AFT Kicks Off Back-to-School Campaign this Week with Stops in Pa., NH
WASHINGTON—Today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten will make the first official stop on the union’s 2022 back-to-school tour, with visits to Neshaminy and Scranton, Pa., where the union will distribute thousands of books. Later this week, she will stop in Nashua, N.H., for a discussion group with parents and a back-to-school community celebration. The weekslong tour will encompass dozens of states and include classroom and school visits, showcasing best practices to help kids learn and celebrating the incredible work of educators and the broader school community in helping students thrive. It will feature community events, book and school supply giveaways, COVID-19 booster clinics, and roundtables to bring together parents, caregivers, activists, teachers and school staff to discuss how best to meet student needs and support educators and schools in creating safe, welcoming and joyful learning environments where parents want to send their kids, educators want to work, and students can thrive.
The tour itself is part of the larger What Kids and Communities Need campaign unveiled during the AFT’s July convention, a back-to-basics initiative the union has identified as central to helping kids and their families recover and thrive. Tour stops will highlight the promising programs and initiatives happening in America’s classrooms, showing exactly why, despite an extremists-backed high-octane culture war, parents have continued to express confidence and trust in educators and public schools. The effort is being led by educators and school staff, who are working to find solutions and paint a clear alternative to the extremism and politicization being driven by public school opponents.
The campaign will also feature community schools, academic enrichment and extracurricular programs, and career and technical education initiatives designed to help students access important support and services they need to do well in school and to move on successfully to college, career or other opportunities. On several stops, union leaders will highlight the work of the AFT’s Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force, which is working directly with educators after the release of a report last month detailing important research-proven solutions to reverse the shortages and revitalize the education profession, including lowering class sizes, reducing paperwork and improving pay and benefits.
AFT President Randi Weingarten marked the first campaign stop in Pennsylvania by saying:
“We’ve been through a lot recently, from the pandemic to an increasingly polarized society that often puts schools at the center of the debate to just the day-to-day stressors of a 24/7 online world. For many of us—kids and teachers alike—school is the place we go to make sense of all that, even when it’s challenging. It’s where our students learn the basic skills they need for life and the lessons that will carry them through to college, career, or whatever comes next. It’s no secret that educators are burned-out, parents are overwhelmed and kids are anxious. But we’re hopeful and excited about this year because we know we can turn this around by focusing on what our students need, rather than putting politics before the things that we know work: literacy and reading programs, community schools that wrap services around children and families, empowering teachers and staff, and expanding community partnerships.
“So, while certain politicians are banning books, we’re handing them out and hosting reading events across the country. While they’re trying to single out our most vulnerable students, we’re rolling up our sleeves to actually solve problems and get our kids on track to succeed. While they’re tearing things down, we’re building them up, and while they’re hurling abuse, we’re healing minds. When it comes to walking the walk to really help students, the choice—and that’s a popular word on the right—could not be clearer.”
The campaign will be documented on social media using #IAmAFT and #WhatKidsNeed.
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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.