Search results for: "randi"

Open the link here to read Randi Weingarten’s speech to the AFT Convention.

Here is a summary from the AFT:

Weingarten’s State of the Union address zeroed in on the three crises facing America—a public health crisis, an economic crisis and a long-overdue reckoning with racism. She detailed how these crises are being made worse by President Trump and emphasized the urgency of the November elections, not only to defeat Trump but to elect Joe Biden and reimagine America.

“Activism and elections build the power necessary to create a better life, a voice at work and a voice in our democracy. Activism changes the narrative, elections change policy, and, together, they change lives,” said Weingarten.

Weingarten honored the 200 AFT members who have died in the line of duty, and the hundreds of thousands who have protected, cared for, engaged and fed our communities during the pandemic. But those efforts have been met with reckless inaction by the Trump administration and some state officials who have failed to provide either a plan or adequate resources as community spread has skyrocketed.

While safety and education needs are front and center in many of America’s 16,000 school districts, and states such as New York have curbed the virus and published strong reopening plans, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have embraced virus denialism and waged a weekslong campaign to force reopening with threats and bluster.

In her speech, Weingarten unveiled a resolution passed by the AFT’s 45-member executive council backing locally authorized “safety strikes”—on a case-by-case basis and as a last resort—to ensure safety amid the absence of urgency by federal and some state officials to tackle the coronavirus surge.

“Let’s be clear,” Weingarten told delegates. “Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators. But if the authorities don’t get it right, and they don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, nothing is off the table—not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes.”

Weingarten said the union’s members want to return to school buildings for the sake of their kids’ learning—and the well-being of families—but only if conditions are safe. And that requires planning and hundreds of billions of dollars in resources the Senate and the administration have refused to provide.

The AFT keeps close watch on legislative action. I thought you might want to read what Randi wrote about Mitch (The Grim Reaper, as he calls himself) McConnell’s bill in the Senate. There’s not nearly enough funding to enable schools to open safely, and Republicans managed to stuff a voucher package into what is supposed to be a coronavirus relief bill. Would someone tell these Republican senators that the overwhelming majority of their constituents send their children to public schools? At a time of fiscal crisis, why do they want to take money away from public schools and give it to religious schools? Has anyone ever told them that every state voucher referendum has failed? Do they know that the latest referendum in Arizona went down by 65%-35%?

Randi writes:

Mitch McConnell finally released his bill today. I’m sure you’re not surprised, but the bill is bad. Simply put, it doesn’t match the scale of the crisis. I’m getting ready for the AFT convention, which starts tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure you heard about McConnell’s bill tonight.

What McConnell is proposing for education is woefully inadequate given the expenses schools will face to reopen safely. It also falls dramatically short by ignoring what schools actually need to reopen safely and, instead, prioritizes the president’s political agenda, tying the funding to in-person instruction and pushing for private school vouchers. And there is no money for states and no protections for healthcare workers.

Can you believe it? The GOP is actually using the pandemic to try to pass vouchers, because they couldn’t get them passed before. To rub salt in the wound, while this proposal includes no protections for workers on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it does include a nice bailout for corporations and other employers to limit their liability if employees get sick on the job.

The Senate needs to hear from you right now. Send a letter to your senators and tell them that McConnell’s bill is bad.

While we’re going to be focused on our convention for the next few days, we still need to keep up the pressure on coronavirus relief legislation.

For those who are interested in our convention, it’s going to be exciting. We’ll have Joe Biden, Lin-Manuel Miranda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a panel on Black Lives Matter, Diane Ravitch, Anand Giridharadas, and more.

You’ll be able to watch the programming on our website. And tomorrow night, I’ll be doing a Facebook live town hall with Dr. Anthony Fauci at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

I know we’re all busy, but I just want to thank you for consistently taking action. We’ve driven tens of thousands of emails and phone calls to the Senate. Let’s keep it going and stop McConnell’s bad bill.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten

AFT President

KIPP is the largest charter chain in the nation. It grew thanks to the generosity of the Walton Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation (the Gap, Old Navy, etc.), other billionaire funders, and huge grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program (thanks, Betsy DeVos).

