AFT organizing increases due to COVID-19 related concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on teachers and the education system, but they have been resilient in teaching America’s future, despite unprecedented attacks from those with no experience.

American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania Executive Director Ethan Ake-Little joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to explain how the education system has adapted, some issues with charter schools and the uptick in organizing.

Adjusting education for COVID-19

Ake-Little said that Pennsylvania’s teachers want to get back into the classroom, despite what some in the public and political arena are saying. The precautions need set, with safety being the main priority.

While politicians and frustrated citizens shout at teachers to get back into the classroom and spread the lie that teachers are just lazy and looking for an extended break, nobody has offered a solution.

Since the states were all left to fend for themselves, plans were not developed and teachers requests have not been met. Despite this, he said more funding for classroom safety appears to be on the way from the Biden administration.

The issue with charter schools

Ake-Little said some politicians are seeking to shift funding away from public schools and towards for-profit, charter schools. He explained they are only doing this to get around paying a livable wage and providing benefits to union teachers in public schools.

Pennsylvania’s Republicans have come out strong in support of funding charter schools with tax dollars. To supplement this, Republicans have become increasingly critical of public schools while limiting their criticism of charter schools. He cited an example of a charter school being shut down for various reasons by the FBI, something that does not happen in public education.

Organizing teachers

He said AFT organizing is going well and seems like it will get even better. Some teachers at charter schools, private schools and religious schools have come to the AFT in hopes of organizing.

Lastly, he said the pandemic has spawned a great deal of organizing. The only problem for the AFT is figuring out how to organize teachers who are employed by for-profit schools at risk of failing.


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