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Reclaim The Promise To Public Education; Stop Starving Our Schools

Community groups are working to ‘Reclaim The Promise’ we made to future generations to provide a strong, well funded, high quality public education. 

public school sign brick building The national debate on education reform rages on everyday, in every school district, in every state across the country.  Some say that schools are failing our children, while others say the schools are failing our children.  No that is not a typo, both sides are essentially saying the same thing; we need to fix our broken education system to provide a better education for our future generations.

The major differences erupt when both sides offer their solutions to fixing our broken education system.  Those ‘fiscally conservative’ politicians on the right blame teachers unions and bad teachers, and suggest we eliminate public schools for private charter schools. Proponents of public schools see the problem stems from a lack of community support.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, has been outspoken about the attacks on public schools and this idea that privatization is the only option to help our public schools.  In recent phone interview Weingarten stated, “Austerity cuts are starving our public schools.”

Karen Schow is special education teacher working in Boise, Idaho.  She has seen these austerity cuts directly affecting her students.  Due to budget cuts, Schow is now the only special education teacher in her entire school.  She works with multiple special needs students including students with Down’s syndrome, all alone.  Just last year the school had two full time special education teachers, but the school cut that down to one.  “These cuts are hurting my kids,” Schow told me in a phone interview. “Politicians are short changing not only my students but students across the state.”

Kia Hinton is parent and outspoken public school advocate from Philadelphia.  Hinton highlighted how “Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett, cut over one billion dollars from the state’s education budget”.  This forced dozens of school closures, mostly in areas that directly effect children of color.  Areas that are already struggling to fight poverty, violence, and other community issues.

Closing public schools makes it harder for working families.  Schools are farther away, underfunded, and overcrowded.  These cuts hurt the children the most.

Hinton talked about how some of the schools in her area no longer have a school librarian if they are still lucky enough to have a library at all.  They have also cut art programs and music classes, which are necessary for a well-rounded education.

Weingarten said that, “politicians are pushing to ensure that public schools are failing to open the door to their alternative ideas”.  Their alternatives include; charter schools, privatized schools, or to just close the school entirely. Politicians have been pushing for privatized for-profit charter schools, yet these charter schools are failing to meet the needs of their communities.

Just like in Philadelphia, Chicago and Kansas City as closing public schools to open private for-profit charter schools.  John Jackson President and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education said, “Corporations are making profits on the backs of our students.” Not only are they making money on our children, they are taking your tax dollars to bolster their profits.  Yet there these for-profit charter schools are not preforming any better than their public counterparts in the same area.

Lora McDonald a social worker and the Executive Director of More2 said these for-profit schools failing in Kansas City.  McDonald said that four of these for-profit charter schools have closed in the last year.  McDonald said that not only are the charter schools failing, “kids in public schools have continually out-preformed those in charter schools.”

The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association, other unions and community groups are working to ‘Reclaim the Promise’ that we have made to our future generation by provide a high quality public education.

Everyone deserves his or her chance to reach the American Dream.  For many this dream has become more of a myth, completely unattainable. Weingarten spoke to how a strong public education is crucial to reaching the American Dream.  Weingarten stated, “This is a movement to reclaim public education.”

Talking about ‘Reclaiming the Promise,’ John Jackson stated, “Public education is strong at and it works. Want to make sure it works for all children. Public education is the foundation for economic prosperity for millions of Americans.”

This is why communities are rallying behind the need to ‘Reclaim The Promise’.

  • Reclaiming the promise is about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning.
  • Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers and school staff are well prepared, are supported, have manageable class sizes and have time to collaborate so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
  • Reclaiming the promise is about making sure our children have an engaging curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and includes art, music and the sciences.

Communities throughout the country will be standing together to on December 9th in a national day of action. Over 100 community groups and unions have signed up to take part in this event.  Weingarten stated that this is a “bottom up event.” Unlike other union lead events this one is coming up from parents, and community organizations that want to make real change in their communities.

Everyone deserves to be able to get a high quality education, and public schools can provide that.  We need to invest in our future by investing in our public school system.  A strong public school is the bedrock of our society.  When your son or daughter says they want grow up to be President, it is a strong public school system that can make their dream a reality.   Just as President Clinton, a graduate of Hot Springs High School, a public magnet high school in Arkansas.



RTP_banner-2Click here for more information about the National Day of Action.

If you are interested in hosting your own event as part of this national day of action, click here and tell AFT about it.


