AFT Issues Groundbreaking Report on Racial Equity
Washington, D.C. — Leaders and members of the American Federation of Teachers have spent the past year having blunt, tough, uncomfortable, but courageous conversations about how to address the lingering effects of racism and inequity in our nation—especially related to black males. Today, as a result of those conversations, the AFT became the first public sector union in modern history to issue a substantive, action-oriented report on achieving racial equity in America.
The report, Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity: In Education, Economics and Our Criminal Justice System, provides a framework for the development of policy in national and state legislation, at the school board level and inside the AFT itself. As the AFT approaches its 100th year, this report serves as a capstone to a legacy of fighting for democracy and championing fairness and economic opportunity for all.
“I have been humbled and heartened by the overwhelming response from leaders and members around the country who participated in these courageous conversations,” says AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, who chairs the AFT’s Racial Equity Task Force. “I am proud that the AFT is the first union in the labor movement to address the crisis facing black males in a significant way. And for this work to continue, it will take the effort of all our members, including our white brothers and sisters, and the entire labor movement coming together.”
“This report offers concrete steps to create schools where parents want to send their children, where students—particularly boys of color—are engaged, and where educators want to work,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It focuses on ways to end the institutional racism that pervades our criminal justice system, and on ways to challenge the systems that give one-percenters obscene advantages. We must do everything in our power to make sure that black lives matter in every classroom, on every street and in every court in America. This report is a step in transforming our country for the better and in using this moment to start transforming ourselves.”
“This report is the grounding for the work we do in our classrooms and workplaces to better meet the needs of African-American students, their families and the community at large,” says AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker. “And this report is the launching pad for our advocacy and fight forward to defend the rights of all working Americans, including women, people of color, the disabled, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community.”
“As a black man and an educator, this report makes me so proud to be a member of the American Federation of Teachers,” says Birmingham AFT President Richard Franklin, who is a middle school special education teacher. “With so much at stake for black males in this country, this report highlights some of the most pressing needs facing our students, families and communities, and I was happy to lend my mind and thoughts to this effort.”
The report highlights a number of recommendations that the AFT hopes to implement in partnership with its state and local affiliates, including to:
- Fund programs that provide alternatives to out-of-school suspensions that offer meaningful educational opportunities for black male students.
- Ensure that all schools are safe and welcoming spaces for students and educators, and that means replacing zero-tolerance policies with restorative justice and fairer enforcement.
- Develop and implement programs to intentionally help identify, recruit, develop and retain black male educators and staff.
- Provide professional development and cultural competency training that helps teachers and other school staff understand their own personal biases.
- Create review processes in schools to ensure that black male students are treated fairly.
- Develop funding strategies, mentoring and counseling to create greater opportunity for black males to attend college.
- Establish partnerships with trade unions to develop apprenticeship programs that provide job training and placement in trade careers that open the door to economic opportunity and independence for black men.
- Continue and expand its work with the Conferences of Chief Justices to help establish engagement strategies to bridge the gap between minority and low-income communities and court leadership through collaborative efforts that will increase public trust and confidence in the states’ courts.
The racial equity report can be found at: www.aft.org