AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Education has found that the number of students ages 6-21 with disabilities served under the IDEA continues to grow at a steady rate, rising 28.4 percent since 1991-92.  Four disability categories account for the majority of students served—specific learning disabilities, speech/language impairments, mental retardation and emotional disturbance.  The number of children in the "other health impairments" category also continued to grow; and

WHEREAS, the March of Dimes estimates that 17 percent of all children have a developmental disability.  The most common developmental disability is intellectual disability or mental retardation—affecting three of every 100 children; and

WHEREAS, infants and children are uniquely vulnerable.  They are different from adults in their exposures and susceptibility to toxic chemicals.  The developing brain in a fetus or young child is one of the organs most susceptible to damage from environmental exposure; and

WHEREAS, a substantial body of research has documented the harmful effects of lead, methyl mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticide exposure on children's neurological development.  Children in urban, low-income areas continue to have a high rate of elevated blood-lead levels despite a national downward trend.  For instance, 22 percent of screened children in Baltimore City have elevated blood-lead levels compared to 8.7 percent statewide in Maryland; and

WHEREAS, the impact of early toxic exposure is not always immediately evident.  Finding no effects on infant or preschool behavior is no guarantee that the expression of damage may not occur later in a child's life. A toxic substance may damage higher cortical centers that are associated with cognitive processes that are not yet functional in very young children.  For instance, there is now evidence that early lead exposure is associated with cognitive and behavioral dysfunction in adolescents.  Long-term studies are essential to assess the full range of developmental consequences of exposures to environmental chemicals; and

WHEREAS, the Bush administration proposes making cuts in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities—limiting surveillance and data collection of developmental disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Bush administration proposes eliminating all funding for the National Children's Study—a prospective study that will follow 100,000 children in order to identify factors in the environment that influence children's growth, development and risk of disease:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers advocate for full funding for the National Children's Study and the network of 11 Centers for Children's Environmental Health; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT advocate for full funding for Head Start; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT advocate for a federal surveillance system to track birth defects and developmental disabilities; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT educate and alert leaders and members on the dangers of environmental exposures to children and their development.