We believe in public education because it is the means by which we help all children dream their dreams and achieve them. And I mean all children—those who have abundant advantages, and those for whom every day is a struggle; those who worry about getting into a good college, and those who worry about their parents getting deported.
Educators like you help students build lives of great purpose and potential by instilling essential knowledge and skills, including critical reasoning, problem-solving and working with others, and by promoting civic participation. We believe in high-quality public education because it is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right, without which none of our other rights can be fully realized. And I believe that promise, that hope, that accomplishment, is a direct result of the work you do every day, the most important work in America.
I truly believe we are in a crucial moment when we must reclaim the promise of public education—not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as what public education can be to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed.
People are waking up to the fact that decades of top-down edicts, mass school closures, privatization and test fixation with sanctions instead of support haven’t moved the needle—not in the right direction at least.
And today, in front of nearly 3,000 educators at our union’s TEACH conference in Washington, D.C., I laid out a vision to reclaim the promise of public education and unite parents and community with us as one unstoppable force.
Stand with us to Reclaim the Promise.
Reclaiming the promise of public education is about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers are well-prepared, are supported and have time to collaborate. Reclaiming the promise is about enabling them to teach an engaging curriculum that includes art and music and the sciences. And reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that kids have access to wraparound services to meet their emotional, social and health needs.
Taken together, all these things reflect our prescription for ensuring that all kids have the opportunities they need and deserve. This vision may look different community by community, but it has a few common elements. Reclaiming the promise will bring back the joy of teaching and learning. It’s the way to make every public school a place where parents want to send their kids, teachers want to teach and children are engaged. It makes our public schools the center of the community and fulfills their purpose as an anchor of our democracy and a propeller of our economy.
We know it is not only educators who are for this; parents and community members have our backs. A recent poll, we released today, found that parents want strong neighborhood public schools as opposed to more charter schools or voucher programs, and overwhelmingly believe public schools should provide a well-rounded education, offer social services for students and reduce the emphasis on testing, among other findings.
This is not a campaign. This is our core. And it must be the focus of our work going forward. Ours is a vision that works. It’s a vision of what parents want for their kids. And it’s a movement that can stop the privatizers, profiteers and austerity hawks in their tracks.
But they’re not going to roll over and go away. We need your help. None of us can be bystanders. We need to reach out to parents, the community and civic leaders. We need to open their eyes to the good things happening in our schools—as well as the challenges we face. We need to open their minds to our vision for great neighborhood public schools. We need to open their hearts to joining with us in the effort to ensure all our children get the great education they need and deserve.
Join us in Reclaiming the Promise.
P.S. Read the full speech I gave at the AFT TEACH Conference this morning, launching the AFT’s core program, Reclaiming the Promise.