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Congress Addresses Book Bans and Teacher Union Negotiations

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Department of Education logoThis week, Washington, D.C. welcomed more than 2,000 in-person participants and 1,500 virtual attendees for the annual National HBCU Week Conference. This year’s conference focused on the work the federal government is doing to meet President Biden’s executive order that directed federal agencies to increase their engagement with HBCUs. Under the order, federal agencies must submit plans each year that describe how they are working to increase HBCU participation in their programs. The conference also comes as a group of Florida A&M University students announced they are suing the state’s university system in federal court alleging that the HBCU has not been receiving its fair share of funding for years.

Congressional Democrats Prepare Resolution to Address Book Bans and Restrictions on School Library Materials

This week, Congressional Democrats prepared resolutions to address the wave a book bans and restrictions on school library materials across the nation. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a sponsor of the House resolution and chair of the chamber’s oversight subcommittee on civil rights and liberties in a statement said:

“The wave of book bans that has swept across our country in recent years is a direct attack on First Amendment rights and should alarm every American who believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of our democracy…Efforts to remove books from schools and public libraries simply because they introduce ideas about diversity or challenge students to think beyond their own lived experience is not only anti-democratic but also a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.”

The resolution “expresses concern about the spreading problem of book banning and proliferating threats to freedom of expression in the United States” and “reaffirms the United States’ commitment to supporting writers’ freedom of expression, and the freedom of all Americans to read books without government censorship.” It also calls on schools and local governments to offer students with opportunities to read a vast array of books that reflect a diverse and wide range of viewpoints and perspectives.

According to preliminary data from the American Library Association there were 681 efforts to target 1,651 unique titles between January and August of this year.  A similar analysis by the PEN America literary advocacy group identified efforts in 138 school districts and 32 states to remove book titles from school libraries, prohibit them from classrooms and pull them from circulation amid public disputes or in response to state laws during the past calendar year. Also this week, the American Federation of Teachers, PEN America, the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians and the National Council of Teachers of English signed onto a full-page ad in The New York Times that rebukes efforts to ban books.

Democrats Send Letter to Department of Defense Raising Concerns over Negotiations with Teachers Union  

On Wednesday, congressional Democrats sent a letter to the Department of Defense raising concerns over negotiations with the teachers union representing those serving military families abroad. The Overseas Federation of Teachers — an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers that represents hundreds of schools in Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Bahrain — are negotiating updates to parts of their collective bargaining agreement that was first ratified nearly 30 years ago.  

The letter was addressed to Department of Defense Education Activity Director Thomas Brady and states:

“As members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, we believe that DoDEA’s reported actions are out of step with President Biden’s commitment to protect the federal workforce and ensure a meaningful right to collective bargaining as set out in Executive Order 14003. As the President noted, the Federal Government should be a model employer, and it is indeed the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bargaining. As such, we urge DoDEA to bargain in good faith and advance proposals that both parties can meaningfully negotiate.”

Some of the concerns presented by the Union center around duty-free lunch periods and teacher prep time.

New Resources for Educators

  • RAND Corporation in a new analysis found that teachers of color identified increased pay and loan forgiveness as their top approaches to recruit and retain more teachers of color into schools while very few supported ending or reducing certification requirements or eliminating preparation program admission standards.

  • EdChoice released results from a new poll that found 40% of current school parents prefer public school compared to private school. The percentage of current school parents who said they preferred public district school is up by 3.6 percentage points from 2021 while those who said they preferred private school is down 4.7 points.

Until next time, see you on Twitter @brennan_kait.

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