Press Release

AFT’s Back-to-School Tour Highlights Positive Reforms To Make a Difference for Students Despite Recent Challenges

For Release: 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Janet Bass


WASHINGTON—Despite drastic education budget cuts affecting what takes place in classrooms across the country and attacks on educators and other public workers, teachers have been continuing their work to make a difference in the lives of students. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson will visit schools that are preparing students with evidence-based, innovative programs in a back-to-school tour starting Monday.

“We’ve just witnessed one of the most contentious, tumultuous years in education funding and policy. Notwithstanding devastating cuts to education and policies that demean and silence teachers, educators have been doing what they do best—helping to develop programs that strengthen teaching and learning,” Weingarten said. “Times might be tough, but teachers will not let kids down.”

The 2011 “Making a Difference Every Day” back-to-school tour includes pre-K to higher education stops from coast to coast, highlighting approaches that are sustainable, scalable and will help all kids succeed. The following is a tentative schedule:

Monday, Aug. 29

West Side Elementary School, Charleston, W.Va., is being converted into a community school with a health clinic and other academic, social and recreational services with support from an AFT Innovation Fund grant and various community partners.
     Among those joining Weingarten for a tour, roundtable discussion and press conference: West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and first lady Joanne Tomblin; State Superintendent Jorea Marple; former first lady Gayle Manchin; AFT-West Virginia President Judy Hale; the Rev. Matthew Watts of the Hope Community Development Corp.; and representatives from KaBoom! playgrounds, Save the Children and First Book.

Mount View High School, McDowell County (Appalachia), W.Va. Roundtable discussion by a large, diverse group of school, political, judicial, business and community leaders to discuss how to help the students and families of McDowell County, which faces extreme poverty and unemployment, academic challenges, high suicide rates and rampant drug abuse.
     Among those joining Weingarten for this first-time discussion: state and county education officials, university and community college officials, first lady Tomblin, former first lady Manchin, state legislators, federal and state judges, Mark Shriver of Save the Children, business executives from Cisco and Frontier Communications, foundation and community leaders.

Tuesday, Aug. 30

Lake Worth Community High School, West Palm Beach, Fla. Weingarten will visit this school, where teachers and district officials have collaborated on a performance-pay program to attract and retain great teachers in this struggling school. Lake Worth has career-oriented magnet programs and an after-school and weekend program developed and run by teachers.

Okeeheelee Middle School, West Palm Beach, Fla., teaches its predominantly Caribbean student population in both Spanish and English. Like Lake Worth High, Okeeheelee also has implemented a performance-pay plan and other programs to recruit and keep talented teachers.

Thursday, Sept. 1

Weingarten will visit A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford, Conn., which is part of a statewide system of 16 vocational-technical schools. A.I. Prince shapes classes around the economic needs of the community and funnels students directly into businesses.

Friday, Sept. 2

Tacoma Tone Resource Center, Tacoma, Wash. AFT Executive Vice President Johnson will visit the center, which supports the growing population of homeless students in Tacoma. She also will visit a Kent School District green school program run by a school custodian and will drop by the Community Day Center for Childrenin south Seattle to talk with union leaders and members about their priorities for the state’s Early Learning Challenge Grant application.

Tuesday, Sept. 6

In Detroit, Weingarten will meet with community and education leaders to discuss how to design a school reform model to boost stubbornly low student achievement.

Wednesday, Sept. 7

In Austin, Texas, Johnson will meet with school and community leaders to discuss in-district charter schools, a project being funded by the AFT Innovation Fund. She also will tour the Sunset Valley bus barn to meet with school bus drivers and then visit an Austin REACH school, which uses creative and innovative approaches to support and reward success in the classroom.

Wednesday, Sept. 7

On Long Island, N.Y., Weingarten will visit Archer Street School and Freeport High School in Freeport, N.Y., and Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School and Barack Obama Elementary in Hempstead, N.Y.

Freeport had a $5.5 million reduction in school aid from the 2008-09 school year to the 2011-12 school year; Hempstead had a $1.8 million drop from 2008-09 to 2011-12. Both districts, though, have persevered with reforms that are yielding improved student achievement. 

For stories and photos of the “Making a Difference Every Day” tour, see:


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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.