By Sarah Ringler, Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers,
Evidence shows that teachers are stressed. A 2017 survey in
British Columbia found that two-thirds of teachers felt “stressed
and emotionally exhausted all, or most of the time. In the United
Kingdom, 86 percent of teachers reported increased workplace
stress. In the United States, 40 percent of teachers quit
teaching within five years, leaving schools with inexperienced
teachers who often are assigned to teach the most challenging and
In October I accompanied AFT President Randi Weingarten and
several fellow AFT union leaders on a fact-finding trip to Sweden
and Norway. The purpose of the trip was to examine firsthand the
approaches taken by the countries to inform our own approach to
At first glance, Sweden and Norway seem nearly identical. Both
countries have low levels of income inequality. They fund their
schools well and it shows. They both have high rates of union
membership and participation. And they both have a relatively
high rate of electoral participation.
Last year an
AFT resolution declared that U.S. public schools are held
hostage to a “testing fixation rooted in the No Child Left Behind
Act,” and condemned its “extreme misuse as a result of
ideologically and politically driven education policy.” AFT
President Randi Weingarten proposed instead that “public
education should be obsessed with high-quality teaching and
learning, not high-stakes testing.”
Since the killing of nine demonstrators in the Oaxacan town of
Nochixtlán on June 19, Mexico has been in an uproar over the
force used against teachers resisting corporate education reform.
As the school year started on August 22, teachers in four states
refused to return to classes until the perpetrators of the
massacre are held responsible and there is a negotiated agreement
to change the government’s program.
On Sunday, 19 June, demonstrators blocked a highway — a common
form of protest in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca — after the
federal government arrested leaders of the state’s teachers
union. Heavily armed police then fired on teachers, students,
parents and supporters. Nine people were killed, and many more
Angel Neri described the unique education given students at the
Raul Isidro Burgos School in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, in his speech
at CFT Convention. The school takes students from rural farming
communities, trains them as teachers, and then encourages them to
return to work in schools in the poorest, most remote communities
in Mexico. This has earned the school the enmity of corrupt and
violent elements of Mexican society.
The CFT’s emerging campaign for quality public education
underscores the fundamental problem we face in this country — the
lack of a powerful social movement for economic, political and
As part of AFT’s ongoing effort to build
alliances with educators and trade unionists around
the world, President Randi Weingarten led an AFT delegation in
May to meet education union leaders and other unionists in
Brazil, Argentina and Chile. I joined them as we looked at their
multi-year effort to defend and expand public education, and to
develop a response to attacks.
Peter Brown is representing CFT at the 10th Annual Trinational
Coalition to Defend Public Education now underway in Mexico City.
Brown teaches at Laney College in Oakland and is a member of the
Peralta Federation of Teachers.
Part-time faculty members of CFT attended the 10th conference of
COCAL International, the Coalition of Contingent
Academic Labor, in Mexico City, where California, despite its
problems, was held up as a standard for part-time equity.
Manuel Perez Rocha was the founding president of the first major
university established in Mexico City in decades, the Autonomous
University of Mexico City. Mexico doesn’t have the equivalent of
two-year community colleges, but the UACM is very close to the
ideas on which our community college system is based.
Meet Joe Berry. If you don’t know his work, you should.
Author of the book Reclaiming the Ivory Tower:
Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education, Berry has
worked for decades in multiple states as both a part-time
instructor and an organizer of part-time, contingent academic
instructors. Recently retired from teaching Labor Studies, he
continues to pour his time and energy into the struggle for the
rights of the most vulnerable instructors in higher education.