Teachers unions lead national ‘walk-in’ for public schools

The nation’s two big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, led a massive nationwide “Walk-In” by teachers, students, parents and staffers on Oct. 6 to demonstrate unflagging and strong support for public schools.

Walk-ins occurred at more than 200 school districts, with crowds appearing at school doors in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and most of its suburbs, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Duluth, Minn., Granite City, Ill., San Francisco, Vancouver, Wash., Detroit and elsewhere.

The Service Employees, who represent many other school workers, from janitors to nurses, also sponsored the walk-ins.

And while local issues frequently took center stage at the walk-ins, politics – including national politics – came into play, too. Those angles included:

• Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine joined AFT President Randi Weingarten in Philadelphia to campaign for state funding for public schools there and to protest prior cuts by the GOP-dominated state legislature.

“The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will…focus on the fact that we’ve gone over 1,100 days without a contract, and Philly’s educators have gone without raises for nearly five years!” the union added.

• Chicago’s teachers and community supporters descended on City Hall to demand Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his school board negotiate in good faith for a new contract, in advance of the strike he may force on the Chicago Teachers Union, AFT Local 1, on Oct. 11.

• Detroit’s teachers emphasized their class-action lawsuit, filed against the GOP-run state government the week before, saying its unequal treatment of minority-group students due to state takeover of the school district “denies them their right to read” and violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

• Boston’s teachers used the walk-ins to educate voters against a referendum question to remove the state cap on charter schools, which private interests are using to further their agenda. News reports say charter cap removal backers have already spent $22 million on ads.

“Every day, educators, school staff, parents and communities come together at schools like Spring Garden” in Philadelphia, “to give kids a fair shot to pursue their dreams, but we can’t do it with spit and glue,” said Weingarten. “Unfortunately, far too many schools still don’t have the resources to give kids that chance.

“Public education is the path to opportunity, the road to economic and racial justice, but only if all kids can access that road. It’s 2016 — we shouldn’t have schools with outdated textbooks, mold on the walls and lead in the pipes. Our schools should have gardens, robotics classes, music and art, sports and so much more,” said Weingarten. AFT, with 1.6 million members, is the smaller of the two teachers unions. NEA has about double that number.

The walk-ins are “about making sure we’re investing in schools, not disinvesting” and “keeping schools open and supporting them, not closing them,” she added.  Weingarten stated that GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump “wants to strip billions of dollars from our public schools to create private school vouchers, a reckless plan that would leave 56,000 schools across the country worse off, endangering 21 million kids.”

NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, a primary grades teacher from Salt Lake City, sounded pro-school themes, but without the political edge, since she was speaking in Wake County, N.C. in the union-hostile South. North Carolina actually bans public union bargaining.

“Across the country today, people who believe in the power of public education are proclaiming that we will not apologize for standing up for the needs of our students, our educators, communities, and public schools. All of us — students, educators, parents and the entire community — are all in for public education,” Eskelsen-Garcia said.

Source: PAI