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Published by: smf 4LAKids on Jul 13, 2014
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FROM JULY 12, 2014
AFT PRESIDENT Randi Weingarten kicked off the AFT national convention in Los Angeles on Friday with a bold plan to reclaim the promise of America, one that can help create economic and educational opportunity for all because it not only fights back but also “fights forward.
Tis work is vital, and the stakes couldn’t be higher, Weingarten told more than 3,500 delegates in a keynote address that cast the current environment as a time of well-funded,  well-coordinated attacks against working people, unions, public education and public services. Tese efforts are designed to destroy rather than to build. heir goal is to starve public institutions, demonize workers and unions, and peddle private alternatives— while marginalizing anyone who opposes them. hrough this turbulence, however, the union continues to stand tall and add mem-bers. “Despite the toughest environment unions have ever faced, I’m proud to an-nounce that our ranks have grown since we last met,” Weingarten told delegates.“oday we are larger than ever, a union of 1.6 million members.”he AF president stressed how critical this growth is at a time when millions of citi-zens are struggling and finding that the prom-ise of America has devolved into more of an aspiration than a realization. “Our job is to
Fighting back, fighting forward
Freedom School Teacher Mark Levy
Student Asean Johnson
AFT Human Rights Luncheon
Reconnecting McDowell
Committee Reports
Continued on page 2 
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inspire, ignite and move millions to reclaim the promise of America,” she told delegates. “Here’s how: connect with community; be solution-driven; engage, empower and elevate our members—and, frankly, be a little badass.
From ‘test-and-punish’ to ‘support-and-improve’
 Weingarten stressed the need to increase edu-cational opportunity and change the narrative  when it comes to school accountability. Policy-makers at every level must recognize that “you cannot fire your way to Finland,” said the AF president, who called out “test-and-punish” systems and school-improvement schemes that are “reducing children to test scores and teachers to algorithms,” especially when it comes to the use of value-added measures.On the Common Core State Standards, We-ingarten drew heavy applause when she re-marked, “Some of you, myself included, think they hold great promise but that they’ve been implemented terribly. ... Te conflation of the standards with testing and the profit motive has got to stop.”Te AF president reaffirmed her call for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences for students and educators on Common Core-aligned assessments. She also called out Edu-cation Secretary Arne Duncan and state super-intendents like New York’s John King for dismissing the concerns of parents and educa-tors about the implementation of the standards.  Also needed, Weingarten said, was greater teacher voice in matters related to the Com-mon Core, and she announced a new AF In-novation Fund grant for members who want to lead on the standards. Tese new grants, de-signed to empower members on areas tied to the Common Core, “will be relatively open-ended,” she told delegates. “You tell us what  you want to do, how you would do it, and what  you’ll do with the results. We will provide the resources to the strongest applications.
A full-fledged defense of due process
 Weingarten told delegates that the union would respond to
, the recent California deci-sion that takes aim at fundamental school em-ployee rights, with a full-fledged defense of due process as a fundamental right. “Educators, healthcare workers and public workers need it” no less than other workers do, she said. “How else do we exercise our professional judgment and prevent going back to patronage systems,  where your job depended on who you knew, not what you know?”Tere are ways to improve, rather than gut, due process laws that are not working well,  Weingarten said. “Te bitter irony is throwing out due process will make it harder to attract and keep great teachers.”Te
 decision is the wrong prescrip-tion, one based on the belief “that, for kids to  win, teachers have to lose. ... So, yes, we will fight it in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion.”
A broader struggle
o create an economy that works for all, We-ingarten outlined policy proposals that the  AF would advocate for. Among them: grow-ing the union movement and reviving collec-tive bargaining, increasing retirement secu-rity, easing the student debt burden, funding universal early childhood education, and se-curing full, equitable funding for all schools. Te union also stands behind investments in infrastructure and incentives to revive manu-facturing, said the AF president, who high-lighted the union’s work to invest member pension funds in infrastructure and create 150,000 jobs. Tese goals require member engagement, she emphasized, particularly when it comes to political participation. Elections matter—determining who nominates and confirms Supreme Court justices and whether working people have elected officials who stand with them or orchestrate attacks on their jobs and livelihoods. “With the full strength of our union, united with community, prepared to call out problems and bring forth solutions, and willing to be a little bit badass—we not only fight forward, we move forward.”