KIPP’s slogan was “Work Hard, Be Nice.” Jay Mathews wrote a laudatory book about KIPP with that title. It implied submissiveness as the path to success. KIPP was one of the original “no excuses” chains.

The KIPP team brought students to perform at the Republican National Convention in 2000 that nominated George W. Bush. It became clear that KIPP was a darling of the right. What did Republicans like so much about KIPP? Was it implicit in their slogan?

Michael Klonsky reports that KIPP has decided to drop its famous slogan.

In a world turned upside-down and right-side-up by the Black Lives Matter Movement, a new slogan was needed.

KIPP has not yet found a new slogan.

Any suggestions?

Randi Weingarten is not only president of the AFT, she is a lawyer. Below is her reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. She calls it a “seismic shock.” She sees the decision as one more step in the relentless rightwing effort to defund and privatize public schools. She thinks the decision set the stage for an even more radical decision, one that requires states to fund religious school tuition as some states (think Florida, Indiana, Ohio) currently do.

Randi is right, but I was actually relieved that the decision was not far worse. I was afraid that the current Supreme Court, with Trump’s addition of two super-religious justices (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh), would overturn all Blaine amendments and require states to pay religious school tuitions in full. But the decision was far narrower. It said that any state that has a program to fund private schools must admit religious schools to the same program. So Montana, which has a private scholarship program, must include religious schools on the same footing as other private schools. That means that the Espinoza family has won $150 per year for all their troubles.

People like Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children, Jeanne Allen and her Center for Education Reform must be terribly disappointed that the decision did not tear down Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between state and church,” thus compelling states to pay full tuition for students at religious schools, regardless of their ideology, their quality, or their lack of certified teachers. That didn’t happen, thank God!

The public schools, the schools that nearly 90% of all American families choose, the schools that educated the overwhelming majority of the American people, have survived a close call. If Biden wins in November and Ruth Bader Ginsburg remains healthy until Biden’s inauguration, we will in time have a Supreme Court that supports public schools.

Randi warns:

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue:

“This ruling in the Espinoza case is a seismic shock that threatens both public education and religious liberty. It is a radical departure from our Constitution, American history and our values. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent, this ruling is ‘perverse.’

“Never in more than two centuries of American history has the free exercise clause of the First Amendment been wielded as a weapon to defund and dismantle public education. It will hurt both the 90 percent of students who attend neighborhood public schools, by siphoning off needed funds, and, in the long term, those who attend religious schools by curtailing their freedom with the accountability that comes with tax dollars.

“The court’s narrow conservative majority joined with Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and other wealthy donors and special interests to attack public education and turn the First Amendment on its head. What’s even more disturbing is that some justices wanted to go even further.

“While the court didn’t invalidate the 38 state constitutional provisions that preclude public money from going to religious schools, it came very close. The financial backers of this case will now use it to open the floodgates to litigation across the country.

“I hope the court and the plaintiffs understand that by enabling this encroachment on religious liberty, they are also opening up religion to state control and state interference. With public funding comes public accountability. Upending the carefully constructed balance of free exercise and separation of church and state not only undermines public education, it is a grave threat to religious institutions and organizations.

“In this time of national crisis, we have seen the importance of our public schools. Children across the country rely on public education for far more than just academics: Thirty million kids eat lunch in school, 12 million eat breakfast in school, and schools provide millions more with their healthcare. We should be prioritizing additional resources for public education and other vital social programs, not diverting them to private purposes.

“We are not going to give up. In fact, we are only going to fight harder. Parents, teachers and their unions stood up and fought back—and we will continue to do so each and every day, whether in court, in Congress, in state legislatures or at the ballot box.

“When it comes to Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ attacks on public education, we will see them in November.”

David Pettiette is a CPA who volunteered at a KIPP elementary school in Memphis. He was shocked when two KIPP schools suddenly closed their doors and left their families scrambling for a new school.

He wrote:

In April, it was announced that KIPP Memphis Preparatory Elementary and KIPP Memphis Preparatory Middle on Corry Road would be permanently closing without notice. Between the two schools, over 650 students have been displaced without so much as a plan or opportunity to rebut the decision.

