Today, all of us could agree that we work in scary and uncertain times. But even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the AFT understood the stress and strain that comes with the work our members do to educate, heal, help and serve their communities.
But what happens when our members’ own daily stress is compounded by trauma-inducing events in their own lives? We all know how difficult it is to be fully present for others when we are carrying the burden of our own traumas.
In response, the AFT is offering a free new benefit for members—trauma counseling. (And, yes, in certain circumstances, a member with a coronavirus infection is eligible for this coverage.) The traumas covered by this new insurance include:
So how does this program work?
The counseling sessions are set up to take advantage of the latest communication technologies—phone, text, video—and to provide help whenever it is needed, wherever a member may be. They are conducted in complete privacy. Members will gain access to the program through the AFT members-only Member Benefits portal. Members will have access to a total of 21 hours of counseling over a three-month period. Everything is confidential.
What can you do now?
We want our members to feel the support of their union in their everyday lives. We hope this new member benefit will help us to meet that need.
Virginia Myers, AFT Media Affairs
Acting on a clear mandate from the AFT’s membership, the AFT executive council passed a resolution endorsing Vice President Joe Biden for president. After more than a year of member engagement on the endorsement process—with more than 300,000 AFT members nationwide participating in candidate events, town halls, polls, regional conferences and other efforts—new membership polls show strong support for Biden.
Dedicated to a transparent process that focuses on the needs of AFT members and the communities they serve, the AFT’s endorsement decision has been guided by three criteria: selecting a candidate who shares the union’s values, who has the support of our members, and who can ultimately defeat President Trump in November. Biden—a long-term partner of the AFT whose wife, Jill Biden, is an educator and whose family through tragedy has come to revere healthcare professionals—meets those criteria.
Several weeks ago, the AFT determined that three candidates—Biden, Sanders and Warren—shared our values. Over the past several days, membership polls revealed that a majority of members (60 percent) in every AFT constituency now support Biden, who leads his nearest competitor by a 2-to-1 ratio. Seventy-five percent of the Democratic membership supports the AFT making an endorsement in the primary. And in recent weeks, Biden has won an impressive lead in the delegate count. With 60 percent of delegates already apportioned,
he has 1,180 delegates of the 1,991 needed to secure the nomination.
A real leader in a time of real need The decision to endorse now, in the midst of a global pandemic, was driven by the urgent need for a leader with courage and compassion.
“Before the COVID-19 epidemic, the 2020 election was about the soul of our country. Now it’s about our soul, our safety, our health, our security and our economic well-being,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Joe Biden is the experienced and emphatic leader our country needs right now. His character was forged getting up and going to work every day and trying to make life better for his family, facing the ups and downs so many of us face; it was tested by unspeakable loss and grief in life; and it was nurtured through public service, a love of people and the belief in the dignity of every human.”
Highlighting the ways Biden’s priorities match those of the AFT, Weingarten continues: “Biden is with us on investing in public education; making college a reality for everyone; fixing the broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; making healthcare a human right, not a privilege for the wealthy; prioritizing clean energy and environmental justice; and building an economy that respects the value of workers’ voices. His whole career has been devoted to building a pathway to the middle class for the millions of people facing an affordability crisis daily. It’s time to give him the chance to do that as president.”
Conversations among AFT leaders have focused on the urgency of this moment, when the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the nation and revealed glaring weaknesses in the current president’s judgment and leadership ability.
“In this moment of worldwide crisis, the contrast with Trump is clear,” says Weingarten. “Our country is navigating the greatest challenge we have battled in generations, and it is essential that we rally around a candidate who can show courage, conviction and compassion in the face of uncertainty.
“Throughout this national emergency, the president and his administration have failed to secure testing and personal protective equipment to safeguard our frontline healthcare providers; have attempted to conceal the severity of the virus and downplay the public health risks; and have refused to deploy the full arsenal of the federal government’s resources, leaving the difficult work of leadership to our nation’s governors. Now more than ever, we need a standard-bearer who is actually looking out for us, and who has a proven track record of steering the country successfully through economic and social upheaval.”
