The American Federation of Teachers union is calling on organized labor to pressure President Joe Biden into calling a climate emergency in hopes of steering more tax dollars into a “Green New Deal.”

Chicago Teachers Union member Ayesha Qazi-Lampert and David McDermott Hughes, a Rutgers University professor who serves on the AFT’s Climate and Environmental Justice Caucus, penned an editorial for Common Dreams on Friday that applauded student walkouts and other protests in the name of the environment, arguing educators should leverage the student activism to pressure the Biden administration.

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“We believe it is time for the rest of the labor movement, as well as the Biden-Harris administration, to join students in defending the conditions for life on Planet Earth,” they wrote. “By formally declaring a climate emergency, President Joe Biden can enable a host of executive measures, chief among them restoring the ban on exports of crude oil and halting hundreds of billions in private taxpayer dollars from funding fossil fuel projects abroad.

“Alongside Biden and Congress’ recent investments and green policies, we can update our infrastructure and provide funding needed to transform our public schools into climate-resilient hubs, creating thousands of safe, good-paying, secure union jobs in the process.”

Lampert and Hughes point to the Green New Deal for Schools campaign from the Sunrise Movement, a progressive political action organization that demands “transformational change within K-12 public schools to better handle the climate crisis.”

The Sunrise Movement’s top strategy is “making the Green New Deal popular” because it predicts “in 20 years from now, the world we live in will be almost unrecognizable.”

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“We believe that in order to win the world of our dreams, we must build a movement of thousands of young people across race and class to take to the streets and disrupt business as usual until we force the change we need,” according to the movement’s website. “Together, we will shift public opinion, elect Green New Deal champions, and fight for Green New Deal policies at every level of government.”

The group’s list of demands include an end of federal approvals for fossil fuel projects, an end to exports of fossil fuels, an end to oil and gas production on federal lands, a ban on private funding for fossil fuel projects abroad, and for the Department of Justice to prosecute fossil fuel companies.

Other demands involve more tax dollars to fund the American Climate Corps government forcing American manufacturers to “build renewable energy and clean transportation technologies,” a FEMA overhaul, more money for “renewable electricity grids,” free healthcare for victims of climate disasters, a ban on utility rate hikes, and deploying the military to build “community resilience hubs” and distribute “energy resources like rooftop solar, storage, and microgrids.”

“The President needs to lead an all-out, Green New Deal-style mobilization of the government to make sure everyone has a good paying job, a safe home, and a livable future,” according to the Sunrise Movement.

Lampert and Hughes noted the AFT’s efforts in recent years to move toward that vision, including its prior call on Biden in October for a climate emergency declaration.

“AFT – a union of 1.72 million teachers, para-professionals, professors, graduate workers, bus drivers, nurses, and public employees – endorsed the Green New Deal in 2020, urged our pension trustees to sell fossil fuel stocks in 2022, and pushed for a just transition to protect fossil fuel workers,” they wrote. “With the help from the Inflation Reduction Act, AFT began an ambitious plan to install solar panels on schools everywhere. Education, we hope, will provide reliable, resilient electricity for America’s urban communities.”

While the nation’s second largest teachers union, along with the largest – the National Education Association, have made it their mission to promote climate change and the Green New Deal, success for their primary mission remains elusive.

The most recent 2018 Program for International Student Assessment shows that among 79 countries that participated, the United States ranked 38th in math, 19th in science, and 13th in reading. China held the top spots for all three. Countries ranked higher than the U.S. include Macau, Estonia, Taiwan, Slovenia, Canada, South Korea, and Ireland.

According to in-depth poll from the National Coalition for Public School Options in September 2022:

“A majority of respondents (71%) send their children to their local district public school. When asked about the direction their local public schools are headed, majority (61%) said they are headed in the wrong direction. This sentiment cut across partisan lines, but was highest among men (79% Democratic men, 76% Republican men and 67% Independent men vs. 38% Democratic women, 49% Republican women and 64% Independent women).”

It wasn’t a fluke.

Gallop confirmed in August that 63% of Americans are at least somewhat dissatisfied with “the quality of education students receive in kindergarten through grade 12 in the U.S. today.” That was up 8% from when the pollster last asked the question in August 2022.

Parents concerned with a focus on gender ideology, politics in classrooms, increasing violence, profane school materials, and other issues have pushed for a Parents Bill of Rights with success in many states in recent years to improve transparency, increase parental involvement, and limit LGBTQ+ discussions in early grades.

AFT President Randi Weingarten labeled those parents a “well-organized, well-funded extremist minority” last year at the union’s convention, which featured teacher training sessions on “identity safety,” microaggressions, and climate change, according to the Freedom Foundation.

Yet despite AFT own surveys showing 81% of teachers believe education is over politicized, the union, along with the NEA, are forging ahead to promote the Green New Deal for Schools, introduced by Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-NY, in September.

“Like the Green New Deal, the Green New Deal for Schools is both a federal resolution and a broader vision for society. The resolution introduced in the House (H.R. 4442) maps out a plan to invest 1.4 trillion dollars over ten years in order to decarbonize our school system, revamp curriculum and educator resources, and invest in community engagement and development,” according to an NEA “Campaign Info Sheet.” “Our vision for the Green New Deal is complementary to the federal Green New Deal, not a replacement for it.

“We know that the federal government is the only body that can act with the full speed and scope that the climate crisis requires. As soon as the opportunity comes for us to get federal legislation to overhaul our school system and win a Green New Deal for Schools, we are prepared to mobilize to win.”