What we do
The CFT's central commitment is embodied in its slogan, "Education for Democracy, Democracy in Education," and may be summed up in five main areas:
You will find CFT leaders, staff and rank-and-file members providing their special areas of expertise wherever you turn in the world of California education. In front of the Regents of the University of California, or at a first-level grievance hearing in a middle school; before the various commissions of the Legislature or the State Board of Education; advocating for classified employee representation on the statewide Community College Board of Governors; at a Public Employee Relations Board hearing or delivering testimony to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing: the CFT is there for education.
The CFT works incessantly to defend and improve the quality of education through legislation, political action, and other forms of public advocacy for students. We want our students to be able to compete in a tough marketplace for jobs. Even more crucially, we want them to be able to take their place as active citizens in a democracy. This requires full funding, smaller class sizes, and adequate supplies of instructional materials. It also means decent compensation, reasonable working conditions, and the very best professional development programs for practitioners--because our working conditions are the learning conditions of our students.
The CFT supports high, rigorous, world-class academic standards, realized through an ongoing dialogue with curriculum and assessment. All students must be encouraged to achieve at the highest possible level. High academic standards can only be attained through equally rigorous standards for conduct in the classroom. CFT and AFT are the acknowledged leaders in the state and national movements for high standards.
All of society is the classroom. So long as children come to school hungry or ill, in fear of violence, or suffering from economic want, quality education will not and cannot occur. The CFT cares about fair and adequate public spending priorities not just due to moral considerations (essential though they are), but also because we know that unmet social needs eventually impact teaching and learning, whether in early childhood or the halls of academia. This is why CFT never simply says "No cuts in education!" during difficult times for state funding, but instead calls for the preservation of ALL essential social services through appropriate tax policies.
The CFT encourages creative thinking about education through every possible venue. Educators, like students, must grow and be challenged by new ideas and ways of working. But we don't just talk about professional development.
Local CFT contracts have pioneered new ways of doing things in areas such as evaluation, new teacher internships, and professional development. Most of our local contracts contain language enabling employees to "learn as they earn"--from simple tuition reimbursement for employment-related coursework to, for instance, career ladders for paraprofessionals making a transition to teaching, funded by the employer.
The national AFT QuEST (Quality Educational Standards in Teaching) Conference examines provocative themes in education every other year through the prism of education unionism. Plenaries with nationally renowned writers and thinkers, intensive workshops and small group discussions explore the vital intersection of profession and employment. CFT sends a large delegation every QuEST to keep up on national trends.
The national AFT also provides a knowledge base for teaching excellence through the Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) Department. Award-winning pedagogical methods fuse the most advanced education research with down-to-earth classroom practices in such programs as "Effective Classroom Discipline" and "Thinking Math!" ER&D staff are available for local inservice workshops as well as in regional and national conference settings. The national AFT's award-winning quarterly journal, American Educator, explores cutting-edge issues in pedagogy and education policy.