Your Inspiration for Today: 11-Year-Old Asean Johnson

You may have seen a video of him before, but if 11-year-old Asean Johnson can stand up to Rahm Emanuel and school “reformers” like he does in this video from the AFT convention, you can stand up and fight the important battles in your community.

At the Los Angeles convention, he thanked his teachers, his family and his Chicago community for joining together not only to safeguard his schooling and opportunities in life, but also to win access for all students to art, music, libraries and vital school professionals like counselors and nurses. To the cheers of delegates, Asean said:

Now, we must take that fight to every city in America. If we come together, we will win. Let’s march together; let’s fight together; let’s work together. Let’s reclaim the promise of America’s schools together!

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Moral Monday’s Focus on Education Gets Lawmaker’s Attention

Photo via Hannah Rose Mendoza's facebook page

More than 1,000 North Carolinians called on the state legislature to restore funding for public school students’ education and to back off its attack on teachers’ rights and its support of school privatization in a Moral Monday rally at the state Capitol in Raleigh.

The Moral Monday protests began last year in response to Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) and the Republican legislature’s extremist agenda that has attacked voting rights, education, the environment, unemployed workers, health care and women’s rights.

Showing Moral Monday’s mounting pressure and its growing state and national high profile, for the first time a leader of the legislature met with the protesters who had been prepared for a sit-in and possible arrest.

North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) met with some 15 teachers and student outside his office for about two hours. According to news reports, it was an occasionally heated but mostly civil conversation about the cuts to public education funding, the elimination of nearly 700 teaching assistants, public funds for private school vouchers and tying teacher raises to eliminating tenure rights.

While protesters said they appreciated that Berger met with them, they said they would continue their drive to protect students and public education. Bryan Proffitt, a 10-year teacher, said:

I won’t be satisfied until my students have what they need and our schools aren’t bleeding every day….We’ll be back if these conditions are not met. The reality is, with all the media attention we’re getting right here and all this conversation, we’re going to be back with a whole lot more folks.

The Next Moral Monday on June 16 will focus on workers’ rights.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Victory! How Working America Helped Save Four Schools From Closure

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Thanks in part to our efforts, on Thursday March 13th Working America members, in conjunction with other faith, community, and labor organizations, delivered over 500 petitions to the Houston Independent School Board protesting the proposal to close 5 neighborhood schools.

The result: the Houston Independent School District (HISD) voted to save four out of five public schools in Houston.

Many consider the decision a major victory for Houstonians who, according to the Houston Chronicle, have already witnessed HISD close 19 schools since 2010.

The HISD decision came after dozens of community protests and thousands of angry parents, teachers, and community members making their voices heard. On the day of the vote, 17 Working America members held a press conference outside of HISD Headquarters and stood in solidarity with other faith, community, and labor organizations to protest the closure of more public schools.

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WA member Sergio Serrano, who wants to send his 5 year old daughter to Dodson Elementary—a school slated for closure, spoke to the media at the press conference and testified in front of the Board of Trustees.  Elisabeth Johnson, an HISD Alumni, and Bernard Sampson, a concern community member, also testified in front of the Board. The message of, save our schools, was strong and clear across the board.

Carol McGregor, one of the seventeen members in attendance, said “It’s clear that this victory was a result of a strong community, standing up for strong public schools. The Houston School Board had no choice but to vote our way. I’m proud to be a part of Working America and a part this win.”

To get involved with Working America in Houston, contact Working America Member Coordinator, Taylor Thompson at [email protected].

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Join Us in the Fight To Save Our Schools

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) provides public education to more than 200,000 students.

Recently, HISD made a last-minute proposal to close five neighborhood schools at the end of the 2014 school year. Although three schools have been saved, a Thursday vote will determine if the remaining two schools will close.

If the board chooses to close the schools, students will be forced to travel farther from home and into Houston’s other, already overcrowded public schools. Class sizes will grow, students will receive less individual attention, and overall educational outcomes will worsen.

