The walkouts and funding fights in states such as West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma, and cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, have been inspirational. What connects all these fights is the failure of politicians to fund our students’ future, which is why educators, parents, students and their communities are standing up with a clear message: We’re not going to accept underfunding and scarcity.
The AFT’s Fund Our Future campaign begins March 4, with events continuing throughout the month. Educators and our allies across the nation will be taking action to demand adequate and sustainable investment in our public schools, colleges and universities, so students—particularly our most vulnerable and at-risk children—have the resources they need to succeed.
The Great Recession decimated school funding, and 25 states still spend less on K-12 public education than before the recession. Similarly, in higher education, 41 states still spend less. Years of disinvestment have hurt our students and faculty and led to overcrowded classrooms; schools without nurses, librarians, guidance counselors and supports to ensure children’s well-being; deteriorating school buildings with outdated teaching materials and technology; and unhealthy, unsafe environments. The testing fixation, coupled with austerity, has meant the loss of instruction in the arts, music and other programs; and disinvestment has led to huge increases in tuition and student debt as well as fewer course offerings and full-time tenured faculty.
And for the states that have made strides—we need to support that trend. In those states, we’ll focus on sustaining that commitment to fund our future.
Our campaign is not one size fits all— it’s tailored to different funding needs and issues. But the goal of Fund Our Future is the same everywhere: ensuring that the public schools and colleges that embrace all of our children have the funding they need to provide the opportunities students deserve.
This means that in addition to the state and local campaigns, on the national level we’re calling on Congress to:
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
- Fully fund Title I;
- Increase investment in school infrastructure;
- Secure real operating funds at the national and state levels to counteract the disinvestment in our public colleges and universities; and
- Forgive outstanding student loan debt in keeping with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Teachers want what students need. Indeed, we are grateful that many bills have already been introduced to meet these needs. We’re fighting to prioritize these needs because every student deserves a fully funded public education.