NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 8th, 2012

LIVE from Providence: Educational Opportunity & Economic Dignity

How is educational equality linked to the economic situation on the ground? I came to this discussion between the American Federation of Teachers and Ilyse Hogue of the Nation. Like many of the panels so soon after the Wisconsin recall, conversation started out about the attacks which have been made against unions, and the fact was once again emphasized, once out of many, that 60% of Wisconsin voters felt that a recall should only be used for official misconduct. Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, dispelled the reasons for these attacks and talked about concessions which were made by the union and how removing their collective bargaining was not about balancing the budget, as Scott Walker continually claimed.

Talk turned to social movement unionism (rather than business unionism which only services its members without a focus on organizing), and how the problem is not collective bargaining, but economic inequality, and how unions need to present a broad economic agenda in order to both help unions and the country. Economic inequality is linked to education because it is both harder for a child to learn and a teacher to teach when the child can’t sleep because their roof is leaking, as was exampled by Ilyse. In order to make things better, work needed to be towards revitalizing the whole community.

Weingarten talked about the need to provide comprehensive services, whether it is sex education, after-school services, or healthcare, which only cost the school district the salary of the coordinator for these services. She talked about the complex solutions that are needed and the discussion which needs to be done around these issues, and how if we continue to talk about “one-word solutions”, children will lose. Seeing as one-word solutions are paid attention to a lot easier than complex, sometimes obtuse debates, reframing might needs to be less than complex but in a way which communicates the value of teacher unions to providing educational excellence at school and economic stability at home.

Conversation ended around the need to go into these communities, the need to build trust, the need to build state and local power. This has been a trend this Netroots Nation, talking about focusing not just federally, but in our very communties and perhaps a hyperlocal level. I would not be surprised if this is the trend of progressive powerbuilding, and more attention and funding for local and state organizations at least in Washington state would provide a lot of returns for progressive policymaking. Building state and local power is exactly the type of conversation we are trying to start in NPI’s panel on Revitalizing State and Local Blogging tomorrow afternoon.

There will be a variety of ways that you can stay up-to-date on the proceedings of our panel, including a live stream which will be posted on The Advocate and a Twitter feed at #usnetroots. If power is going to be built through state and local organizing, communication strategy and content creation is going to be a key to its success.

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