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During A Visit To Rome, New York - American Federation Of Teachers President Randi Weingarten Says ‘The Impact Of The Rise In Poverty’ On Students Has Left Public School Teachers As ‘First Responders’

Published Monday, November 4, 2019 1:00 pm
by Liza Frenette/NYSUT Communications
During A Visit To Rome, New York - American Federation Of Teachers President Randi Weingarten Says ‘The Impact Of The Rise In Poverty’ On Students Has Left Public School Teachers As ‘First Responders’

(ROME, NEW YORK) - The impact of the rise in poverty on students has left Public School Teachers as “First Responders,” American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said on a recent visit to a high school in Rome.

Through the AFT’s Innovation Fund, she announced $350,000 in further support for the community schools wrap-around programs that kicked off here four years ago.  The funds will bring resources to more schools in Rome, and to the smaller, rural neighboring Oneida County School Districts of Dolgeville, Waterville and Webb.

Some families here struggle to meet basic needs because in some cases, there are no grocery stores to get food, no medical care and job opportunities have thinned.

Driving the roads as she has during the past 40 years, “it is hard not to see what has happened,” Weingarten said. “New York State is beautiful, but you also see homes collapsing, main streets not bustling, farms that look like they’ve seen better days - if they’re still around.”

Waterville Teachers Association (WTA) President Jeffrey Lenard, looking forward to the help for families that the AFT funding will provide, knows that scene first-hand.

In the 1970s you could live in Waterville and go to a department store, you could shop at two different grocery stores, and you could visit two drug stores, Lenard explained.

Now, there is no department store, and it’s a 15-minute drive to the nearest grocery store.

Some families do not own cars, and even if they do, when weather hits in this Snow Belt, it can be difficult to get food.

Failing economies hurt families, and Teachers have been working to help them “without really having the resources,” Weingarten said.

Revitalization starts with the children, she said.

With the input of fresh AFT funds, the Non-Profit Rome Alliance for Education can hire more school-based Staff to get even more students and families help with dental care, mental health care, food for empty bellies, and housing when there are no roofs overhead.

Staff already in place have been working directly with community agencies and providing resources at school such as computer labs for families, parenting classes and showing families how to prepare and share a meal.

More Than 200 kids have taken part in Summer programs.

“This is what 21st Century Unionism is,” said Weingarten. “We, my friends, are the village.”

She called the Rome community schools program “first in class.”

Rome Teachers Association (RTA) President Rob Wood said that five out of 10 schools in Rome are now community schools, and the program is lifting up families for basic functional needs.

To Continue Reading This Labor News Story, Go To: www.nysut.org/news/2019/november/21st-century-unionism-looks-a-lot-like-a-village

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