Los Angeles – American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten kicked off the AFT national convention earlier this month by outlining a bold plan to fight back and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America and create economic and educational opportunity for all.
“The promise of America is being undercut by people who devote their fortunes to decreasing our strength, to advancing the politics of division and to promoting economic policies that redistribute more income to fewer people,” said Weingarten.
But, she said, the AFT is better positioned than ever to take these challenges on.
“Despite the toughest environment unions have ever faced, I’m proud to announce that our ranks have grown since we last met. Today, we are larger than ever, a union of more than 1.6 million members,” Weingarten said.
FIGHT BACK AND FIGHT FORWARD
Weingarten focused on the need to fight back against the attacks and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America:
• Ensuring that every kid has a great neighborhood public school that is safe, collaborative and child-centered, not test-obsessed; that students can take advantage of college without being disadvantaged in the process.
• Ensuring good healthcare and that Americans won’t go broke if they get sick.
• Being treated fairly at work, getting a real raise once in a while, and not having to choose between one’s job and taking care of a sick child or aging parent.
• Guaranteeing that a lifetime of hard work will culminate in a retirement with dignity, and that the voice of everyday people won’t be drowned out by the political purchasing power of the wealthy.
INCREASING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
Weingarten outlined key policy solutions to increase educational opportunity, move from a test-and-punish to a support-and-improve accountability system, realize the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards, and ensure due process for educators.
“Some of you in this room think the (Common Core) standards should be jettisoned,” Weingarten said. “Some support them because you’ve seen them help develop the deeper learning that is the antithesis of 'drill-and-kill.' Some of you – myself included – think they hold great promise but that they’ve been implemented terribly.”
Weingarten reaffirmed her call for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences for students and educators on Common Core-aligned assessments, and announced a new AFT Innovation Fund grant for members who are dissatisfied with the standards or their implementation, and have a better solution to meet the needs of their students.