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s Statement On May Jobs Report

The politics of austerity still hold the world in a vise-like grip and today’s employment report provides another view of that failure, despite U.S. job creation barely above what’s needed to accommodate new entrants into the labor market.

Within today’s 7.6% unemployment rate are millions of people who could be building our economy. Millions of young people are living with unemployment rates between 25 and 50 percent, their dreams of opportunity slowly fading. Communities of color are devastated.  And formerly middle class workers are finding part time, low wage, no benefit jobs. This tepid, so-called recovery hurts all of us.

The reality is, our economy will not recover until our government and global financial institutions begin to govern – not just for the banks – but for the well-being of all of us. People unwilling to give up the ghost of austerity provide the same-old tired ideas: the idea that drastic cuts to public spending will promote private spending.

Austerity doesn’t work—under any name or by any measure. Eurozone leaders are beginning to accept this idea. We should do the same.

As Michael Linden of the Center for American Progress reported yesterday, the economic theory and empirical reality undergirding the bipartisan embrace of austerity have crumbled. The evidence shows that what we need now is job creation.  Amidst sequester and without real progress on the 2014 budget or the debt ceiling, he argues that “[t]hese changes should dramatically affect the debate on federal economic policy in general and the federal budget in particular.”

We strongly agree with Linden’s assertion and urge Congress to reject cuts in Social Security and Medicare, reject senseless cuts that hurt the ability of our country to grow and meet the needs of people. The sequester is not savvy frugality but a disastrous assault on working people that Congress must repeal, rather than replace. We must all demand real solutions — like investments in good jobs, education, infrastructure, job training, and the green jobs that come with sustainable development. America’s working people are ready to stand with any leaders committed to large-scale investments to create jobs, to rebuild our middle class and lead us all forward.

Corporations Are Stealing From Hard Working Americans

Cut Tax Breaks

If you do not agree that corporations are stealing from Americans then you do not understand our current tax structure.

It is a well known fact that there are many multi-billion dollar corporations that do not pay any taxes to the federal government. They use the current tax codes to write off everything from shipping jobs overseas to corporate jets.  These tax breaks end up taking away from the revenue that the federal government should be collecting.  It is no wonder why corporate giants like the Koch brothers are so heavily involved in politics, they are protecting their tax breaks.

When you combine these tax breaks with the austerity cuts being pushed by the GOP in Washington we end up in a very depressed economy.  The federal government is now in a position that they must cut social programs like meals on wheels and head start to allow corporations to deduct the cost of their corporate jets.  Am I alone in thinking this is appalling?

Watch this amazing video explanation from AFSCME on how these corporate tax breaks are continuing to hurt our economy and our government.

Looking Over the Fiscal Cliff

Congress returns to Washington DC today – but “fiscal cliff” negotiations aren’t expected to resume until next week.

The delay may allow Congressional GOP leaders to bring a different position to the bargaining table.

Immediately following Election Day, GOP leadership seemed stuck in their “no new taxes” campaign rhetoric.

Since then, several prominent Republicans have questioned the wisdom of sticking with Grover Norquist’s infamous “pledge”.

Over the decades, Norquist’s “pledge” has not been a fiscally-conservative position.  It works like a ratchet wrench: things can only go in one direction; taxes can only go down.  And taxes have gone down – considerably – since Norquist started agitating.

Right now, the federal tax burden – tax revenues as a percentage of the economy – is at one of the lowest points in modern history.

Much of the decline was caused by cuts to corporate taxes.

Next week’s “fiscal cliff” negotiations need to be framed by this reality.  Particularly in a down economy, Congress can’t just cut its way to a balanced federal budget.  (They have tried that in Europe; it’s not solving anything.)

America’s working families know that you can’t balance the budget if revenues keep declining.  We’ve tried to keep our own books balanced despite declining wages.  Too many families have ended up doing just what the federal government has done: borrow money to make ends meet.  And that doesn’t work out very well, over the long term.

As the “fiscal cliff” negotiations continue, keep an eye on your Social Security and Medicare benefits.  It’s just like what happened with the NH Retirement System: the politicians want to cut our benefits, after we spent decades paying into the system.

Right now, even the politicians who are forswearing Norquist’s “pledge” are insisting on “entitlement reforms” in exchange for “new revenue”.  But that’s a false choice.  They are simply trading one way of ratcheting-down taxes for another.

Returning tax revenues to their previous (pre-Norquist) levels would go a long, long way toward solving our country’s debt crisis.


[Tax revenues shown above do not include Social Security, Medicare or other retirement program revenues.  Data is from Table 2.3 of http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/hist.pdf.]

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