Saturday we co-hosted the Public Education Forum 2020, and I want to know what you thought.
We had an incredible day, with seven of the major presidential candidates discussing public education and taking questions in front of an audience of nearly 1,500 people, including American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association members, parents, students and community allies. The candidates addressed how the narrative has changed regarding the promise and purpose of public education and what we need to ensure all children have opportunity regardless of their demography or geography.
I talked to many participants who felt that, while it was a marathon, the forum was riveting and historic. They felt heard.
If you had a chance to watch the forum, let me know what you thought.
One of the things that struck me during the forum is how far we’ve come. A decade ago, the popular trend was privatization, austerity and deprofessionalization. Even some Democrats loved the idea of competition and high-stakes tests and used them to measure everything for a variety of purposes, including to close struggling schools, leave kids back and fire teachers.
But Saturday, when the major Democratic candidates came to a forum dedicated to public education, they rejected that DeVos and Trump agenda. Even candidates we disagree with on some policies showed a true commitment to public education.
We got to hear about plans to substantially increase funding for Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and community schools. The candidates talked about equity and justice. They talked about regulating for-profit charter schools and stopping voucher schemes that would drain money from public schools. They talked about fixing public service loan forgiveness and the need for affordable and debt-free college. They talked about the right to organize—for school staff, teachers, higher education professionals and even graduate workers. And they talked about school lunch and meal debt, helping students with self-confidence, and the need for wraparound services.
Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren took time from the campaign trail to specifically answer questions on topics we haven’t heard enough about during this campaign. In fact, the first question of the day came from a student, which reminded us that teachers really do want what students need.
All of our collective work lifting up public education and putting it at the center of our communities has gotten us this far. And I’m proud of what we’ve all accomplished together.
There’s still a lot to do, but Saturday’s forum showed that these Democrats are ready to work with us to fund our future.
I’m so proud of our partnership with the NEA, the NAACP, the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Action Fund, Journey for Justice, the Service Employees International Union, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which made this forum happen.
I want to hear from you about what you learned from the forum. While this is the end of the first phase of our AFT Votes presidential endorsement process, member input is key to our endorsement. So tell us what you think.
P.S.: If you missed the forum, you can watch it here.