The decision to close a school in an underserved community is not uncommon. It is however a decision that is typically given six months to a year’s notice, not April of the current school year. The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is the largest network of public charter schools in the nation, with several schools in Memphis. With that size apparently comes unprecedented autonomy considering the schools’ primary funding is local and state money.

In an effort to limit bad press, KIPP offered a Q&A conference call to address the school closures so that the community’s voices could be heard. However, this session, which did not provide any A’s or responses from KIPP, was yet another unthoughtful decision made by the organization and proved to be an unsuitable forum.

Many families had trouble accessing the call due to technical difficulties generated from the third-party conferencing system used. The call itself went just about as you’d expect. It opened with two pre-recorded statements from KIPP’s board of directors and regional team, which were both vague and painfully insincere.

The comments from parents and staff were anxious, frustrated and morose –a wide variety of emotions. While listening to the call, I couldn’t help but think that the occasion warranted a more personal approach.

In reality, KIPP gave up. They gave up on their students, families, faculty and staff after only a few years of operation. Make no mistake, this was a financial decision that is inequitable to the historic Alcy Ball community in South Memphis.

KIPP cited a “failure to fulfill academic promise” which resulted in the closures, and the only excuse provided for the late notice was that they did not want to mislead the schools’ key stakeholders regarding their future.

This was a cheap and inaccurate shot at the integrity of the teachers and faculty, who spent money out of their own pockets to make sure that their students were adequately clothed, fed and supplied.

At the end of the day this decision is not what is best for the kids, who should have been KIPP’s only focus throughout this whole process. The situation is awful, but the approach was worse. If there is anyone looking for a textbook example of institutional racism, look no further.

The AFT issued this statement:

Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten on Jobs Report

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after the U.S. jobs report showed the loss of more than half a million additional public sector layoffs amid a rebound in private sector jobs:

“The jobs report out today confirms what we already know: The CARES Act is working, but if we don’t act now on a new round of stimulus for states, communities and schools, then millions more Americans will be out of work.

“An additional 585,000 public sector jobs were lost, following a drop of 963,000 in April. That includes another 375,000 educators, for a total of 750,000 so far during the COVID-19 pandemic, double the carnage of the Great Recession.

“The numbers are an argument for state and local aid, not against it. Business wants to come back, but we can’t halt stimulus now, particularly for states and schools, otherwise we’ll be confronting a fresh slump that will wreak havoc for years.

“We are in the midst of three crises: a pandemic, an economic crisis and a crisis of systemic racism. The news that private sector jobs grew was a step in the right direction, but these crises are far from over.

“The president’s comments today about George Floyd were tone-deaf. Floyd was murdered by police, and racial inequalities remain unaddressed. The report showed that Black unemployment rose, as African Americans continue to feel the disproportionate effects of the downturn.

“There are no magic fixes for this economy—only a path to recovery if we keep up the stimulus and investments to fund, rather than forfeit, the future. We urgently need the federal funding included in the HEROES Act that helps states, cities, towns and schools weather this rolling storm. If we fail to act, essential services will be gutted, schools won’t be able to reopen and public employees will stay laid off.”

Randi Weingarten and I talked about what happens next: after the pandemic, how we protect schools and children from “opportunistic” tech entrepreneurs, what does Cuomo have up his sleeve, can we trust Biden to ditch Race to the Top bogus ideas?

Our conversation was recorded and live-streamed by the Network for Public Education. Carol Burris introduced us. The conversation wa facilitated by Darcie Cimarusti and Marla Kilfoyle, the fabulous staff of NPE.

Sign up and join Randi and me when we discuss reopening schools.

When: Wednesday, May 13 at 8 pm EST

Our ZOOM conversation is sponsored by the Network for Public Education.

Listen in and prepare to ask questions.

This Wednesday, Randi Weingarten and I will discuss the reopening of schools, maybe other issues.

We will talk for an hour starting at 7:30, then answer questions for half an hour.

Join us!

Leonie Haimson conducts a weekly program on public radio station WBAI in New York City.

In this episode, she interviews Randi W. about the coronavirus crisis, the threat of budget cuts, and problems with distance learning.