Subject: Inside AFT--July 24
July 24, 2015
Senate passes bipartisan overhaul of NCLBAfter multiple hearings, a long markup and a week of floor debate, bipartisanship held firm and the U.S. Senate on July 16 resoundingly approved a bill that could help vanquish the No Child Left Behind Act and its ensuing waivers. By a vote of 81-17, senators approved the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill to replace NCLB and restore the law to the historic mission set out by President Lyndon Johnson and Congress in 1965, when the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted. The Senate bill offers "a fundamental and positive change of direction for public education," AFT President Randi Weingarten said. "The soul of the Senate bill maintains the commitment to target funds to public schools educating large populations of disadvantaged students and overhauls No Child Left Behind by resetting accountability by eliminating the test-and-punish policies that have narrowed the curriculum but not the achievement gap." The AFT and other groups sent a letter July 22 urging Congress to quickly reconcile the Senate version with one passed earlier by the House and come up with a final bill.
White House honors AFT teacher helped by DACAAFT member Maria Dominguez is an immigration success story. What's more, she's a perfect example of why the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which President Obama announced three years ago, has been such an important step in helping hardworking undocumented immigrants pursue the American dream. Dominguez, who is now a first-grade bilingual teacher and an Education Austin activist, is one of nine teachers and community role models who was recognized on July 24 at the White House as a Champion of Change. Beyond her work as an educator, teaching many students who are themselves undocumented, Dominguez has volunteered with Education Austin and other community organizations on citizenship drives, educational forums and clinics to help others through the DACA and citizenship process. "I continue to struggle to advocate for millions of others who are being kept in the shadows by our broken immigration system," she says.
Six steps to debt-free collegeThe number of debt-free college plans beginning to circulate can be confusing, but the core message is simple: Higher education should be accessible to everyone, regardless of income and without the cost of crippling debt. The "Debt-Free College Checklist"—unveiled July 16 by the AFT, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Demos—clarifies that goal, declaring that any "debt-free college" proposal should be able to answer "yes!" to each of six questions on the checklist. "We have to mitigate the debt that's already due," said AFT President Randi Weingarten at a Debt-Free Checklist briefing. "Why would we incur additional debt? It is paradoxical, and I would argue hypocritical, to say that college is so important, but make it increasingly out of reach for all but those who are the wealthiest."
Adjuncts at Pennsylvania college vote to unionizeAdjunct faculty at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania just turned up the volume on the conversation about job security, fair pay and other resources they need to effectively reach their students. In a 294-64 vote finalized on July 14, they chose to join the AFT. Their full-time faculty colleagues have been affiliated with the AFT for more than 40 years. The new local, Community College of Allegheny County Adjuncts United, will begin with a survey about adjunct priorities, but some are already clear in the testimonials circulated by CCAC faculty during the voting process. Reflecting on why she wants to join the union, math adjunct Natalie Ahwesh says, "As an adjunct, I teach the same classes as full-time professors, but receive far less pay. I keep this job because I love my students, but they are the ones who suffer because I must teach at four different schools just to make ends meet."
AFT urges IRS to close loophole benefiting hedge fundsThe AFT, the AFL-CIO and CREDO Action delivered nearly 100,000 public comments on July 23 to the Internal Revenue Service, supporting an IRS effort to close a loophole that allows hedge funds and other wealthy investors to save hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Currently, the tax code enables hedge fund managers and other wealthy individuals to convert income into assets, which allows them to pay a lower tax rate. One way this is accomplished is by setting up a reinsurance company in a foreign jurisdiction with a favorable corporate tax regime—basically sheltering income from U.S. taxation. The IRS's proposed regulations would outlaw this. The IRS permits investors' assets, which appreciate in value over time, to be taxed at a lower rate than income from wage earners. "This treatment is exactly backward: Wage earners are the backbone of our economy. Flattening that differentiated treatment should be among the highest priorities for tax reform," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a letter to the IRS.
AFT members train in how to help grieving kidsThe desire to help students grapple with strong emotions as they face the death of a close family member, friend or teacher is something every school employee has faced. Now AFT members have begun a process of training their colleagues in research-based strategies to help ease the effects of grief so that children can continue to grow and learn. With guidance from the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, more than a dozen members from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for two days before this month's TEACH conference to train as trainers, using as their curriculum GrievingStudents.org, a multimedia resource developed specifically for school personnel. By exploring strategies and tools during the pre-TEACH seminar, members geared up to train at least 25 employees in their schools or districts on how to interact with individual children and how to promote the creation of grief-sensitive schools.
Also worth reading
- In her latest column appearing the New York Times, AFT President Randi Weingarten recaps the highlights from the recent TEACH conference, and especially the importance and power of educators' collective voices.
- A recent installment in National Public Radio's series on 50 great teachers features AFT and Chicago Teachers Union member Mathias Schergen, better known as "Mr. Spider."
- In a blog post on Share My Lesson, AFT member Amber Chandler, a middle school teacher in Hamburg, N.Y., offers "Five Tips for Elevating Your Teacher Voice."
Where and when
- AFT President Randi Weingarten will be in Ottawa, Canada, attending Education International's 7th World Congress on July 25. From July 27-30, she will attend the AFL-CIO executive committee and council meetings in Washington, D.C.
- AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson will be in Ottawa, Canada, attending Education International's 7th World Congress on July 25. On July 29-30, she will attend the AFL-CIO executive council committee and council meetings in Washington, D.C.
- AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker will be in Ottawa, Canada, attending Education International's 7th World Congress on July 25. On July 26, she will attend a memorial service in Norwalk, Conn., for Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, who died July 1. On July 30, Ricker will speak at the Northwest Leadership Forum sponsored by the AFT LEAD Program, AFT-Oregon, AFT Washington, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and the Oregon School Employees Association, in Vancouver, Wash.
Inside AFT, an electronic newsletter for leaders and activists, is prepared by the AFT communications department. Contributors and sources for this week's edition include Mike Rose, Cesar Moreno Perez, Virginia Myers, AFT media affairs, Annette Licitra, Tear Jones Murphy, Catherine Mason and Mary Kaniewski. Dan Gursky, editor; Jane Feller, copy editor.
Randi Weingarten, President
Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer | Mary Cathryn Ricker, Executive Vice President
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