I recently wrote a post about how Campbell Brown’s new advocacy group, the Partnership for Educational Justice, had used on its Web site the exact wording of the slogan of the current branding campaign of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers union.
It turns out that the AFT has trademarked its slogan, “Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education,” and isn’t thrilled that the Partnership for Educational Justice, which is trying to eliminate or reduce tenure and other job protections for teachers, used the very same language to describe its mission. AFT president Randi Weingarten wrote a letter to Brown to credit the AFT for that language whenever it appears on the group’s Web site or in other materials.
Here’s the text of the letter, and following that is a response from the executive director of the Partnership for Educational Justice, who dismisses Weingarten’s action.
Partnership for Educational Justice
222 Broadway, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10038
August 11, 2014
Recently, I noticed you started using our trademark-protected initiative Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education to describe the work of your organization.
My legal counsel has advised me that we would prevail if AFT chose to pursue legal action to enforce our trademark rights. But we don’t want to do that. We are asking instead that you attribute “Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education” to the American Federation of Teachers in all of your materials.
Although we want everyone to reclaim the promise of public education, it is obvious that you have a very different view of how to do that.
The AFT launched our Reclaiming the Promise initiative more than a year ago because we believe public education is how we fulfill our collective responsibility to enable individual opportunity for each and every child. Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education is about fighting for neighborhood schools that are safe, welcoming places where teachers are well-prepared and supported; curriculum is enriching and engaging; and students have access to wraparound services to meet their emotional, social and health needs.
Reclaiming the Promise is not about attacking educators and their unions. It is not about going to “war” with teachers unions as you were recently quoted as saying in regard to your effort. Dividing parents from teachers, or unions from the communities in which they live and serve, is antithetical to Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education.
Reclaiming the Promise is about lifting up public education and working together in the fight for kids, teachers and communities. And that is exactly why we sought trademark protection for this initiative—so that those working to undermine public education and attack teachers cannot co-opt the work we are doing with parents and communities to give all kids the education they deserve.
I respectfully ask that you give the AFT proper attribution for Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education anytime your organization uses the name of our initiative.
Reshma Singh, executive director of Brown’s group, responded:
“Another day, another tired political stunt from Randi Weingarten. This utter silliness demonstrates the AFT’s complete disinterest in a substantive discussion of the issue.”
Here’s one of the AFT’s campaign logo:
And here’s what the Partnership has on its Web site (emphasis is mine):
We’re committed to reclaiming the promise of public education for all students. Our passionate team of parent leaders, education advocates and legal experts empowers local communities to strengthen their schools by pursuing common sense policy changes. We provide the resources and support families need to get the schools they deserve.