Press Release

National Teachers Union President Announces Half-Million Dollars in Grants to Recruit and Retain Educators, Help Students and Boost Public Schools

AFT President Contrasts Gov. DeSantis’ Attacks on Teachers and Children with Union’s Effort to Educate Kids and Support and Retain Educators

For Release:


TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram and Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar announced a new round of the AFT Innovation Fund’s What Kids and Communities Need grants today, totaling nearly $500,000 in support for educators, students and communities and bringing the union’s total commitment to $1.6 million since the start of the pandemic.

The AFT’s nationwide effort to help meet the needs of students and help them learn, recover and thrive contrasts sharply with the words and deeds of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other politicians who are hurting public school students by using division and fear.

Parents across the country overwhelmingly support their local public schools and oppose culture war assaults aimed at denying schools resources and shaming vulnerable children for political gain.

The 14 funded projects—which include grants for teachers in Leon and Pinellas counties—aim to recruit and retain educators, bolster career and technical education to prepare students for the future, and aid community schools’ work to build bridges between the needs of communities and the needs of students in schools.

The AFT’s Weingarten said: “We want every public school to be a place where parents want to send their kids, educators want to teach and kids thrive. We know teachers do everything in their power to make this a reality for all kids. These grants will help them put their ideas into action; recruit and retain educators; access professional learning opportunities; and improve well-being, working conditions and workforce shortages.”  

“Our help stands in stark contrast to the assault on teachers and public schools from some politicians, who are driving educators out of the classroom through incendiary and unhelpful rhetoric and punitive laws that hurt students and educators,” Weingarten added.

The grants were announced in Tallahassee today alongside Leon Classroom Teachers Association President Scott Mazur and Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

The AFT Innovation Fund supports the return and recovery of teachers and students and the reimagining of public schools. It prepares students for the future by securing the resources and support they need for career, college and life through technical education, entrepreneurship and “grow your own programs,” to name just a few.

The AFT’s Ingram joined Weingarten at today’s press conference, saying: “During the last three years, students, educators, support staff and communities across the nation have endured economic, educational and emotional disruptions stemming from the pandemic.

“As we begin a new year, we must highlight the powerful role that our public schools play in uplifting our children, while acknowledging the investments needed to support them—including recruiting and retaining educators and staff who, in so many states, have been under attack for political purposes.”

The FEA’s Spar said: “Our unions are doing all they can to help retain and recruit the professionally trained teachers and staff needed to educate our students. With initiatives like this and the help of lawmakers willing to make a serious investment in public schools, Florida can solve its critical shortage of teachers and staff. Every student should be able to get the education they deserve and need at well-funded, fully staffed public schools.”

Below is the list of grantees, which will share in $473,000 in total support from the AFT, their 1.7 million-member national union. These grants bring the total number of Innovation Fund grants since the beginning of the pandemic to 57.

Baltimore Teachers Union (Maryland) will identify a cohort of middle school students and help them explore career options and interests. This will the allow the students to make more-informed decisions about selecting a high school with areas of study that match their interests.

BOCES Educators of Eastern Suffolk (New York) will support students who attend their CTE academies with out-of-pocket expenses for materials and equipment to complete their courses.

Buckeye Local Education Association (Ohio) will support a literacy program called the Confetti Project to match students with reading interests and pair them with adult volunteers.

Cory-Rawson Education Association (Ohio) is expanding its community schools initiative by establishing a new partnership with the YMCA to offer and expand on-site early child care for families in need. This will improve kindergarten readiness and provide a pipeline for recruiting and retaining early childhood staff.

Education Minnesota (Minnesota) will link its aspiring educators program with its early career program to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts for education careers.

Faculty Association of Jefferson Community College (New York) will host a business and leadership symposium. This event will educate, inspire and connect high school and college students with pathways to CTE and entrepreneurship.

Fort Edward Teachers Association (New York) will strengthen CTE in its school district by upgrading its machine tooling capabilities and training its educators and students to match local industry demands.

Leon Classroom Teachers Association (Florida) will expand its leadership training and shared decision-making models in three schools to improve teaching and learning and engage teachers during their early career.

New Haven Federation of Teachers (Connecticut) will create and expand opportunities for educators to collaborate and support new educators. This will include professional learning sessions designed to improve well-being.

Newtown Federation of Teachers (Connecticut) will help fund the Newtown High School Greenery program. This garden program supplies food for the CTE culinary program and serves as an agricultural laboratory for students. 

Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association (Florida) will partner with the AFT, Pinellas County Schools, local colleges of education and educator preparation programs, community groups, families and students to improve working conditions and address education workforce shortages.

Texas AFT will create and expand an educator apprenticeship and training program to directly address teacher shortages.

West Genesee Substitute Teachers Association (New York) will create and offer professional learning for substitute educators in classroom management, social-emotional learning, special education, safety and classroom technology. They will also offer courses in content areas for substitutes to deepen their teaching skills.

Yonkers Federation of Teachers (New York) will expand its Take a Look at Teaching/Grow Your Own program. This program is a pipeline into the teaching profession for the diverse body of Yonkers students that offers introductory teacher education seminars, college credit-bearing education certification classes, and clinical experiences through classroom internships.

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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.