Shortly after it became official that Becky Pringle would be the next head of the nation’s largest teachers union, she set the tone for her presidency with a tweet that ended like this: “We are ready to turn up that heat.”
In an interview Friday, the National Education Association’s incoming president said that means supporting local strikes or protests over teacher safety in the era of the coronavirus, filing lawsuits to block reopening plans that teachers see as unsafe, and other efforts to put teachers at the center of the national conversation.
“You saw that as our teachers came together in the Red for Ed movement,” Pringle said, referring to the wave of teacher activism in recent years calling for higher teacher pay and more school funding. Some educators went on strike, some didn’t, she noted. “But they were willing to come together as this powerful force and demand the resources their students and their schools needed. That is the kind of energy and power that I want to unleash.”
As school boards and state health officials continue making those decisions, teachers have ramped up their protests over what they say are unsafe school reopening plans. Earlier this week, educators in several cities rallied in a national day of action, calling attention to issues like school cleanliness, poor ventilation in school buildings, and the lack of standard metrics for making reopening and closing decisions.