FULFILLING THE PROMISE OF EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY AND EQUITY
WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has a long history of fighting for public education and believes that a high-quality public education is the cornerstone of our democracy, an economic necessity, a moral imperative and a fundamental right; and
WHEREAS, formal education was once prohibited for enslaved people and as schools opened they were historically designed to assimilate and sort students by class and race, evolving into a one-size-fits-all factory model that serves only a select few, and this legacy is still seen in schools today; and
WHEREAS, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long-standing inequities within the public education system caused by continuous cuts to funding, antiquated means of funding public schools, privatization, and the re-segregation of schools by race and socioeconomic status, and the compounding of challenges that many students already face in their daily lives related to poverty, institutional racism and classism; and
WHEREAS, research in neuroscience and the developmental and learning sciences shows that the lack of psychological safety and the impact of adverse childhood experiences can impede and even prevent learning, and students’ sense of safety and connectedness is the foundation of their schooling and academic success; and
WHEREAS, community schools are instrumental in providing schools and the surrounding communities with resources and wraparound services offering nonacademic support that promotes the overall development of students and families; and
WHEREAS, partnerships with parents, community, and community-based organizations provide schools and school districts with additional capacity to improve schools by offering responsive programming for all students and families; and
WHEREAS, schools and relationships with teachers and school staff can provide safe havens for students who may experience trauma, neglect, abandonment, or food and housing insecurity by providing supportive relationships and guidance, assistance programs and services, such as counseling, health services, clothing essentials, and supports for food and shelter; and
WHEREAS, paraprofessionals and specialized instructional support personnel (SISP) have been instrumental to ensure tailored health services, social services and economic supports reach students with the greatest needs, and several local affiliates have bargained for additional SISP in schools; and
WHEREAS, all students and school staff thrive in schools in which they can show up as their authentic selves while feeling safe, welcomed and affirmed, and research shows that educator well-being is integral to student learning and school climate; and
WHEREAS, the AFT has long been an advocate for providing teachers and students with the highest-quality instructional materials and pedagogy, adapting to new knowledge and tools to support improved instruction; and
WHEREAS, the AFT and allies have upheld educators’ rights to teach honest, authentic and inclusive American history by fighting against legislation and school board policies (e.g., book bans, eliminating curriculum, and other policies) aimed at content that allows students to critically examine and disrupt white supremacy and systemic racism; and
WHEREAS, an anti-racism framework in K-12 classrooms recognizes students’ intersecting identities (race, class, sexuality, gender, citizenship status, differing abilities, primary language, etc.), situates those identities in systems of inequity and resistance, and values these life experiences as assets in the classroom; and
WHEREAS, the overreliance on standardized test scores in punitive test-based accountability systems has created an education system where schools that serve low-income students, and schools that have predominantly Black, Hispanic and Indigenous student populations are ranked, sorted and punished rather than supported; and
WHEREAS, extracurricular activities, clubs and electives are usually cut when schools are reported as “low-performing” according to a state’s accountability system and replaced with “drill-and-kill” instruction as opposed to enrichment and project-based learning; and
WHEREAS, educators and school staff are rarely included in the decision-making on policies and programs that directly impact their instruction and are forced to succumb to the policy decisions of noneducators who lack adequate understanding of the pedagogy required to deliver instruction on a wide variety of concepts and content; and
WHEREAS, a strong, high-quality teaching force is also a representative teaching force and has been shown to reduce absences and suspensions, improve test scores, and increase referrals to gifted and talented programs; and the demographics of the teaching profession rarely reflect the demographics of the students in public schools across the country; and
WHEREAS, racist and white supremacist speech and policies have no place in public education institutions, and we must support the intentional and interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity with a focus on the experiences and perspectives of people of color and address the social, economic and political ways in which identity-based systems of oppression and privilege connect; and
WHEREAS, inequitable schooling serves no one, not even the most advantaged, and equity and social justice must be at the center of educational policies and practices if we are to ensure that public schools serve our society and remain the cornerstone of our democracy:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers, and our affiliates will be unapologetic in their efforts to uphold public education as one of the most important civil rights of modern times and relentless in their advocacy for policies and practices that inspire greater opportunity, justice and freedom; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT encourages its affiliates to promote policies that protect educators who teach anti-racism and practice gender inclusivity, and fight against districts that make rules or policies to advance discrimination and marginalization in any form; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates will elevate student-focused policies and programs to disrupt inequitable practices that disproportionately impact schools serving low-income students, and schools that have predominantly Black, Hispanic and Indigenous student populations, by advocating for:
· The involvement of educators in planning and creating student-centered learning environments with pedagogical practices that ensure students are active participants in their learning.
· Schools that focus on the healthy cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of students by increasing access to school staff who have expertise in mental health to serve staff, students and families, such as school counselors, psychologists and social workers.
· Significant and sustainable growth and development of community schools to provide community-specific supports and services.
· School schedules that provide educators and school staff with consistent and protected time for planning, collaborating and creating student-centered learning environments.
· Coordinated state and district systems of assessment that support culturally relevant and responsive teaching and learning, along with the elimination of annual, high-stakes, punitive testing, and accountability that is mandated under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates will promote empowering, rigorous curriculum and instruction by advocating for:
· Pedagogy and curriculum that are age and developmentally appropriate, effective, and culturally inclusive and responsive.
· Research-based reading instruction and literacy practices that are culturally rich and divers and build upon AFT’s Reading Opens the World.
· Increased collective capacity to provide or partner in training on trauma-informed practices, social emotional learning, and bereavement support.
· The purposeful establishment and continuation of well-rounded school programs that offer STEM, arts, and inclusive enrichment programs and extracurricular/co-curricular activities to all students.
· Career and technical education and apprenticeship programs.
· Innovative ways for schools to engage students and infuse hands-on, student-centered experiential learning approaches that foster student ownership of learning; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will encourage its affiliates to partner with the AFT Professional Learning and Member Engagement program to build local, state and regional pathways for training trainers and developing structures for support in providing peer-led, research-based professional development that addresses the imperative shift in pedagogy away from coverage and test, and toward engagement and application; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates will support practices that create safe and affirming environments for educators and students without punitive, institutionalized policing of their identities and the erasure of their cultural and individualized expressions; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates will fight against censorship that prevents teachers from connecting with all students by supporting litigation against laws that create an arbitrary micromanagement of what is taught; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will support affiliates' involvement in AFT programs that increase educator voice and participation in policy and decision-making, such as the Teacher Leaders Program and the Teacher Leaders Alumni Advocacy Training; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates will seek to collaborate with higher education institutions and partner organizations to review policies and share best practices for the intentional recruitment and retention of educators of color to a more diverse educator workforce; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue its unwavering commitment to advancing opportunity, justice, and freedom for each and every educator through these principles of equity, for they are the basis for preparing all children for bright futures as involved citizens in our democracy.
(July 16, 2022)