We The People – AFT Lobby Day

We the people are the legislative branch. We the people must be informed.  We the people must vote in our local, state, and federal elections. We the people must follow through to make our voices heard to our local, state, and federal representatives.  We owe it to the next generation to make sure that the opportunities we had are available, and even stronger for the future.  

Today, I joined proud members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) from around the United States in Washington D.C. to make my voice heard in favor of public education.  As a product of a strong and vibrant public K-12 education system in suburban Philadelphia and now as a teacher in another great public school district in suburban Chicago, I feel that it is my duty to ensure that public education a viable option for all of America’s children. 

We gathered for breakfast at the Rayburn Congressional Offices as we were welcomed by Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.  She charged the crowd to go and be active civil participants in the day. To lobby for the things we need based on our everyday classroom experiences in public education.  Randi, introduced us to two wonderful representatives that consistently defend and support public education, Congresswoman Lori Trahan of Massachusetts and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.  Trahan shared that she is a product of public education, from a union family, and reinforced her vow to stand with Union members as they work for America’s children. DeLauro reminded the audience that she believes that Title I and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) need to be fully funded.  Neither program has ever been fully funded – since 1965 when originally passed as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now known today as the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Title I funding provides grants to local educational agencies (schools) to provide additional academic supports (teachers, nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals), pre-kindergarten education, and after-school and summer programming for the Nation’s most at risk kids in high poverty environments.  For more information on Title I

IDEA funding directly impacts special education funding that impacts disabled students opportunities within our communities.  For more information on IDEA funding

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) will bring financial relief to those who work as public servants.  It is a program that is designed to forgive student loan debt for public sector employees, such as teachers, who have made 120 qualifying payments toward their student loans.  120 payments is equivalent to 10 years of return payments. This program was designed to help equalize the expense of college while providing an opportunity to retract and attain high quality public employees.  On average, someone with a graduate degree in the private sector will earn $1.5 million more over the course of their career than someone who works in the public sector. The current plan of this program is flawed and based on technicalities; since March 2019, the Department of Education has forgiven the loans of less than 1% of the borrowers applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. For more information on PSLF

We the people are the legislative branch of the government.  It is our duty to be informed, vote, and make our voices heard. I enjoyed my time meeting with the staff members of my local elected official and thank them for allowing me the opportunity to meaningfully speak up for public education.

Based on my home address, Mike Quigley is my local elected official, in Illinois’s 5th District. While I teach in a different congressional district, Illinois’s 3rd District represented by Dan Lipinski; I am confident that public education in Illinois will remain a strong catalyst for our society.

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