Teachers in 30 states are going door-to-door to promote in-person learning

$5 million “Back to School for All” initiative is receiving support from the American Rescue Plan
By: | August 2, 2021
Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar, Duval Teachers United President, Terrie Brady and AFT President Randi Weingarten launch a nationwide campaign to bring students back to classrooms in 2021-22.Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar, Duval Teachers United President, Terrie Brady and AFT President Randi Weingarten launch a nationwide campaign to bring students back to classrooms in 2021-22.

AFT leaders and union members are going door-to-door in dozens of communities to convince students to get vaccinated and return to in-person instruction.

The $5 million “Back to School for All” initiative, which is receiving support from the American Rescue Plan, began over the weekend in Florida’s Duval and Polk counties.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and members of the Florida Education Association launched the effort with plans for digital education campaigns, member vaccination clinics and book give-aways in the region’s underserved communities.

“We know students learn best in-person from their trusted, highly qualified educators—from teachers and nurses to guidance counselors to paraprofessionals and bus drivers—who will use every tool at their disposal to enhance teaching and learning by creating joyous, safe and welcoming environments,” Weingarten said.

The“Back to School for All” campaign will continue through 30 states and 60 projects. Here are some of the highlights:

  • In New Mexico, the union and Rio Rancho Public Schools staff are using phone banks, billboards and flyers—both online and on doorsteps—to spread the message that classrooms are 100% open with ventilation upgrades.
  • The Chicago Teachers Union has expanded its summer organizing campaign to raise vaccination rates and promote social-emotional school resources. Union members are also working with students who had low or no attendance last year.
  • Educators in Scranton, Pennsylvania, will hold block parties to greet students and give out free books before the first day of school.
  • Teachers unions in Texas knocking on doors of students who dropped out or reside in hard-hit neighborhoods in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
  • Union members are teaming up with Anderson Community Schools in Indiana to locate and bring back students who stopped attending school but still live in the community.
  • In Peoria, Illinois, union members and district staff are canvassing at-risk students and families to talk about the importance of returning in person this fall.
  • In Massachusetts, union members in hard-hit communities in Boston, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford and Springfield will hold back-to-school fairs and knock on doors to promote vaccination.
  • In Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish, Jefferson Parish and almost a dozen smaller unions will conduct vaccination clinics and learning sessions about how to be safe during in-person learning.

Here are the key dates of the tour:

  • Aug. 3: Bozeman, Mont. and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
  • Aug. 4: Bessemer, Ala.
  • Aug. 5: Rio Rancho, N.M.
  • Aug. 7: St. Louis
  • Aug. 11: Perth Amboy, N.J.
  • Aug. 12: Cincinnati
  • Aug. 13: Anderson, Ind.
  • Aug. 14: Chicago
  • Aug. 19 and 20: Puerto Rico
  • Aug. 21: Cleveland
  • Aug. 25: Houston
  • Aug. 26: Charleston, W.Va.
  • Aug. 30: Lynn and Lawrence, Mass.

“We’ve been thrown a curveball with the Delta variant’s transmissibility, particularly in unvaccinated communities, meaning we need to exercise caution and continue with mitigation strategies: masking, ventilation, testing and, of course, the promotion of vaccines—the single-most effective tool we have,” Weingarten said.