College of Education > News and Publications > 2015: 04-06 news > American Federation of Teachers president to address future of public education

American Federation of Teachers president to address future of public education

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFL-CIO, will deliver the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations’ 24th Annual Philip Murray Lecture on at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, in 121 Sparks Building on the University Park campus.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA -- Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFL-CIO, will deliver the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations’ 24th Annual Philip Murray Lecture on at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, in 121 Sparks Building on the University Park campus. Among the issues she will address in her talk is the future of American public education. The lecture is free to the public.

“We are honored to welcome Ms. Weingarten to Penn State to speak about the critical issues facing public education in our country today,” said Paul Clark, director of the School of Labor and Employment Relations. “She is a very high-profile figure in this important field and her talk should be of great interest to the University and regional communities.”

Prior to her election as AFT president in 2008, Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, representing approximately 200,000 educators in the New York City public school system. In 2013, the New York Observer named Weingarten one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past 25 years. Washington Life magazine included Weingarten on its 2013 Power 100 list of influential leaders.

Weingarten has launched major efforts to place real education reform high on the nation’s and her union’s agendas. She created the AFT Innovation Fund, a groundbreaking initiative to support sustainable, innovative and collaborative education reform projects developed by members and their local unions. At Weingarten’s direction, the AFT developed a model to transform teacher evaluations from a way of simply rating teachers to a tool for continuous improvement and feedback, and is using this model to align tenure and due process so that tenure serves as a guarantee of fairness, not of a job for life. Weingarten led an AFT committee that called for all prospective teachers to meet a high entry standard -- as in medicine or law -- so that they’re prepared from the day they enter the classroom.

Weingarten oversaw the development of the AFT’s Quality Education Agenda, which advocates for reforms grounded in evidence, equity, scalability and sustainability. She promotes what she calls “solution-driven unionism,” an approach to collective bargaining and collective action that unites the interests of union members and those they serve in the pursuit of solutions that benefit students, schools and communities.

Weingarten holds degrees from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Cardozo School of Law. She is an active member of numerous professional, civic and philanthropic organizations.

The AFT represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early-childhood educators. Its mission is to promote fairness, democracy, economic opportunity, and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, their families and communities. The AFT and its members advance these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through members’ work.

For more than 70 years, the mission of the School of Labor & Employment Relations has been to make workplaces better through teaching, research, and outreach. From its beginnings as an extension program with a small, part-time staff of adult education specialists, the program has grown to an internationally recognized academic department with 20 full-time faculty, six staff, 200 residential majors, 40 residential graduate students and more than 1,700 part-time, online students. The department has more than 2,500 alumni working in a range of capacities for labor unions, national and multinational corporations, small businesses, government, and nonprofits. Its Alumni Program Board was the first such group organized in the College of the Liberal Arts and has remained a leader among departmental alumni groups at Penn State.

For more information about the event, contact Lisa Pierson at The School of Labor and Employment Relations at lkh13@psu.edu or 410-865-0751.