Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

American Federation of Teachers Takes on Racial Justice

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

American Federation of Teachers Takes on Racial Justice

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The American Federation of Teachers one of the nation's largest unions has broadened its agenda beyond teacher pay and standardized testing, to racial justice issues affecting students and communities across the country.

About 40 members of AFT's Racial Equity Task Force gathered in conference rooms at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Friday to dissect how racism is institutionalized in the nation's public schools.

For black children, it results in lower achievement, disproportionately high suspension rates and lower graduation rates. This makes it harder to find a job. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for black men 10 percent is double that of white men.

"Our job, as important as it is, is not to simply to put together a set of policy solutions," Randi Weingarten, AFT president, said before the group embarked on its work. "That is important. But we have to figure out how to elevate it, move it and make it real. That's going to be really hard."

With about 1.6 million members, the AFT is the second largest teachers union in the country. In Missouri, its members include teachers and other employees in St. Louis Public Schools.

Mary Armstrong, president of AFT St. Louis Local 420, was at the task force meeting, as were representatives and leaders from several dozen local unions from across the country.

Armstrong was part of discussions on how to better educate black students, particularly boys, by providing better professional development and cultural training for teachers.

"We want to break that pipeline from school to prison," Armstrong said.

They will continue meeting in small groups throughout the weekend about how to address education, economic and criminal justice equity issues. They're developing strategies on reforming the criminal justice system, and creating more equity in education and in the workforce. …

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