Dear Education Activist,
Greetings from the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and the Equal Opportunity Now (EON) Caucus of the AFT/NEA.
This has been an exciting summer. Attempts to impose mayoral control on the predominantly minority districts of Detroit and Milwaukee were defeated despite millions spent by pro-charter foundation/corporations and aggressive campaigning by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
BAMN and EON ran slates at this summer’s union conventions, challenging the incumbent leaderships of both the NEA and AFT who have either jumped on the Duncan privatization bandwagon or provided weak and inadequate leadership in combating the attacks on teachers and public education .
We ran on the following program (the campaign literature can be viewed at http://www.bamn.com/doc/2010/100627-nea-flyer.asp):
Education Must Be a Right -
Our Children Are Not for Sale
Save Dr. King’s Vision for America
- Organize Independent Mass Actions and Build the New Student-Led Civil Rights Movement to Defend Public Education from Pre-K Through College
- Stop Relying on the Democrats to Save Us
- End “Race to the Top” Now - Release All Federal Funds to the States Based on Need
- No More Charters, No Vouchers
- Save Public Education: Stop Union Busting, Get Rid of Arne Duncan Now
- Build Independent, Integrated, United Teacher/Student/Community Action to End Legislative Attacks Against Teachers and Black, Latina/o, and Poor, Working-Class and Middle-Class Students of All Races
- All Our Students Can Learn and Excel - Reject High-Stakes Testing and Market-Economy-Based School Reform Plans
- Stop Teacher Bashing. Defend Our Union’s/ Teachers’ Dignity, Ability, and Character
While our candidates didn’t win (we garnered about 10-15% of the votes in the NEA and 5% in the AFT), our campaigns were extremely successful in setting the terms of the debate for the conventions (NEA convention had about 10,000 delegates, the AFT had around 3,000), pushing the NEA leadership to take stronger positions against Duncan’s policies than they would have otherwise, breaking through the unspoken ban on publicly criticizing the policies of the Obama administration and advancing a strategy for fighting back on a national scale.
We had a large slate of candidates run for AFT leadership (all 20 of Detroit’s delegates were from our caucus, and many of them ran for national positions, as well as candidates from California, St. Louis, Washington DC and two CORE delegates from Chicago who refused to follow the rest of the CORE delegation in joining Weingarten’s caucus). You can watch the AFT candidates’ statements (I particularly recommend viewing the statements by BAMN’s Yvette Felarca and CORE’s Daisy Sharp) on YouTube by searching under their names or the “dft members” YouTube group. (Yvette’s description of the convention and a copy of her speech can be accessed at http://dailycensored.com/2010/07/23/by-any-means-necessary-www-bamn-com-and-the-aft-election-results-a-message-from-yvette-felarca/)
We are now planning actions for the upcoming school year. We believe that the “One Nation” March on Washington planned for October 2nd provides us with a national opportunity to go on the offensive in the fight for public education.
BAMN/EON is organizing a “Defend Public Education” contingent for the March that we invite you to join and build in your region. Our proposed slogans for the contingent are 1) Defend Public Education; 2) Arne Duncan Must Go! 3) Build a new, independent civil rights movement to defeat the New Jim Crow; and 4) Full, equal rights for the black and immigrant communities in America. We are not hard on the exact wording, but we believe that our slogans must communicate the need to build a new movement for public education and civil rights independent of the Democratic Party (as Martin Luther King did), the fact that the fight to defend public education and the fight against racism are inextricably linked, and that mass action, including support for student action (rather than just going to the polls and voting for more Democrats) is the key to victory.
We are also seeking to build an ongoing national coalition of all the activist groups and individuals who are fighting to defend public education. Our hope is that by holding monthly conference calls that provide political perspective, build national actions, share information on and provide support to local educational battles, we can strengthen the good work that many people are doing on a local level. We hope you will join us.
Please let me know if you are interested in being part of this national coalition. October 2nd is not far off, so we must start mobilizing immediately.
I look forward to hearing from you.