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Teacher Salaries Outpacing Inflation for 5th Consecutive Year

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SAN FRANCISCO--Increases in teacher salaries outpaced inflation in 1987-88 for the fifth straight year, according to an analysis released here during the AFT convention.

But that still represents only $500 more in buying power than teachers earned in 1972, the union argued.

According to its "Survey & Analysis of Salary Trends 1988,'' the average teacher salary was $28,085 in 1987-88, up 5.5 percent from the previous year. The average salary for beginning teachers was $18,557, a 5.4 percent increase.

Similar data, released at the annual meeting of the National Education Association, estimated that the average teacher salary was $28,031 for 1987-88.

The AFT has grown by more than 55,000 members in the past two years, according to President Albert Shanker, and its ranks are becoming increasingly diverse.

Since 1986, the AFT has organized federations of state employees in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Dakota. Membership in its division of paraprofessionals and school-related employees has grown by 15,000. And its Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals now numbers over 40,000.

But Mr. Shanker said the union's ranks could grow even faster if delegates to the convention recruited more associate members and "friends of education''--a membership category open to any adult interested in receiving the AFT's publications, attending its conferences, and participating in its travel and benefit programs. Mr. Shanker described recruitment in this area as one of the union's "very, very high priorities.''

Meanwhile, the AFT has formed a special committee of its executive council to consider ways of restructuring the union to reflect its diverse membership. In response to the organization's growth, delegates to the convention also approved a constitutional amendment that expanded the union's executive council from 36 members to 40.

The AFT has added a new caucus to its existing group of three. On June 30, the union's executive council unanimously approved the creation of a gay and lesbian caucus, chaired by Paul A. Thomas, a 7th-grade teacher in Philadelphia.

Mr. Thomas, who began organizing the new caucus in February, said it was relatively easy to find 25 delegates willing to sign the petition needed to bring it to a vote.

He formed the caucus, he said, to address the issues that gay and lesbian teachers "face in labor and educational equity'' and to create a "collective voice.''

The three other caucuses within the AFT are the Black Caucus, the United Action Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus.

Delegates approved a resolution that discourages the use of standardized tests to screen children for entry to and exit from kindergarten--a practice now being debated in several states.

According to the resolution, screening decisions based on test scores raise "serious questions'' about equity and "sound educational practice;'' pressure schools to adopt inappropriate kindergarten curricula; and give children early experiences of school failure.

An amendment to the resolution, added on the convention floor, states that in some instances the union would be willing to "experiment'' with the use of such tests if agreed to by both parents and teachers and "if promotional decisions are finally up to the teacher's discretion.''

The AFT also committed itself to explore changes in the education of handicapped youngsters, as part of its push to restructure the schools.

A resolution adopted by the delegates commits the union to explore the "regular-education initiative,'' a movement within special education that advocates teaching mildly handicapped pupils entirely within regular classrooms.

According to the resolution, the AFT "will explore alternative delivery systems'' for educating such children "in the context of a restructured school setting, where targeted resources follow the exceptional child and special- and general-education teachers and paraprofessionals are able to work together to plan appropriate instruction for all students.''

The delegates resolved to oppose state and legislative initiatives that would mandate English as the official language, and to support a "full range of language-assistance policies and programs'' for students--including, but not limited to, transitional bilingual education.

The resolution also advocates bilingual assistance for all limited-English-proficient Americans.

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