Weingarten’s visit to the Twin Cities area is part of an effort to highlight a nationwide fiscal crisis that threatens education jobs and programs.
ST. PAUL, MINN.—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten today visited two area schools and met with local education and political leaders to discuss the union’s fight for effective school reforms and efforts to avert drastic education budget cuts.
Weingarten’s visit to Minnesota is part of the AFT’s “Fight for America’s Future” campaign focusing on the threat to public education and other public services from severe budget crises in nearly every state. As a part of this effort, the AFT last week launched “Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips,” an initiative to gain public support for legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) that would provide $23 billion to school districts to stave off the projected cuts.
“The current fiscal crisis poses an unprecedented threat to educational services and teachers,” said Weingarten. “This is an emergency situation. If projections are correct, we could lose 300,000 educators—that’s roughly the population of St. Paul. It is sad to think that the fantastic progress being made by Minnesota’s education community could be erased in such a short period of time.”
Weingarten’s visit started in Eagan, Minn., at the campuses of Dakota Hills Middle School and Eagan High School, where she was joined by Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District Superintendent Jane Berenz, and Dakota County United Educators President Jim Smola. In Eagan, 150 probationary teachers have had their positions eliminated, and 14 tenured teachers have been placed on a five-year leave, pending availability of job openings.
“The situation is frighteningly similar in just about every part of the country,” said Weingarten. “The superintendent, principals and teachers at these schools have worked hard to create a strong, supportive learning environment, and now the students face the prospect of having the rug pulled out from under them.”
“Here in Minnesota, our teachers are facing budget cuts and being pressured by some officials to go along with ineffective education reforms,” said Smola. “Randi Weingarten’s visit is an opportunity for us to open a constructive dialogue about the future of public education in our state.”
In St. Paul, Weingarten was joined by Mayor Chris Coleman at John A. Johnson Elementary School. Johnson is noted for its Achievement Plus community schools model, which is a partnership with several local organizations to provide important services, assistance and programs to students and their families. Weingarten and the AFT are enthusiastic advocates of community schools.
“Johnson Elementary gets it—schools must be the centers of our communities, a safe haven where children can receive the services they need to mitigate the adverse effects of poverty on academic achievement. The Achievement Plus model is an example of how effective schools can be when these services are provided in conjunction with efforts to improve teaching and learning,” Weingarten said.
For more information on the “Pink Hearts, Not Pink Slips” campaign, visit www.pinkheartsnotpinkslips.com.