United States: Education support professionals fight for school modernisation

According to the US Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics, the average age of public school buildings in the United States is 42 years, with almost half being built between 1950 and 1969. Many of these buildings have fallen into a state of dilapidation, and teachers and pupils are faced with breaking water pipes, crumbling plaster or even gas leaks.

Last year, when the US Senate failed to move forward on President Obama's American Jobs Act, which contained funds for broad measures to counter these problems, the US president decided to break up the bill and pass proposals on a piece-by-piece basis.

Fix America's schools
Last September, a bill containing the elements relevant to school renovation, called "Fix America’s Schools Today Act" (FAST Act), was introduced to Congress. Since then, it was stalled there, even though passing it would put up to 400,000 educators back to work and modernise 35,000 aging public schools and community colleges.

Education International's affiliates in the US, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have repeatedly called on Congress to end this stalemate and pass the FAST Act.

“School authorities want to provide for repairs and necessary updates, but with funding to schools being cut at every level, it is almost impossible,” neatody.org quotes Stacey Yanko, an education support professional from New Jersey. “We cannot afford for the FAST Act to be defeated. How can we serve students with outdated, substandard facilities and equipment?”

EI resolutions
During the 6th EI World Congress, held in Cape Town, South Africa, in July 2011, delegates recognised the key role education support employees play in the provision of quality education. They passed a resolution calling on governments to ensure that educational institutions are provided with quality support services.

"The Second World Congress of Education International, which was held in Washington D.C. back in 1998, passed a resolution calling on governments to ensure an adequate working environment for all personnel working in schools, especially where protection in terms of occupational health and safety is concerned,” said Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. “Education support personnel face shortcomings in this area in their daily work, and are right to call for a remedy. Everyone should have the right and opportunity to teach, work and learn in a clean and healthy environment."
 

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