The AFT has always been a solutions-driven union, and our new campaign, launched during TEACH on July 21, proves it once again with a fresh, practical approach to strengthening public education. As AFT President Randi Weingarten pointed out during her keynote speech, the $5 million, yearlong campaign, “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities,” stands up against attacks on public schools and offers real-world solutions to build up, rather than break down, our communities.
Summer is upon us, and parents, children and teachers are winding down from what has been an exhausting and fully operational school year—the first since the devastating pandemic. The long-lasting impact of COVID-19 has affected our students’ and families’ well-being and ignited the politics surrounding public schools. All signs point to the coming school year unfolding with the same sound and fury, and if extremist culture warriors have their way, being even more divisive and stressful.
Attacks on public education in America by extremists and culture-war peddling politicians have reached new heights (“lows” may be more apt), but they are not new. The difference today is that the attacks are intended not just to undermine public education but to destroy it.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, delivered a hard-charging speech at the union’s convention in Washington on Monday (transcript here), asserting that ineffective teachers should find another line of work.
In early 2014, President Barack Obama paid a visit to a local Costco. He wasn’t there to get a good deal on tires or a big-screen TV but to use Costco as a platform to advocate a higher minimum wage. That’s because the retail giant (where I am lead director) has proved that businesses can perform better by paying more. Costco pays some of the highest wages in retail—almost twice the minimum wage.
And guess what, it’s doing great. At a time when debate over raising the minimum wage is front and center, I have a message for my colleagues in business: We are missing the boat. Knee-jerk opposition is wrong, because as I have seen at Costco and other companies, raising wages will be good for business.
There are three key reasons. First, it will accelerate growth of the economy. Second, it will increase labor productivity. And third, it will reduce government support payments and the pressure to raise taxes on business.
As our public schools begin another school year, it's time to stop blaming and criticizing teachers and start thanking and acknowledging them.
Our schools reflect society, and society has undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations. A typical classroom today consists of many students with severe behavioral problems, limited knowledge of English usage, emotional and psychological difficulties, learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders. And many suffer from abuse and other adverse home and socioeconomic conditions.