With so much political controversy surrounding education in Florida, when the president of the most prominent national teacher’s union comes to town from Washington, it’s natural to expect her focus would be on the mandates from Tallahassee.
Not this time.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten came to Miami to talk about proposals to boost learning in the classroom and to support teachers and families.
“Today has nothing to do about politics, it has everything to do with lifting up the Miami-Dade schools, which around the country are known for the kind of public school choice they have done for kids and our communities,” Weingarten said.
She and United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats toured Miami Jackson Senior High and some other schools.
“We don’t want our classrooms to be politicized, we want every child to come into our classrooms and feel safe and secure and welcome because we know that when children are happy and they feel good and secure, then they can learn,” Hernandez-Mats said.
The AFT is promoting its $5 million “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities” initiative, among other objectives, it’s designed to boost hands-on learning opportunities and to fight for children’s mental health and well-being.
“Let’s get those social media companies to think about children’s safety and health, not just their profits,” Weingarten said.
The AFT has also pledged to donate 2.5 million free books to kids during the school year.
“And so what we are focused on is literacy programs, handing out books, so that kids develop a love of reading, and the hard work of helping teachers help kids with literacy,” Weingarten said.
The teachers unions are also clearly fighting the narrative that only one side of the political aisle favors parental involvement in education.
“We want our parents to have the collaboration between the teacher and the parent that has always existed and should always exist, we want them to be involved,” said Hernandez-Mats.
“For every time than an extremist says let’s take something away or let’s suppress something or let’s impair something, there are thousands and thousands of other parents who say we don’t want that to happen,” Weingarten added.
That was about as far as Weingarten would delve into political controversy today, alluding to the book removals and bans in Florida schools.
The initiative she’s promoting is funded by union dues, Weingarten pointed out.