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IN HIS WELCOMING REMARKS to the 83rd  AF convention, Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of eachers, talked about the recent
Vergara v. California
court ruling and how it masked the positive  work of CF members and other educators across the state. “Tis ruling, which we are appealing, will do nothing to put a single pencil or book in a child’s hands, and it won’t enhance mentoring or training programs for teachers,” said Pech-thalt, who is also an AF vice president. “What it will do is create a climate of fear in our schools and incentivize teaching to the test and currying favor with administrators.Te court’s decision was based on the no-tion that eliminating rights for teachers will benefit students and somehow result in im-proved public education for California’s stu-dents, Pechthalt said. But, if that were the case, he added, “our most anti-union states, with no protections for teachers, would be models of educational excellence and equity.”“While much more needs to be done, we are on the right track,” Pechthalt said. Te gov-ernor and state superintendent have stood  with the CF and its members, he noted, but “we understand the only thing we can truly rely on is the power of our members to build strong locals, deepen our ties with our allies in labor and the community, and rebuild the kind of progressive movement in the streets that can demand quality public education and social justice for all Americans.Te beginning of the opening session also featured a performance by Broadway singer and actress Sally Wilfert.
On the right track to high-quality education, social justice
PROGRESSIVE AMERICA has grown trans-fixed by the transformative social movement in North Carolina known as Moral Mondays. It began on April 29 last year, when a small group of clergy and activists went to the Capitol in Raleigh to protest the tide of con-servative, regressive legislation that deprived North Carolinians of basic rights such as vot-ing, healthcare, reproductive freedom, and most prominently, high-quality, adequately funded education.Since then, not a Monday has passed  without action in Raleigh. Now, an average of 2,500 protesters converge weekly—but, at times, they number in the tens of thousands.  What’s more, the movement has brought to-gether a huge coalition of labor, education, racial and social justice, and faith-based orga-nizations, and it has spread to South Carolina, Georgia and other states.Te man behind it all is the Rev. Dr. William Barber, who, on that first Moral Monday, was led away in handcuffs simply for exercising his right to enter a public building. As the opening speaker at the 2014 convention, he shared a powerful message of hope, cooperation and unity that brought delegates to their feet. “We are in the midst of a moral crisis that demands we have a movement now,” said Barber, minutes after receiving the AF’s pres-tigious Bayard Rustin Award. “I’ve seen, and I believe, that deep within our being is a longing for a true moral compass.”Barber, the child of activists from India-napolis who returned to the South in the dan-gerous years of the 1960s to fight for voting rights, was born two days after the March on  Washington, he told delegates. He put his  work for justice in the context of that spiritual and historical reality. “In that moment, the devotees of justice and freedom did not shrink back. ... hey marched, they organized, they built coalitions, they rallied young people, they engaged in civil disobedience, they lobbied. Tey turned movements of despair into movements of hope. hey joined a moral crusade that changed the nation and the world.”oday is another such moment of moral crisis, he told the AF activists, and it comes at the hands of a well-funded conservative movement. “If we don’t address systemic racism and extremism and poverty, it costs us the soul of our nation. Every time we fail to educate a child on the front end of life, it costs us on the back end of life.”He added, “Somebody must stand up and say, this is an immoral agenda. Not only is this extreme agenda contrary to our greatest faith  values, it’s contrary to the promise of  America.Barber urged educators to not underesti-mate the power of groups coming together to build a new movement:“Tat’s why I love your theme ‘Reclaiming the Promise,” he said. “Because we should declare today that this reality is over, and we should make America a fresh promise of our own. Tat is, we will organize and fight for the soul of our democracy. It’s time. We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around. We have the power of our togetherness. “I know it personally that when we get to-gether, we win.
Rev. Dr. Barber: When we all come together, we win
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CFT President Joshua Pechthalt welcomes AFT members to Los Angeles.Sally Wilfert
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