THE AMERICAN FEDERATION of Teachers, the 1.7 million-member teachers union, announced a major education initiative Monday aimed at pressing lawmakers in state capitals and Congress to increase funding for public schools and universities.
The move, which includes a six-figure advertising campaign, further catapults to the national stage the educator unrest that’s unfurled across the country as teachers take to the picket lines to protest underfunded school systems, low pay, overcrowded classes and lack of resources for special education and support staff, including nurses, librarians and school counselors.
“You’ve seen a growing frustration of parents and students and educators sweeping the nation,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said Monday. “While those have been very inspiring sparks, we are having funding fights in virtually every state capital and in Washington, D.C. And the root cause of every single one of those teacher walkouts that have been roiling the country is the lack of appropriate investments.”
Yuridia Nava, a counselor at Riverside Polytechnic High School in Riverside, Calif., has been getting to work at 7 a.m. lately. It’s class registration time, so she wants to be available before school for parents and students to come in with questions as they plan for the next year of courses, SAT tests, and college preparation.
Poly — as her school is known — employs six counselors for its 2,700 students, so Nava and her colleagues each work with about 500 teens. That’s just above average. According to the most recent data, school counselors across the country manage caseloads of about 482 students each. In California, where Nava works, that average ratio is 760 students per counselor — the second highest in the nation. She says counselors there are just trying to “stay afloat” and get through each day. The American School Counselor Association recommends that counselors work with 250 students each, but just three states follow that advice.
Each time a school shooting occurs, the nation collectively asks: who is responsible for students’ safety? Is it teachers? Parents? Lawmakers?