President of teachers union will speak on the future of education

Randi Weingarten

For the last event in its “Future of Public Education” series, the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics is hosting Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, to speak in Portland for a free public talk Tuesday, April 25, and also in Eugene on Wednesday, April 26.

At her speech on Tuesday, Weingarten plans to address the federation’s interest in the future of both K-12 and higher education issues. The leader of the 1.6 million-member educators’ union, American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten was named as one of the most influential New Yorkers in the past 25 years by the New York Observer. Washington Life magazine also included her on its 2013 Power 100 list of influential leaders.

As the federation’s leader, Weingarten said that public education is a foundation of democracy and stressed that it’s vital to ensure that all schools are successful.

 “There are common traits in every school that is working as it should,” she said in a recent interview. “I call them the four pillars of effective public schools: promoting children’s well-being, supporting powerful learning, building teacher capacity and fostering school and community collaboration. While these pillars are effective, they’re not a given in our schools. And deep cuts to K-12 and higher education have set us even further back.”

Formerly a lawyer and a high school history teacher, Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2 in New York City, representing 200,000 public school educators and home child care providers. Also a New York Times columnist, Weingarten was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to serve on the Common Core Task Force in 2013 and recently has pushed efforts to make education reform one of her union’s and the nation’s highest priorities.

“Twenty-three states spend less on education than they did before the Great Recession,” she said. “On top of that, President Trump wants to slash $9 billion in education spending, which would be the largest cut ever made to the U.S. Education Department. We’ve got to focus on what works, and show that we value public education and higher education by making adequate investments in them.”

The event in Portland will take place at 5:30 p.m. April 25 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1126 SW Park Ave. The Eugene event will be at 7 p.m. April 26 at the Giustina Ballroom in the Ford Alumni Center.  

The event is co-sponsored by AFT-Oregon, the World Affairs Council, United Academics, AAUP-AFT Local 3209 and the UO Labor Education and Research center.