September 30, 2009
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On the National Education Association’s Testimony Before Congress
Today, National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel testified before the House Education and Labor Committee highlighting the NEA’s recommendations for recruiting, preparing, supporting and compensating teachers to teach at high-needs schools to ensure a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.
WASHINGTON—Every child deserves a well-prepared, highly qualified teacher. This is especially important for students in high-needs schools. From long-standing AFT policy resolutions to our recent comments on the federal Race to the Top guidelines, the AFT has detailed ways to attract and retain the most qualified teachers to teach in hard-to-staff schools. A number of AFT local unions have negotiated ways to break down barriers that can prevent the most qualified teachers from teaching students with the greatest needs.
Some critics claim that union contracts prevent the assignment of high-quality teachers to hard-to-staff schools. The truth is that contracts can be an effective tool to remedy this problem where it exists, and to make schools positive environments for students and teachers. Even the most effective teachers and dedicated students are at a disadvantage in schools that are unsafe, under-resourced, lack supports and interventions for struggling students, and fail to provide professional conditions for teachers.
AFT affiliates from coast to coast—from the ABC Unified School District outside of Los Angeles to the Chancellor’s District in New York City to Chicago’s Fresh Start schools, and points in between—have worked with district partners to negotiate fair and flexible contracts that ensure teachers are provided the conditions and supports they need to meet every student’s needs.
We applaud the National Education Association for joining the effort to address this issue. With our sister teachers union on board with matching the right teachers to the right school in the right way, we ask our school district partners to join us in this important work. These bottom-up, collaborative efforts are a perfect example of doing this with us, not to us.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.