fight song

How the nation’s largest local teachers union is responding to a Trump future — ‘no choice… but to fight’

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew sent the following message to roughly 3,000 UFT delegates on Thursday afternoon. 

Given the import of this week’s events, I decided that instead of a Chapter Leader Update, I would send you this email addressing the election results and its ramifications on our schools, our students and our union.

I know the election results have left many of us shell-shocked. Many are worried about what the future holds for our families and our nation. And as public school educators, we are worried about the children in our care — the undocumented immigrants, the children in poverty, the Muslims, the LGBTQ kids.

As chapter leaders and union delegates, you can provide a safe place for members to talk and to lean on each other as we navigate the road ahead. As educators, we have to keep our own emotions at bay at school as we are called upon to answer our students’ questions, ensure that they feel safe and valued, and keep them inspired and focused on their education.

At our Delegate Assembly on Wednesday, you shared powerful and heartbreaking stories about your first day back at school. A teacher at International HS at Union Square relayed that an 11th-grader confided to him that her dream of going to college died the day before and her parents had started talking about moving back to their home country. A Queens teacher had to calm the fears of one 3rd-grader that World War III was coming. A Bronx high school teacher shared how she changed the topic of the Socratic seminar she had planned from Shakespeare to the election.

In times like these, we have to hold fast to our core beliefs: that public education is critical to the future of this country; that all communities inside our school communities deserve respect and dignity; and that workers have a right to unionize and be treated fairly.

In the months and years ahead, we are going to face some of the greatest challenges that this union and its members have ever faced. There will be seismic policy shifts with Trump as president, both houses of Congress in Republican hands and the U.S. Supreme Court with a right-wing majority. We always try to work with people first but if they attack one of our core beliefs, we have no choice as a union but to fight. This is an opportunity for us to organize, both among our own members and with others in our communities.

How we fare in this battle will come down to the grit we have. We can draw strength from knowing that our fights have always been righteous fights. We will work with those who share our values — including parent and community groups and civil rights and immigrant rights associations — because we know we are more powerful when we stand together.

We must keep moving forward. Our families, our students and the communities we serve are depending on us. We will get through this together.

I thank you for all that you do.

 

seizing the moment

On first day for most Denver schools, gubernatorial candidate Michael Johnston calls for better school funding

Former state Sen. Michael Johnston's children listen to him announce his gubernatorial bid. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

Colorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Johnston sent his son Emmett back to school Monday — and sent a message to voters at the same time about one of his longtime causes.

On the first day of school for most Denver students, Johnston recorded a video of his son carting off two large cardboard boxes full of supplies. In the video posted to Twitter, the former state senator called it another example of how Colorado is shortchanging its public schools.  

“People often ask what does it mean to have cuts to the statewide budget to education,” he said.  “Well it means a lot of those bills get passed on to parents and to kids who have to bring their own paper towels, their own wipes, their own crayons, their own boxes.”

Johnston, a national figure in the education reform movement, led an unsuccessful push to increase taxes for schools in 2013.

“We count ourselves lucky,” Johnston said in the video, adding that knows many families in Denver often feel the pinch of buying new school supplies and fees. “We think the state has an obligation to do better.”

Though the governor’s race is in its early stages, back-to-school season is a logical time for candidates to take out education positions. Earlier Monday, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is also running, released an online ad spotlighting his pledge to expand full-day kindergarten and preschool.

sending a message

Memphis school board leader wants to declare that ‘all are welcome here’

PHOTO: Marcus Villa/Latino Memphis
Immigrant students display their career aspirations during a visit to the State Capitol in March to support an unsuccessful bill that would have extended in-state tuition to them.

A school board member wants Shelby County Schools to send a unified message to immigrant students and parents: “You are safe in our schools.”

Teresa Jones will ask the board Tuesday to officially go on the record about protections for undocumented students in the wake of this summer’s federal immigration arrests in Memphis by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“There are speculations among parents of, ‘Should I send my child to school?’” she said Monday about the impetus for her proposal. “I want the board to take a formal stand.” 

The resolution backs up the district’s current policy of protecting student privacy and restricting the release of confidential information about immigration status to immigration enforcement agencies.

It also asks the superintendent to elevate partnerships with community-based organizations aimed at supporting families impacted by immigration raids.

If the resolution is approved, Shelby County’s school board would join elected school officials across the nation who have spoken out about President Donald Trump’s crackdown on people who have entered the United States illegally. Last fall after Trump’s election, Nashville school board members took a similar stand.

Memphis school officials sought to assure parents of the district’s policy earlier this month when the new school year opened.

Shelby County is now home to approximately 57,000 Hispanics, and 14 percent of the district’s student population is Hispanic.

Teresa Jones

The resolution by Jones, who is an attorney, cites the 1982 Texas court case Plyler v. Doe, which established that a public school district cannot deny children access to education based on their immigration status.

She said a school board vote would send a strong message to Shelby County and across the nation.

“An individual speaking is just opinion,” Jones said. “But when we have a resolution, that speaks for the entire board. It’s a different level of … commitment to our students.”

Kevin Woods, another board member, said he’ll back the position wholeheartedly.

It makes “a statement loud and clear to families of our immigrant population that they are welcome at our schools, we want them there and they are members of our communities,” he said.