AFT Resolution

RETURN, RECOVER AND REIMAGINE: TOWARD A RENAISSANCE IN AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has always known that in-person schooling is foundational to the success of a child and is what makes great public schools the bedrock of every community and a celebrated institution of the uniquely American public trust; and

WHEREAS, the AFT has worked tirelessly since April 2020—and through the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic that followed—to safely and responsibly return schools to in-person learning. We consistently insisted upon a layered mitigation strategy supported by the latest and best science; advocated for an equitable and accelerated vaccination schedule; and engaged our nation’s foremost healthcare experts, our school districts, our members, the public and elected leaders in a dialogue about what’s possible—while always valuing the lives and safety of the people who work and learn inside our school buildings. During this time we maintained a high standard for the teaching and learning that had to continue and took tremendous ingenuity to deliver; and

WHEREAS, the pandemic exposed and exacerbated the effects of years of disinvestment in public schools and public higher education, such as an aging physical plant; outdated equipment and technology; substandard heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; overcrowded classrooms in which—during the pandemic—it became impossible to maintain a safe social distance; schools without crucial personnel like nurses, counselors and other mental health professionals; and a too-narrow and austere array of academic, enrichment and extracurricular activities so desperately needed to round out the learning experiences of students in good times, let alone during a pandemic when the potential to languish was so high; and

WHEREAS, many communities of color have been hit hardest by the pandemic, have suffered the most trauma and, as a result, have the most hesitancy about returning; and

WHEREAS, as the vast majority of students return to in-person schooling because of dramatically reduced COVID-19 cases, a massive vaccination effort, surveillance testing and layered mitigation strategies in schools, and thanks to the efforts of educators, public health experts and the investments made by the Biden administration through the American Rescue Plan Act, the AFT believes unequivocally in the return to full-time, in-person schooling; and

WHEREAS, vaccines have been a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19, and nearly 90 percent of AFT members have been or have plans to be vaccinated; and

WHEREAS, vaccinations, widespread surveillance testing, and layered mitigation have created a safe environment so that the vast majority of K-12 schools are providing in-person learning; and

WHEREAS, public education is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right, and we must recover and reimagine public education in America to achieve a more equitable, effective education system that helps each and every child succeed and achieve; and

WHEREAS, most parents (73 percent) would be comfortable with in-person learning in the fall, and fully 94 percent say they would be comfortable with their child returning for in-person learning in the fall if AFT safety measures are adopted:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers and our affiliates will advocate and work with school districts, parent and family groups, colleges and universities, communities, and elected officials toward a hopeful, joyful and full return to in-person schooling that includes the recovery educators, students and families deserve; the appropriate layered mitigation strategies; and vaccination access for our families and our eligible students. Now is also the time to reimagine public education to spark students’ passion, nurture critical thinking and ensure their freedom to thrive; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will launch a Back to School for Everyone campaign this summer, in an effort to engage our school community to return to in-person learning, and that the AFT will devote $5 million to the campaign, as well as office hours and clinics where affiliates and partners can share ideas and get technical assistance; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will provide support to our affiliates to conduct outreach and canvassing, expand opportunities for vaccination, and provide trauma support, in order to restore trust in the public schools and allow for a full return; and

RESOLVED, that, among other things, the AFT will advocate to ensure that staff and students return to preK-12 schools that are safe, healthy and welcoming spaces in which to teach and learn, where class sizes allow students to remain 3 feet apart, where in-school and online instruction do not happen concurrently, and where students’ academic and social-emotional learning needs are met; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate and work for a hopeful, joyful resumption of normal patterns of work and life on college and university campuses, including the full range of in-person, hybrid and online courses that students need and expect; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate and work to reimagine a school climate that ensures all schools are safe and welcoming—not only in terms of their physical conditions but in terms of their learning conditions, including respect for diversity of all kinds, freedom from bias, equitable school climate policies, and valuing the worth and fostering the learning of each and every student—and where infrastructures like those provided through community schools serve as hubs of well-being and support for students and families; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate and work to reimagine teaching and learning so students see school as engaging and worthwhile, going beyond a rich foundation in language arts and math to embrace subjects and experiences that have been squeezed out by two decades of overemphasis on standardized testing, by including the arts and music, deepening the focus on science, centering the importance of civics, providing career pathways through career and technical education, and offering more project-based learning opportunities in all content areas; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate, work and call on the federal government to engage the education community at all levels in rethinking how we assess student learning and build meaningful accountability systems that measure what really counts; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate, engage and work to ensure that the United States also reimagines how we recruit, retain and support the staff of our public schools, colleges and universities, to eliminate shortages; address precarity and wage inequality; increase diversity in all educational roles and at all levels through proven programs such as student loan forgiveness, residencies and “grow-your-own” programs; and ensure that newly available federal funds are invested in instruction and support and are used effectively and collaboratively toward these ends and not as an excuse for state disinvestment.

Adopted May 12, 2021

(2021)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.