Late Breaking News
|Date: July 14, 1998 6:01 pm
Contact: Celia Lose of the American Federation of Teachers,
|AFT President Calls Voucher Plans a 'Hoax'|
|NEW ORLEANS - July 14 - American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President
Sandra Feldman today denounced voucher advocates who use the language of the civil rights
movement to describe their efforts to secure public funds for private school tuition.
"A civil right is the right to equal access to universal common public schooling, with high standards, good teachers, decent classrooms and buildings -- not a voucher that gives opportunity to a few and leaves the rest in schools that have been drained of resources," Feldman said.
Speaking at the AFT Civil, Human and Women's Rights conference here, Feldman said that the answer to our public schools' problems is not vouchers, but to address the problems that overburden so many of them: large class sizes, dilapidated buildings, high
teacher turnover and shortages of books and supplies.
Feldman noted that even the journal of the conservative Heritage Foundation has called school choice "the civil rights movement of the 1990s."
"To hear the words 'civil rights' so corrupted, to hear those momentous struggles appropriated for purposes that are just the opposite of what we fought for and fight for still is morally outrageous," Feldman said.
Feldman also lamented that vouchers shift the emphasis from improving education. "The overwhelming majority of children will remain in public schools," she said. "They will have even less opportunity as resources and attention and hope are drained away from their schools."
Feldman said the best way to ensure widespread access to a high quality education is to put in place reform efforts that are proven to strengthen public schools. "Today, we know much more about what it takes to have first-rate schools and high student achievement," she said. "We don't just know it in theory. We see it in increasing number of schools, in many of our toughest neighborhoods."
Feldman called on teachers and supporters of public education to push for higher academic and discipline standards, extra help for students who need it, and equitable funding for schools. The "real civil rights issue," Feldman said, is "not only the preservation of public education -- but its dramatic improvement."
The American Federation of Teachers represents 985,000 teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, healthcare professionals and state and municipal employees.
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