Teaching Profession

AFT Affiliates, Districts Do “Mad Men”

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 12, 2009 1 min read
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As I was walking down 14th Street in Washington this past weekend on the way to the gardening store, I noticed a placard in a shop window promoting the Washington Teachers’ Union and the American Federation of Teachers. “Good for students, fair to teachers,” it read, apparently echoing Randi Weingarten’s press club speech from last year, in which she promised to entertain reforms that met both criteria.

Then yesterday, I got a press release from the New York City AFT affiliate announcing a series of TV advertisements promoting the union’s advocacy in that city.

“Who makes sure kids have the resources they need? Who works to put and keep great teachers in the classroom, and for smaller classes so every child gets a quality education? Who ensures students get the help they need from homework assistance to scholarship programs? Who is 200,000 strong with just one goal: preparing our children to succeed? The United Federation of Teachers. The UFT. We have ‘teachers’ in our name but children and their families in mind,” an announcer says during the ad.

The unions are no stranger to such advertising, of course. Legendary AFT leader Al Shanker’s “Where We Stand” column in The New York Times and in Education Week was actually a paid advertisement, for instance.

And both D.C. and New York City have done their own recent advertising blitzes promoting their schools.

But it is interesting that such advertising appears to be more and more commonplace these days, especially in big cities where union and management alike have had their fair share of critics. And I’m not entirely sure I understand what the point of this advertising is.

In the UFT statement, Weingarten said it was to reassure parents, during the economic downturn, that the union would continue to be a “fierce advocate” for students. (And, one assumes, their members’ jobs and benefits.)

Per Kevin Carey’s post here, is there a relationship to the notion that parents truly have some other schooling options both in D.C. (where nearly a quarter of students are in charters) and in N.Y.C.? Is it to counteract all the drama about charter schools and stuck contracts and mayoral control?

What do you make of it?

Tell us.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.