Texas is 49th out of all 50 states in education spending. We need to invest in our public schools, not make the situation worse than it already is.

In response to this, Working America members decided to take action by engaging local media, community members and key decision makers at the school board.

We’re hosting a press conference tomorrow to discuss the potential closing of the schools, at the HISD Administration building, 4400 W. 18th St., at 4 p.m.

Other actions we’ve taken

Our members Matthew Rigney and Elizabeth Johnson, a former HISD student and daughter of an HISD teacher, headed up outreach to fellow Working America members and the larger community. Together, they signed up 25 new Working America members at a district-sponsored meeting held for those affected by the proposed school closures.

Members also organized a phone bank to follow up with new members and invite them to join in the fight.

“The district may be able to ignore one or two people speaking out about this proposal, but they cannot ignore us all,” Rigney said. “If we really want to stop the attack on public education, we need to build our power through community support.”

Activist Mike Hicks, a single father of an HISD student, spoke out against the plan in a radio interview with KPFT 90.1FM on Friday Feb. 28, saying, “When you close a school, you ruin a community. Families with kids move out in search of other, more conveniently located schools, leaving only empty houses behind.”

Carol McGregor, activist, and mother of four public school-educated daughters, wrote a letter to the Houston Chronicle urging teachers, parents and community members to partner together to change the appalling pattern of overcrowded, underfunded schools.

“How [is the district] considering the closure of five Houston schools when more than 1,200 classrooms are overcrowded? If HISD thinks school closures and bigger classes are acceptable, we’re headed in the wrong direction,” McGregor said.

With little less than a week remaining before the vote, members have set their final plans into motion.

On Thursday, March 13, Working America members will head to Houston Independent School District’s headquarters to raise their voices about this important issue.

Take action now: send a message to the HISD and tell them to keep our schools open.

To get involved with Working America in Houston, contact Taylor Thompson, Working America Member Coordinator at [email protected]

Photo courtesy of scarlettgreen on Flickr.

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100,000 Reasons the Extremists Who Run North Carolina Should Be Very Afraid

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When a group equal to one-fifth the population of the state capital shows up to protest your policies, you’re in trouble. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people showed up Saturday at the Moral March on Raleigh, the state capital with some 420,000 residents. The marchers included working families and their allies from around the state and more than 30 other states. A related rally a year ago attracted 15,000 participants. It’s clear that more North Carolinians are becoming upset with the extreme agenda of Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and his allies in the legislature.

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and a driving force behind the state’s Moral Monday movement, which spawned the march, said: “The governor and the legislature are trying to say we’re in the middle of a Carolina comeback. We got a team of experts, economists, professors, etc., together, and they said we’re in the middle of a Carolina setback. No way you can spin what’s happening to us.”

MaryBe McMillan, the elected secretary-treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, wrote a poem on the march. Below is an excerpt:

Why are union members and workers here, today?
We’re here because:

There’s too much corporate greed
And we have families to feed.
There are so few jobs, no decent wages.
Inequality tops the news pages.

CEOs earn more and more
While the rest of us grow poor.
The bosses want their workers cheap,
Meek and docile like sheep.

They move their companies South,
Hoping we won’t give them any mouth.
Well, imagine their surprise
As they watch the South arise.

The reaction to the right-wing policies pursued by McCrory are opposed by much of the state’s public as well. A poll last week gave him a 37% approval rating.  The General Assembly fared even worse, at 32%. Only 23% of the state’s residents think North Carolina is headed in the right direction.

Barber and the other organizers behind the march and the Moral Monday protests have focused on five goals:

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability.
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all.
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities.
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference.
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Learn more about the march and the Moral Monday activities.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Call Me Radical, But I Think A Good Budget Requires More Than “Spirit”

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The following is a guest post from Pittsburgh Working America member Kayleigh Metviner

I participated in a press conference on Tuesday with the local chapter of Working America,  a national economic justice organization, to call for a Pennsylvania state budget that favors education and social services over corporate tax cuts.

