AFT President Randi Weingarten visited Artesia High School in the ABC Unified School District as part of the national union’s 20-state “Back to School for All” tour touting the feasibility of returning to full-time, in-person instruction. 

ABC was one of a handful of California districts Weingarten visited as her way of supporting AFT local unions, members, and the overall effort to provide safe schools for California students. ABC Federation of Teachers President Ray Gaer and Executive Vice President Tanya Golden welcomed the AFT tour.

Weingarten, who has backed vaccine mandates for school staff, was also joined by CFT Secretary-Treasurer Luukia Smith and several district officials: Superintendent Mary Sieu, Director of Secondary Schools Crechena Wise, Equity Officer Adrienne Thomas, and Artesia High School Principal Sergio Garcia.

The AFT president visited a handful of classrooms currently under renovation thanks to the community’s effort in passing union-sponsored Measure BB. She spent over an hour speaking with students and teachers, welcoming them back to in-person schooling and thanking them for their courageous efforts.

When students were asked what was important for this school year, they expressed their overwhelming gratitude for being back in classrooms. Also “being with their friends” experiencing “new ways of learning and participating in group activities,” and “having more access to tutoring and other resources to help them succeed.”

ABC Federation members asked Weingarten what she was looking to highlight in the tour and in particular the stops in California.

“In May, we said that we’re going to put skin in the game behind our campaign for back-to-school for everybody,” Weingarten responded. “We put $5 million out into the field. And the CFT took one of those grants, and has been knocking on doors, standing up with vaccine clinics, and helping support back-to-school efforts like in ABC and other California districts.”

“And I really wanted to see these amazing back-to-school efforts. We know kids really need to be in school, we know the positive effects of being in school, of really ensuring that we end the social isolation that being that COVID had created.”

Weingarten also agreed to pen a letter to Sacramento legislators with the ABC Federation of Teachers stressing the importance of CTE teachers, their contributions to California schools, and in support of them getting permanent status with salaries equitable to other school teachers and nurses.

 — By Ray Gaer, President of the ABC Federation of Teachers and a CFT Vice President