The members of the Learning First Alliance (LFA) will host Public Schools Week, March 25-29, 2019, to show the great things happening every day in public schools–and show the potential for greater things.
This second annual event encourages school leaders to invite community members, lawmakers, parents and others to visit and see the wide array of programs and high-quality opportunities offered, honor students’ accomplishments and see the joys and challenges of teaching and learning in public schools.
“Public education is the foundation for students’ success, the growth of communities, and our nation’s future,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of the National PTA and 2018-19 chair of the Learning First Alliance, a coalition of 12 national education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, teachers, administrators, specialists, school board members and teacher educators. “Public schools educate 90 percent of our nation’s students and are providing talented professionals for jobs in the corporate and public sectors as well as the military. It’s vitally important that we have a strong system of public schools across the United States.”
AACTE and fellow members of the Learning First Alliance issued a joint statement on December 19, 2018 that emphasizes the Federal School Safety Commission should help schools provide mental health resources to prevent violence. LFA members said the federal government should focus its next steps on resources and training more mental health specialists to ensure safety of students and school staff:
A new federal report misses a high-profile opportunity to bring leadership and resources to social-emotional and mental health needs in K-12 schools, the Learning First Alliance, a coalition of 12 major national education organizations that represents 10 million parents, teachers, administrators, school counselors, specialists, teacher educators, and school board members, stated in response to recommendations by the federal Commission on School Safety, led by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Simply talking about the need for something to be done without creating the ability for schools to have the tools to reach more students in need avoids a core responsibility.
AACTE President/CEO Lynn M. Gangone issued the following statement on December 20, 2018 regarding the latest Federal School Safety Commission report:
On December 18, 2018, the Federal School Safety Commission released its final report, outlining the background of its work and providing recommendations for action across three broad areas: 1) prevent, 2) protect and mitigate, and 3) respond and recover. While AACTE appreciates the effort of the current Administration to explore the critical issue of school safety, the report raises significant concerns and poses further questions.
The Commission’s report talks about the social-emotional and mental health needs of our K-12 students; however, it does not address capacity building for schools to have the tools to reach more students. The recommendation to rescind the current guidance on school discipline, created to combat the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ youth, is also highly problematic and contrary to our Association’s values of equity and inclusion. AACTE President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone testified before the Commission and joined others in strongly discouraging the use of federal funds to arm teachers as a solution to ensure school safety, yet the report does not eliminate the option of training and arming school personnel with firearms.
As students and educators head back to school this month, there is a growing concern about school safety. One in 3 parents fear for their child’s physical safety in school, according to the 2018 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.To help education leaders navigate disruptive and potentially traumatic events in schools, The School Superintendents Association (AASA) released in July the School Safety and Crisis Planning toolkit. The online resource features a select group of safety leaders throughout the country who are ready to provide guidance about a variety of crises that come without notice. AASA has also set up a crisis hotline that education leaders can call with questions and concerns about school safety. The 24-hour hotline gives access to mentors with experience dealing with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and school shootings.
After a year marked by some of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, parents are more concerned than ever about the safety of their children, according to a special school security survey conducted as part of this year’s PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.
Public opinion on arming teachers is divided, and confidence in schools’ security against attacks is waning. Two thirds of parents with children in public school said they would rather not have their child in a classroom with an armed teacher; that number jumps to 80% of Black and Hispanic parents. But when asked if they support arming teachers who are also provided 80 hours of intensive training and support, parents are evenly split.
On June 6, while AACTE members and partners were on Capitol Hill advocating for educator preparation as part of AACTE’s Day on the Hill, Association President/CEO Lynn M. Gangone was testifying before the Federal School Safety Commission at a listening session at the U.S. Department of Education.
The Commission, tasked with quickly providing meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school and headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is composed of the leadership of the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Last week’s meeting was the fourth since the Commission’s inception in March of this year and the first public listening session.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of AACTE’s founding. Created in 1948 as an alliance to boost the quality of teachers being prepared for the country’s growing public school system, our association remains steadfastly focused on the democratic ideal of providing all students equitable access to an excellent education.
AACTE’s platinum anniversary falls at a time when this ideal is still far from being realized, or even universally held, in our society. Many Americans seem to have forgotten what our nation’s founding fathers knew: that quality public education is an essential element of a democracy. John Adams called for the “whole people [to] take upon themselves the education of the whole people”; Thomas Jefferson insisted a civilization could not be both ignorant and free. Over time, persistent activism from the suffragette and civil rights movements expanded the nation’s understanding of whose voices count – of what “the whole people” really means.
As educators, students, and activists across the country gear up for another demonstration this month to fight against school violence, AACTE is sharing resources and collecting member stories related to both advocacy and educator preparation for school safety.
Student activists are recruiting high school youth nationwide to participate in the National High School Student Walkout Day on April 20, which marks the 19th anniversary of the shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School. While most high school students are too young to vote, they intend to make their voice heard by sending a strong message to politicians that the time to act to prevent school violence is now. According to change.org, school students may participate by walking out of school, wearing orange, and protesting in their local communities and online using #nationalschoolwalkout.
AACTE staff members and friends participate in the March for Our Lives March 24 in Washington, DC.
Thousands of Americans rallied from coast to coast to demand lawmakers take action to make our nation’s schools safer during the March for Our Lives held Saturday, March 24, in response to last month’s shooting at a Florida high school. Student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting led the protests emphasizing the importance of school safety for all communities across the nation. Among the massive group of activists in Washington, DC, were several staff members from AACTE.
This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is reposted with permission. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
As America struggles to recover from the recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida, where 17 lives were tragically and unexpectedly cut short, we find ourselves embroiled in the same responses that surface after all mass shootings. Vigils, memorials, and protests abound across our nation to try to make sense of these unfathomable events and to demand an end to this violence; and there are reiterated cries for stricter gun laws.