Dear AFT Utah Unionists,
AFT Utah was heard loud and clear this evening at the State Board of Utah's public hearing for Administrative Rule R277-511 Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT). AFT Utah President, Brad Asay, spoke in opposition to this proposed rule during the public comment portion of the hearing. The points that were presented in his speech included the following:
- The majority of us were educated by highly skilled, licensed teachers that received their credentials from teacher education programs. Every child in this state is entitled to a competent, trained teacher that comes into the profession with the teaching credentials they earned in courses that teach pedagogy, classroom management skills, assessment, child psychology, and give future teachers field experiences in the schools before their first day of teaching. The success of our public schools depends on these competent and highly trained professionals that build their foundation in our teacher education programs.
- We welcome those wishing to come from other careers into our profession. They can immediately start teaching in a classroom by using the Alternative Route to Licensure (ARL) that is currently in place. This alternative program provides flexibility for professionals to enter the teaching field without sacrificing the vital skills learned in a teacher education program.
- The APT will not increase the amount of teachers in the field. Instead, it will put more strain on our education system by pulling mentor and veteran teachers away from their students and classrooms in order to train those that would have received the basic skills they needed, and would have received, in a teacher education program. A teacher-leader structure has not been fully developed that defines the role, provides compensation, or lays out the structure for teacher-leaders, yet this rule mandates that districts provide master teachers and mentors for those who pursue the APT route.
- Teacher education professors are dedicated to preparing students to enter the field of teaching. There's criticism that new teachers are not prepared when they enter the classroom. We challenge that notion. Were any of us completely ready when we entered our chosen profession that first day or week? Professional educators can attest that without the skills they received from professors in the teacher education programs their first weeks and months would have been far more difficult to manage the stresses that come with being a new teacher. To marginalize these teacher education programs and the professionals that teach in them is wrong and puts the livelihood of these professors and their families at risk.
- The APT sets a dangerous precedence for not only teaching but for other professions. By diluting the requirements for obtaining a teaching license, will the same thing happen for other professions such as law enforcement or firefighters? Are the standards for electricians, and other trades, going to be compromised? Will the safety of our children and families be sacrificed because of political agendas?
- All stakeholders need to work together to fix our current system instead of creating new programs and rules in an attempt to retain and attract people to the teaching profession. By bringing back pride to our profession, rebuffing those groups or individuals that pursue austerity, polarization, privatization and deprofessionalization of our public schools and employees, and uniting our voices in support of our neighborhood schools and teachers, we will retain the best education professionals that will serve our children generation after generation.
Rita Heagren, President of AFT Granite, also spoke. She called upon the State Board of Education encouraging them not to abdicate their role to others. Her powerful comments resounded with the audience.
Also in attendance were AFT Salt Lake Federation President, Ursula Olivo, and AFT Top of Utah President, Tracy Townsend. Utah AFL-CIO President, Dale Cox, and Political Director, Steve White, attended standing in solidarity with our union. Brandon Dew, President of the Central Utah Labor Council, also attended to lend support. Numerous union members from the trades stood in solidarity with AFT and attended the meeting in overflow rooms. We are grateful for our union brothers and sisters from the trades who stand in solidarity with us in our fights!
Thank you for your continued support that allows AFT Utah to be your voice! Tonight, we are proud to say that we stood strong defending our profession. We can't stop here, we all need to continue to stand in solidarity and bring others into our union family. Together we are strong.