as well as school employees working in several other fields, such as clerical and administrative, transportation, food and nutrition, custodial and maintenance, security, health, technical and skilled trades.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Classified public school professionals are the unsung heroes of our schools. They work hard behind the scenes to keep our buildings running, our school systems moving, and our students and teachers safe. The RISE Act acknowledges that the work of our classified staff is as integral to the education and socialization of our kids as the work of our educators, and celebrates the incredible impact classified employees have on making our public schools safe, welcoming sanctuaries of teaching and learning.”

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, who began her career as a teacher’s aide in a Baltimore elementary school, said: “Paraprofessionals and school staff have fought long and hard for recognition of the work they do to keep America’s public schools thriving. Their efforts are so often behind the scenes, but they do it because they believe in the promise of public education. It is wonderful that the RISE Act will celebrate classified staff on a national scale for their contributions in public schools across the country.”

The AFT is sharing with its paraprofessional and school-related personnel members across the country details regarding the award, instructions on the nomination process and information about how to elevate their important roles to the public. 



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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.