A few hours later, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett presented his vision for the state budget, which was not expected to be anything to cheer about. Now, I am a newcomer to Pennsylvania, and I am not going to write in-depth about Pennsylvania-specific politicians and issues. What I am more interested in here is the disconnect between legislation that is both feasible and favored by a majority of citizens, and the legislation that is proposed by Corbett.

Why politicians who face abysmal approval ratings (23 percent for Corbett last week) still try to get reelected is beyond me, but Corbett’s budget proposal is clearly aimed at garnering support this year. And even though most self-identified progressives would rather drink West Virginia’s water than see Corbett reelected, his attempts to pass legislation that appeals to the majority could still be a good thing. Unfortunately, his actual budget proposal makes that very unlikely.

In his speech, Corbett said that his budget sets the agenda in the “spirit” of expanding public education, which…niceBut the state budget doesn’t have a column for spirit, and very few of us have managed to exchange spirit for goods and services.  So where is the money for education coming from?

Mainly from a highly unlikely projected increase in state revenues.  Despite having predicted a budget deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year just a couple months ago, and despite revenue having come in short even of that projection in January, Corbett’s spending plan is dependent on a 4 percent increase in revenue this year.

In contrast, the budget that Working America and community members across the state support would see education and social services funded mainly by closing corporate tax loopholes, like the well-known Delaware tax loophole that deprives many states (except Delaware) of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

We presented this proposal before the release of Corbett’s plan because we wanted to make it clear that there is a viable alternative to empty, feel-good promises and more of the same political floundering that leaves the majority of us, in Pennsylvania and around the country, in a perpetual state of disadvantage. Crafting a state budget is undoubtedly a complex matter, but in the face of complexity, let’s turn to logical and equitable solutions, not “spirit.”

Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.

Photo by onepittsburgh on Instagram

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Dear Governor Corbett: Here’s How You Fully Fund Pennsylvania Schools. It’s Actually Pretty SImple.

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The following is a guest post from Working America member Kayleigh Metviner

Volunteers, supporters, and media gathered at Working America’s Pittsburgh office on Tuesday morning to call for an economically just and fiscally responsible state budget, in contrast to the budget proposal anticipated from Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) later in the day.

With over 500,000 members in Pennsylvania, Working America is a formidable force in the state, and we are overwhelmingly in support of a state budget that focuses more resources on public education, higher education, and social services.

Our members know that money doesn’t materialize out of thin air, so their calls for well-funded education and social services are accompanied by practical and equitable solutions: closing the Delaware tax loophole that deprives Pennsylvanians of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and expanding Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid will not only allow more Pennsylvanians to access health care, it also has the potential to lower overall health care costs. On top of this, it will be 100 percent funded by the federal government for the first three years, and that rate would modestly and gradually decrease to 90 percent during years after that. Lowered costs from expanded Medicaid, combined with increased revenues from corporations paying their fair share of taxes will enable our state to fulfill its commitment to our public schools.

Several Working America volunteers read community member comments aloud at the press conference. One member urged Governor Corbett to “budget with greater consideration for education support instead of corporate tax breaks/”  Another wrote: “Please, stop the practice of subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer money when programs and research to help the vulnerable are so needed.”

We want to thank those who shared their stories and urge all Pennsylvanians to continue spreading the word about the real possibilities for economic justice right here, right now.

Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.

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On Dec. 9, Join the Movement to Reclaim Public Education

On Dec. 9, a coalition of education advocates, including the AFT, parents and community, faith and other groups will hold a National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education. The mobilization is part of a long-term push for reforms designed to reclaim the promise of public education as the nation’s gateway to democracy and racial and economic justice.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a conference call today the action is part of a “movement to rebuild educational and economic opportunity.” She said:

We want our kids to have great public schools. Public schools where kids are safe. Public schools where the joy of learning is embedded….We’re doing everything we can to let our kids have the future they deserve.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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