Espinoza ruling threatens public education and religious liberty

The Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling to allow public dollars to be spent on religious schools “threatens both public education and religious liberty” and is a “radical departure from our Constitution, American history and our values,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, is expected to have national implications. It allows Montana to use voucher-like scholarships supported by state tax credits to help families pay for religious schools.

AFT town hall tackles student debt on all fronts

Student debt has soared to $1.7 trillion, and the triple crises facing the nation—the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recession and systemic racism—have not helped. At a telephone town hall June 23, AFT President Randi Weingarten led a lively discussion describing the many ways the AFT is tackling this challenge and making progress: with "right now" help for borrowers, successful lawsuits against bad actors like Betsy DeVos, and efforts to change federal policy.

Organizing in a pandemic: A charter school goes union

Since its founding in 2011, Washington, D.C.’s Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School has racked up an impressive number of firsts: It was the first green charter school to open in the city. Then it became the first charter school in the city to ratify a first contract after forming a staff union. At the same time, Mundo Verde opened another new bilingual school nicknamed Calle Ocho which led to another first: Calle Ocho became the first D.C. charter school to organize its own union in the midst of a pandemic. But that part wasn’t so easy.

Nurses tell Hackensack Meridian: ‘Ignoring your nurses is bad medicine’

Hundreds of nurses and community members turned out for early-morning picketing outside the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J. on June 22. During the picket, passersby blared their car horns in support of the nurses who were protesting the lack of progress in bargaining a new contract with Hackensack Meridian Health. Health Professionals and Allied Employees represents 1,300 nurses at Jersey Shore; their contract with the hospital expired on May 31. “The public calls nurses ‘heroes,’ but the proposals from HMH don’t reflect that,” says Adam Witt, a nurse and president of HPAE Local 5058 at Jersey Shore. “We deserve respect for our hard work, sacrifice and commitment.”

Reopening schools? Make sure communities are involved

As schools begin planning to reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, AFT members are working hard to ensure the people most heavily impacted—educators, students, parents and local communities—are part of the conversation. With parent surveys, telephone town halls and the AFT’s guide to reopening, which can be tailored to districts’ specific needs, members are striving not just for a safe reopening, but to improve the racial inequities laid bare by the pandemic.

State workers win bargaining rights in Colorado

State employees in Colorado have won a historic victory as the governor signed a first-ever collective bargaining bill June 16. The new law gives state employees the freedom to come together in a union and bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions to improve public services.

Why Black male teachers matter

Many of the lessons Black male teachers bring to the classroom go far beyond academic content and pedagogy. Their unique lived experiences create a rich curriculum that contributes to student success in ways that can’t be graded or easily quantified. Using methods that transcend traditional teaching and learning, Black male teachers can provide hope, inspiration, advice, compassionate listening and, sometimes, tough love to make a difference in their students’ lives.

AFT’s telephone town hall generates hope for racial justice

AFT President Randi Weingarten led a discussion with prominent racial justice leaders on the day George Floyd was buried, mourning his death at the hands of Minneapolis police. “It’s time to right these wrongs,” Weingarten said, echoing the Rev. Al Sharpton’s eulogy for Floyd. She and other leaders are hopeful, though, as ongoing protests influence policies like a ban on chokeholds, a “duty to intervene” rule for bystander cops and the Justice in Policing Act introduced in the House.