American Federation of Teachers, Parents and Community Groups Partner To Lead Community-Driven School Reform

Groups Announce Series of Town Halls, Teach-ins, Workshops, Other Events to Engage and Mobilize Teachers, Parents and Community Members

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–September 21, 2012.  To advance a community- and educator-driven agenda for public school reform, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and leaders of parent and community groups today announced a series of town hall meetings, teach-ins, workshops and other events in cities and towns across the nation. This announcement follows collective action by parents, teachers and community groups in Chicago to win the tools and conditions needed to help all kids succeed. 

These efforts, which will take place in Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Paul, Tampa and elsewhere, will empower teachers, parents, students and community members to act collectively to drive public school reform. These voices, which have not always been heard in the education debate, are critical to providing every child with the high-quality public education they deserve. 

“Real public education reform comes from the bottom up, with teachers, parents and communities working together to help all children thrive,” said Weingarten. “That’s community-driven reform. And that’s how we can make every school a school where parents want to send their kids and teachers want to teach.”

In too many districts, teachers and parents have been shut out of the debate over how to transform public schools in favor of top-down reforms that focus on testing and accountability instead of teaching and learning, and on closing down instead of fixing neighborhood schools. And harmful budget cuts have taken teachers out of the classroom, increased class sizes, and slashed art, music, physical education, libraries and other critical subjects and services that help children learn and grow.

“We cannot have true education reform without the voices of students, parents, teachers and the community,” said Ocynthia Williams, parent leader and secretary of the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice. “It’s time to face up to the failures of the top-down, corporate-driven reform agenda.”

Community partners present at the announcement included Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens; Richard Gray, director of national programs for the Community Organizing and Engagement Group of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform; Dawn Hawkins, parent leader, Action United; and Melissa Erickson, parent leader, Hillsborough (Fla.) Alliance for Public Schools. 

The groups also released a vision statement to guide community-driven reform efforts. 

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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.