Throughout the campaign season, beginning more than a year ago, Weingarten has directly interacted with candidates, swinging their focus to issues most important to AFT members, including public education, public healthcare, working families and the public good. The union also created countless opportunities for members to interact with candidates at town hall meetings, to discuss their campaigns at debate watch parties, conferences and campaign gatherings, and to register their own opinions and preferences on membership surveys. In February, the AFT urged members to throw their support behind any one of the three candidates who had surfaced as hewing closest to union values: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“The ‘how’ a nominee was selected was as important as the ‘who,’” says Weingarten, stressing that no one should be left on the sidelines during an election that is widely considered to be the most important of our lifetimes.
With all the pieces in place, and the urgency of replacing Donald Trump driven by deep concern over the safety of our nation, the ‘how’ has come to selecting ‘who,’ says Weingarten: “Given everything that is going on, that person now is Joe Biden.”
A long-term partner who listens. Shortly after the AFT executive council voted to endorse Biden, council members were surprised and heartened to have Joe and Jill Biden join the council’s virtual meeting. By phone, the Bidens offered their heartfelt thanks and reinforced their commitment to AFT members and the children, families and communities they uplift. Getting right to the matter at hand, Vice President Biden declared that, “I am going to be a president who leads with science and who listens to experts.” Touching on an important update to his education policy platform(link is external), Biden emphasized that college should be tuition-free for families that earn less than $125,000 per year. Jill Biden, a lifelong educator, also expressed her thanks and shared her vision, saying “What makes this nation great is the people who come together with kindness and courage to make it great.”
Weingarten reminded Biden of the good work they had done together during the Obama administration, thanking him for listening and acting on critical issues like the improper use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Summing up what she has heard from countless members, Weingarten expressed the AFT’s commitment to Vice President Biden becoming President Biden, saying “With your courage, conviction, compassion and empathy, you will lead this country in a better direction. We are now Team Biden!”
KEY will continue to canvass while practicing Social Distancing. They will be making phone calls using a virtual phone bank. If you are interested in volunteering in this capacity, please email at this address:
"KEY recognizes the situation that we are all in right now. We want to make sure that we can remain positive and hopeful through this. We will be monitoring Covid-19 and continuing to make responsible decisions as we receive new information. We also want to pass this levy for the schools. The best way we can do this is by being mindful of the situation that we are all in right now, said Thai Nguyen, field director for Kids' Education Yes! School Levy Campaign.
Nguyen said, "I still have hope to pass this levy. We need to remind as many people that the levy will be on the ballot this May. If we do that and make sure that those people return their ballots this year, I still see a pathway to pass this levy."
The safety of our members, their families, and the Montana public is our top priority. MFPE is monitoring the situation closely and has launched a resource page for members and their families. mfpe.org/covid
We will update the page as more information becomes available. In the meantime, please use the listed
resources and guidelines.
Visit MFPE's COVID-19 Resource Page
by Eric Feaver
MFPE is postponing its annual conference scheduled to meet here in Helena April 3-4 .
Feaver said, "The COVID19 situation is fluid and moving fast to say the least. We await expected information and directions from the governor’s office and office public instruction. We will reschedule our annual conference if at all possible, but we will not wait indefinitely to do so."
Meanwhile, all local affiliates must register their delegates no later than this coming Friday, March 20. No local affiliate will be able to register a new delegate after that. If there is a need to name an alternate delegate or if and when we conduct a virtual version or two of our annual conference, MFPE will deal with that on a case by case basis.
BY TAL AXELROD
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest union, announced Saturday night it is endorsing Joe Biden for president, a major boost for the former vice president as he battles with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for labor support in the Democratic race. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the 3-million member strong NEA, cited Biden’s support for public education: his plans to boost teacher pay and make schooling more available across the country.
“The National Education Association proudly recommends Vice President Joe Biden for President of the United States. Biden is the tireless advocate for public education and is the partner that students and educators need now in the White House,” Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.
“He understands that as a nation we have a moral responsibility to provide a great neighborhood public school for every student in every ZIP code. As president, he is committed to attracting and retaining the best educators by paying them as the professionals that they are as well as increasing funding for support staff and paraprofessionals.”
Biden later responded to the endorsement in the statement from his campaign obtained by The Hill.
“I am honored to have the support of the National Education Association — not only America’s biggest union, but a preeminent and powerful voice for public school educators and students across the country” Biden said.
