Welcome back! For those who don’t know me, my name is Nick Faber. I am an elementary school science specialist on release, serving as your President of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers.
I have been blessed to work with students and families in Saint Paul Public Schools for 31 years. Since my first year teaching at Galtier Magnet, where I participated in a union-run mentor teacher program, to my 12 years at John A Johnson where I served as steward and later ran for executive board, I have been an active member of my union. Through my work with SPFT, I have made friends, learned from colleagues and witnessed the incredible skill and dedication our members bring to their classrooms every day.
More than ever before in my career, our public schools need fierce advocates. We are up against forces who have a plan to destroy our public school system. First, they starve public schools so that they cannot function properly and then blame educators and parents for unsatisfactory student outcomes. Next they make money off public education by diverting funds that went to schools into tax breaks for the wealthy. Finally, they try to silence unions, depriving our students and schools of strong advocates. These are tactics that we have seen fail students and teachers in Wisconsin and other states in recent years, and they have their largest impact on students of poverty and students of color.
Here in Saint Paul, we have an opportunity and obligation to collectively push back against this racist agenda. Our union’s strength comes from you, our active members. To maintain our strength we want to grow our membership. This year we are asking our members to recommit to our union. Your steward has a new membership form for you to fill out, if you have not already done so this summer. Talk to your colleagues and encourage them to do the same.
Besides building our strength through engaged members, we are going to be fighting hard to increase revenue coming into Saint Paul Public Schools as part of our contract campaign. With our TIGER team we have already started educating members, parents, and the community about who stole the money that belongs in our public schools. We are going to work with the school board and district to call on corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. We are going to lobby our large hospitals and colleges – who don’t pay property taxes – to contribute to the education of all our students. We are going to negotiate directly with big businesses, so that they give some of the money they stash away through loopholes and tax breaks to our public schools. Finally, we are going to push for a referendum in 2018, because we all must contribute our fair share if we want our schools to be successful.
This is an ambitious plan, but a necessary one. If we want our public schools to succeed, we must fully fund them. To succeed, we need everyone to pitch in. Here are some important ways you can:
- Make sure your staff has had a TIGER (Teaching and Inquiring into Greed, Equity, and Racism) meeting at you school so you are informed about school funding in Minnesota.
- Help out on our contract campaign, starting with wearing red as a building on Thursdays, when our bargaining teams meet. Also, if your building doesn’t have a steward or a Contract Action Team member, find someone to serve in that role.
- Stay informed by reading the weekly updates that should be forwarded to you by your steward. There will be important, exciting actions this year that your presence will be needed for.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share and retweet our posts.
If we don’t stand up to the people who want to defund our public schools, then our students are going to suffer. Our public schools are special places because we educate all students who come through our classroom doors, regardless of their race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, or ability. If we believe all students deserve a high quality, racially equitable education, we all have to stand up for our public schools.