The AFT groups classified employees, support staff, and paraprofessionals together in its Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRP) division, representing more than 370,000 workers in public and private preK-12 schools, colleges, and universities across the nation.
The AFT has organized paraprofessionals and school-related personnel since the early 1930s, when the first PSRP affiliate, the Education Secretaries of Chicago, was founded. Today, the PSRP division sets a solid foundation for high-quality education by supporting meaningful professional development and a commitment to safe and welcoming places of learning for all students.
The work of the division is directed by the PSRP Program and Policy Council, an appointed leadership group of 34 leading activists from around the country that meets regularly. The AFT Constitution calls for a PPC to guide each of its five divisions — PreK-12, PSRP, Higher Education, Retirees and Healthcare. The AFT Executive Council appoints chairs and members as recommended by the AFT president. The PPCs are one of the AFT’s strongest links.
AFT leadership relies on rank-and-file union members to provide guidance and advice on issues, programs and services that help enrich the lives of classified employees, support staff, paraprofessionals, and students.
California is currently represented by two officers of the CFT Council of Classified Employees — President Carl Williams and Southern Vice President Tina Solórzano Fletcher. Solórzano has served on the PPC for about eight years.
“Being on the PPC is this great opportunity to learn from locals across the country,” says Solórzano Fletcher. “We share victories and winning strategies. We talk about our issues and challenges. I’m proud to represent CFT, and now California will have an even greater voice.”
Williams was recently named co-chair of the PPC with Shelvy Abrams, the elected chairperson of the United Federation of Teachers paraprofessional chapter, representing 23,000 members in New York City. Both Williams and Shelvy are AFT Vice Presidents.
Williams is also president of the Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees and will be the first man to hold the national PPC position.
“It was an honor to be appointed to the PPC,” Williams said, “and an even greater honor to co-chair the council. I’m proud to stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Williams is referring to Lorretta Johnson, emeritus AFT secretary treasurer, and long-time leader of the AFT PSRP division.
In California, the CFT has divisions similar to the AFT. The Council of Classified Employees division guides the CFT on issues and policies of important to support staff in public and private schools and colleges. It has four elected officers.
Williams said he feels very lucky the CFT focuses on school staff.
“We definitely take care of our folks. California is on the cutting edge of the work we do,” he said, “but great things are happening all over the country. If we put all our PSRP members together you would see the strength that classified workers have.”
The union provides ongoing solid support to school staff. Each year, the CFT Council of Classified Employees hosts a statewide conference (and this year a second Custodial and Skilled Trades Conference), and the AFT PSRP division hosts a national conference. CFT members receive this newsletter, Classified Insider, as well as the all-union CFT United as a benefit of membership. AFT also provides regular news to PSRP members.