NATIONWIDE—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus issued the following statement announcing the AFT Innovation Fund’s COVID-19 response grants for the 2020-21 school year. For more than a decade, the AFT Innovation Fund has made millions of dollars of grants available to AFT affiliates to advance teaching and learning, improve schools, and to enhance the communities in which our members live and work.
AFT President Randi Weingarten:
“We started the AFT Innovation Fund in 2009 because we know that educators working together with the resources and freedom to teach will put their ideas, ingenuity and passion to work to benefit their students and communities. Today, while our country grapples with multiple crises, these grants are a spark of hope for educators on the frontlines as they search for solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing schools today.
“From helping fund the personal protective equipment that 90 percent of educators purchase out of their own pockets, to protecting teachers and students in rural West Virginia as schools reopen, to expanding virtual learning academies for parents of English language learners in Washington, D.C., and funding trauma-centered student and family support programs in Florida, this funding is a sorely needed seed for renewal that counters the Trump administration’s failure to tackle the health, educational and economic consequences of this pandemic.
“Our hope is that through the AFT Innovation Fund, we can step up and support the knowledge, care and ingenuity of educators, their unions and their students in this time of unprecedented national turmoil.”
AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus:
“We recognize that during these extraordinary times, educators are working in extraordinary ways. They are going above and beyond to meet the needs of their students That’s why the AFT Innovation Fund is proudly awarding COVID-19 response grants to help support locals’ efforts to mitigate the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 in our communities. Large or small, urban or rural and everything in between, this pandemic has affected all of us.”
The AFT is pleased to announce 13 grantees in this first round of funding, totaling approximately $275,000. A second round of funding will be announced later in the school year. This round’s recipients are:
AFT-Randolph (West Virginia): Will provide sanitizer backpacks used to ensure everything from safer classrooms to safer playgrounds, as well as a considerable amount of PPE as schools reopen for in-person instruction.
Boston Teachers Union (Massachusetts): Will support its existing Educators Thriving program, expanding it to become a series of professional learning modules for veteran educators, adding focus areas on social emotional learning and additional parent supports.
Broward Teachers Union (Florida): Will establish a blended learning academy for educators focused on social justice as well as numerous other professional learning opportunities.
Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (Ohio): Will support school reopening by providing parents and community members an outlet to report safety violations as well as coordination for parent and community outreach.
Florida Education Association: Will invest in trauma training for educators to ameliorate the psychological and mental health toll the pandemic has caused for educators, students and families.
Massena Federation of Teachers (New York): Will invest in mindfulness education, including a mindfulness room for students, professional learning for educators, and student mindfulness ambassadors trained to assist their peers.
McAllen Federation of Teachers (Texas): Will focus on indoor air quality by servicing HVAC systems with MERV 13 filters for 33 schools across the district, and will also supply PPE to educators and students.
Penn Yan Education Association (New York): Will expand its literacy clinic to help struggling readers during the pandemic and beyond.
Phoenix-Talent Schools (Oregon School Employees Association, Local 96): In response to multiple crises, including the pandemic and wildfires, this PSRP local will provide food, shelter, water, toiletries, bedding and transportation as students continue to learn remotely.
Solvay Teachers Association (New York): Will provide virtual and physical essentials for students and families, including food, clothes, school supplies and internet hot spots.
Texas AFT: Will promote and implement educator well-being through virtual sessions and professional learning as well as expand its National Board Certified Teacher efforts.
Washington Teachers’ Union (District of Columbia): Will expand virtual learning academies for parents of English language learners to help ensure students have access to technology and can excel in school during remote learning.
Windsor Teachers’ Association (New York): Will develop an engagement toolkit for virtual learners to improve student attendance and provide mobile hot spots for students lacking internet access.