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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