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Building the Movement to Reclaim Our Schools

Delegates heard from the director of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), a coalition of 10 national organizations that includes our union and represents some seven million people. AROS has emerged as a unified, authentic voice for public education and the driving force behind the series of school “walk-in” demonstrations launched in 2014. The events have brought students, parents and community members together on designated days to demonstrate their commitment to high-quality education and public services.
 
“We are fighting for the schools that all our children deserve,” AROS’ Keron Blair told delegates in a general session speech on the event’s second day. “We are focused on achieving racial justice and racial equity for black and brown students who have not gotten the resources they need,” he added.
 
Specifically, AROS is working to reverse the damage to students of overtesting, disinvestment, privatization and the school-to-prison pipeline.
 
“We are fighting to win a brighter future for every child, the teachers who teach them and the communities they live in,” said Blair.
 
Click here for a recent press interview with Blair.
 
The day before, AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel shared our experience organizing a successful first round of “walk-ins” at three local schools with delegates from PreK-12 unions. 
 
“We’re already seeing how this effort has helped build a new culture of mobilization and activism in three locals,” Hochadel explained. “At all three schools that held events in May we now have members not previously engaged asking leaders how they can help organize their next ‘walk-in,'” she added.
 
Click here to watch highlights of our May 4 “walk-ins” in New Britain, Danbury and West Haven.
 
With plans to expand to more than a dozen schools in at least 10 communities, the October 6 “walk-ins” would represent a 400% increase in Connecticut’s participation. They will be among the more than 200 cities and towns across the country expected to take part in the coordinated day of action.
 
“These events are an opportunity to ‘think globally and act locally’ — and October’s actions will help further push public education onto the national agenda for the 2016 presidential election,” added Hochadel, who taught physics and science in the Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS).
 
Sal Escobales (above, fifth from left), the president of our affiliated New Britain Federation of Teachers, helped organize a successful “walk-in” action in his community on May 4. He is already working on plans for a second event in October and his message to other leaders considering getting involved is to go “all in.”
 
“We made our first event a real team effort; we engaged leadership of our paraprofessionals union, district administration and the school board early on,” said Escobales, a biology teacher at New Britain High School. “That meant we had buy-in on a unified and clear vision, which we all agreed would be focused on fair funding for our schools. Plus it meant we shared the workload and avoided putting too much on any one group’s or individual’s shoulders,” he added. 
 
Convention delegates shortly after Blair’s presentation took collective action, calling on all local unions to engage their members in winning real educational justice. Resolution #2, “Building a National Movement for the Public Schools All Our Students Deserve with AROS and through ESEA Reauthorization,” passed unanimously and with strong vocal support from the floor.
 
Click here to learn more about AROS.
 
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