“I know what it’s like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a teacher — I’ve been doing it almost my whole life. That’s why I will continue to stand with educators every day on the campaign trail and in the White House. Together, we are going to beat Trump, replace Betsy Devos, and appoint a Secretary of Education that parents, students, and educators deserve: someone who has worked in a public school classroom,” he continued.
Biden has made concerted efforts to cast himself as a staunch ally of public education, often citing his wife’s career as a teacher, releasing sweeping plans to boost school resources, triple funds for Title I schools, make higher education accessible, and attending three of NEA’s presidential forums.
The endorsement came after NEA voted on which candidate to back. The union is also the largest organization to endorse a candidate in the primary thus far.
The NEA’s support is the latest boost to Biden, who is riding a wave of momentum from a week-long winning streak. The former vice president has cemented his status as the primary field’s front-runner over Sanders after wins in 10 of 14 Super Tuesday states as well as several states this week, including a key win in Michigan.
Biden is also expected to perform well Tuesday when Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio hold their primaries.
Biden and Sanders are fiercely competing for union support as they each seek to burnish their bona fides among white working class voters that voted for President Trump in 2016.
PLEASE NOTE: The following meeting on Mar. 24 has been canceled!
This invitation is extended to all union members to participate in an opportunity of supporting and learning more about the importance of the Great Falls Public School District's levy.
Not only will KEY present information about the levy and respond to people's questions, but this will provide a time and place where people can provide recommendations to KEY about how to pass this levy in the school district.
As KEY vice-chair Jeff Gray said, "Let's work to come together because Strong Schools and Strong Unions build Strong Communities."
When: Mar. 24, 2020, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Great Falls Labor Temple
Address: 1108 7th St. S.
(Next to the Job Service building)
Great Falls Tribune
It was standing room only as community members gathered to to attend a rally in support of school funding for the upcoming school levy election at a Spring Hill Suites conference room on Wednesday afternoon.
Administrators, school board members, students and parents took turns to share testimony about why they believe Great Falls Public Schools deserves the community's support in the levy election that is slated for May 5.
"About five hours from now and 63 days we will be announcing the celebration of the new era of Great Falls Public Schools," said GFPS School Board Chairman Jan Cahill to kick off the event.
Over the last decade, the school district has experienced nearly $10 million in budget cuts which has resulted in the loss of over 100 educators. According to the speakers, the impact of those losses can be felt in district classrooms and beyond.
"There is an absolute link to the business climate in our community, a strong business climate in our community, and a strong school system in our community," said Brion Torgerson, a local parent and business owner. "Strong schools equals strong business and you cannot reverse that order."
Voters will be tasked to make the final decision on the $1.3 million elementary levy, which is estimated to have a $12.40 tax impact annually on a $100,000 home.
Funding for public schools is a complex equation, but it boils down to 80 percent of the district's funds are supported by the state, while the remaining 20 percent falls on local participation. Right now, local participation is supporting 17.3 percent of the elementary district's funding, the $1.3 million levy amount would bring fund the maximum budget allowed for the district.
"What I'm here to say to you today is they deserve not 80 percent, not 70 percent, not 90 percent. They deserve 100 percent of our support," said GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore. "So this levy is about getting to that elementary levy cap and supporting our students and our teachers in this school district to 100 percent, and when we've gotten there, then we can say we've done our part.So let's get it done."
In 2016, voters handily approved the high school and elementary district bonds totaling nearly $100 million for facility improvements. The difference between a bond and a levy is that money for a bond is allocated for school buildings such as new facilities or modernizing older ones. On the other hand, levy funds support programs, teachers and other operational parts of a school.
Or more simply put, bonds are for buildings, levies are for learning.
Shane Etzwiler, president of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, told community members at the rally that the chamber voted in full support of the operational levy last week. "Strong schools go right hand in hand with strong businesses in our community," said Etzwiler. The levy support event was hosted by Kids' Education Yes!, a community led, non-partisan political action group that has been in Great Falls since the mid 1990s. The group is running a campaign in support of the levy by educating community members about how the levy may begin to alleviate the challenges the district is facing after a decade of budget shortfalls.
"I've spent a lot of time with many of you in this room talking about the cuts, and the heartache and the loss and what are we going to do," said Jamie Marshall, the chair of KEY! "Today, I am really excited to stand in front of this phenomenal group and say we have the next 63 days to make this look different."
More: GFPS school board unanimously agrees to send levy to voters in May