Rise up, Recover, Rebuild: A Vision for the Future of Public Education
June 12, 2021
Whereas, public education is a ladder of opportunity and a place to develop the muscle of civic participation, where we both embrace America’s diversity and forge a common identity rooted in social justice; and
Whereas, the AFT’s founding motto is “Democracy in education, and education for democracy,” which was frequently invoked by Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, and Al Shanker; and
Whereas, we are in the midst of multiple and intersecting crises that have been exacerbated by a global pandemic, a longstanding economic crisis for working people, a healthcare system that fails large segments of our society, a long overdue reckoning with systemic racism, and a climate crisis, all of which confront our public education system; and
Whereas, over the past year, our world, our country, our communities, and our schools have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts of which have been disproportionately felt by Black and brown communities, with over 2 million deaths worldwide, and over 500,000 deaths in the United States, and 50,000 in California alone; and
Whereas, California’s schools educate the most racially and ethnically diverse population in the nation and must be provided with the resources to do so equitably and effectively; and
Whereas, a majority of California’s children rely on public schools for free or reduced-priced meals and a third of college students in California face food and housing insecurity; and
Whereas, school workers, teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, tenure faculty, college and university faculty, early childhood educators, and every worker in the field of education are experiencing an ongoing deprofessionalization and casualization of their jobs; and
Whereas, 40 years ago, California was a leader among U.S. states in education funding; but now, California has grown to be the fifth largest economy in the world while funding for education has plummeted to the bottom half of U.S. states as California’s population has become more diverse; and
Whereas, according to the California Budget & Policy Center, the state of California and its cities and counties spend $50 billion annually on local law enforcement, the criminal legal system, and incarceration in state prisons and county jails, which is about three times what California spends from its General Fund on higher education (community colleges, CSU, and UC) and is roughly equivalent to state General Fund support for K-12 education; and
Whereas, the voters of California have time after time have prioritized public education by voting to secure and increase funding starting with the establishment of Proposition 98 and followed by the passage of Propositions 30 and 55; and
Whereas, getting “back to normal” will not suffice, as the pre-pandemic public education system was already underfunded and struggling to meet the needs of California’s students, workers, communities, and social institutions; and
Therefore, be it resolved, that we must fight for long-term investment in our public schools, this Vision for the Future of Public Education highlights the priority that public education can and should be so that as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build for a stronger future, our public education system is resourced appropriately and with a strong enough foundation to take on the challenges of the past, the present, and the future; and
Be it further resolved, that the Vision for the Future of Public Education must include the following:
- Investment in early childhood education that provides a fully funded pre-K environment for all children starting at age three.
- Educational add-on programs for students including a return to robust summer school programs, as well as before- and after-school programs that can close learning gaps, provide additional opportunities, give tutoring, and/or add socio-emotional learning.
- Real investment throughout our higher education institutions to bring graduates into the teaching profession without the burden of debt, while prioritizing diversity of the profession.
- Accessible wraparound services through community schools to provide both physical and socio-emotional care for all students.
- The expansion of broadband networks to provide affordable and reliable online infrastructure and technological resources for students and staff to succeed, regardless of socioeconomic status or zip code.
- Increased staffing to ensure healthy and sustainable case loads, class sizes, cleaning responsibilities, and student-to-teacher/counselor/nurse ratios.
- Facilities maintenance and new construction funds to ensure our older buildings are safe, healthy, and environmentally sustainable, including upgrading school ventilation systems and adopting other green technologies.
- Full funding of special education mandates, using both federal IDEA dollars (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and state funding.
- Full funding for low-income students through the Local Control Funding Formula and Title 1 funds.
- Requirements to expand anti-racism curricula for staff training and students to ensure that racial and social justice curriculum is centered, not marginalized, at all levels of education.
- Expansion of free, healthy meals to students to address food and nutrition insecurity for all students without cost and without stigma.
- A post-secondary investment to make our community colleges free and our universities affordable for all Californians.
- Equitable opportunities for all students, especially first-generation, low-income and students of color, to have access to an affordable higher education experience.
- Continuation and expansion of equity-based funding so that the neediest populations have the same opportunities to succeed as the wealthiest ones.
- Measures to re-professionalize the education sector by protecting academic freedom, providing job security, healthcare, and wages and benefits that align with the critical role that public education plays in a functioning democracy.
- To be less reliant on part-time workers and prioritize hiring full-time teachers, faculty, and staff, which provides a greater continuity of care for all of California’s students.
- The commitment to support a public, pre-K through university education system that prioritizes a commitment to recruit and retain the best and brightest from all communities, which provides stability for the working families who depend on public education jobs and for the students they serve.
- A path for California to again be a leader in world class education that can only be matched by the funding from the fifth largest economy in the world.
Be it finally resolved, that the CFT will
prioritize this Vision for the Future of Public
Education as the focus of our education policy work both as
we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and during the years to
follow because California should be a leader in providing the
best public education system in the country, and only by
prioritizing students, educators, and classified professionals
will this vision become a reality.
- Passed as Resolution 1 (to CFT Convention) by the Executive Council on June 12, 2021
- Submitted by the Executive Council