News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - January 2020

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Message from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos

 

We started the New Year with optimism!
 
New Year, New Union members!  Welcome to the members of the Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association as they voted to join AFT Massachusetts. We look forward to working together to support our new members as they continue to create safe and nurturing spaces for our communities in the libraries of Boston. Our libraries are places of reading, research and learning, and the BPL offers spaces and programs open and free to all regardless of gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, faith or economic status. Our new members fit perfectly into the family of libraries and schools we already represent. My own children have enjoyed story time and new friends at many library events.
 
In January, the executive board for AFT Massachusetts voted to endorse our Senator Elizabeth Warren for President in the upcoming presidential primary on March 3rd.  Senator Warren was very supportive during our fight against charter school expansion during our “No On 2” ballot campaign in 2016.  She is also a true advocate for students and educators in our Fund Our Future campaign, in Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and for the supports we need to see in our classrooms.  We are excited to see her lead us in the years ahead.
 
We continue to hold benefits meetings across the state with our members.  Our next one is scheduled for February 13th to be held at The Establishment, 75 Princeton St, Chelmsford.  If you work or live nearby please join us to learn about all the great benefits available to you as an AFT member. Get all the information on how to sign up HERE.
 
We have two major goals in Massachusetts going forward in 2020. First, as the new money from the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) begins to reach our local districts, we need to activate and support our members to attend school committee meetings. In those meetings we can join community members to advocate for the schools (and budgets) that our students deserve.  We will remain vigilant and engaged to be sure that our input is respected as we plan how to spend the new investments being made in our districts.
 
Second, we will be building on our SOA success as we build momentum at the Statehouse to pass the CHERISH Act to reinvest in our public colleges and universities. It is a natural progression to create a public higher education system that is affordable and accessible to all our students, and that requires funding. Join us and our allies in the Fund Our Future campaign on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 12:30 p.m. at the State House (Room 437) for the announcement of a reinvestment proposal for next year's budget.
 
As always, we will continue to inform you of events via email and social media.  Please like us on Facebook AFT Massachusetts and follow us on twitter @aftma

Fulfilling the Promise of the Student Opportunity Act

Governor Baker’s budget proposal last week kicked off the first year of the seven-year implementation of the landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA), and now is the time for AFT Massachusetts members and allies to ensure that the resources won in the SOA go to programs and services that directly benefit students. Read on to learn how the law will affect your community next year, and what you can do to take action at the local level.

The new law commits the state to achieving equitably funded public schools over a seven-year span. Once fully phased in, it will deliver $1.5 billion in additional annual state aid to local public schools, with the bulk of those resources going to the schools with the greatest need: those in low-wealth communities serving high numbers of low-income students. READ MORE.

AFT Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union Both Endorse U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in MA Democratic Presidential Primary

“I’m deeply grateful to have the support of AFT Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “They are on the frontlines of making sure every kid can build a future and our educators have dignity on the job. I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with them in this fight.”

“Senator Warren has always been a champion for students and educators in our fight for the nurturing and supportive schools we deserve. She stood with educators on the strike line and in our work to protect our public schools and win new funding for our students. We know we can count on her as President,” said Beth Kontos, President of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT Massachusetts). “As a former educator, Senator Warren knows firsthand that we need bold action to support public education, and that the best way to help the students with the greatest needs is to give them the additional help they need in the classroom. She’s building a movement that can win in November and replace the failed Trump-DeVos education agenda with the pro-student, pro-public education plan our students need.”  READ MORE about the endorsement.  Join AFT members in NH to elect Elizabeth Warren.

Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association Joins AFT Massachusetts, MA Library Staff Association

   

In an overwhelming vote last month, the members of the Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association (BPLPSA) voted to affiliate with AFT Massachusetts and the MA Library Staff Association (MLSA). The MLSA, part of AFT Massachusetts, represents more than 500 public librarians in 31 municipalities across the state of Massachusetts.

“It is my great pleasure to welcome the Boston Public Library Professional Staff Association to the ranks of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association and AFT Massachusetts. What better way to welcome in 2020 than with the affiliation of the dedicated library professionals of the flagship library of the Commonwealth to the MLSA and AFT-MA!,” said Pat Kelly, president of the Massachusetts Library Staff Association.   READ MORE.

AFT Members Bringing Pro-Public Education Agenda to Local Elected Office

 

This November saw local elections for School Committee and City Council all across Massachusetts. As local communities prepare to receive millions of dollars in new state funding from the Student Opportunity Act, educators and their parent, student, and community allies are working to ensure that local officials are committed to spending that money in the classroom to support students’ needs. AFT Massachusetts members were active in dozens of local electoral campaigns this fall: knocking doors, holding signs, calling voters, and casting their ballots to support pro-public education candidates.

Several of those candidates happen to be AFT Massachusetts members themselves. READ MORE.

Member Benefits Spotlight

As an AFT member, you and your family members are eligible to earn an Associate Degree completely online, for free. The Union Plus Free College Benefit, offered in partnership with Eastern Gateway Community College, a fully accredited, non-profit public institution that is part of the University System of Ohio, offers grants — known as "last dollar scholarships" — that fill the gap between any federal, state and employer education grants for tuition, fees, and e-books for certain online programs at Eastern Gateway. Even if you don’t qualify for student financial aid, the Union Plus Free College Benefit will be applied to your balance for tuition, fees and e-books. That means that as long as your financial aid file is complete, there is no cost to the student and students are never asked to take out any loans.

“With the Union Plus Free College program, I’ve been able to enroll in a associate degree program in Business Management, without paying anything for tuition, fees, or textbooks,” says Sandy Amburn, president of the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees and a SPED paraprofessional in the Pittsfield Public Schools. “Being on a paraprofessional’s salary makes it tough to pursue higher education opportunities, so I really appreciate the AFT’s participation in this program. I’m able to pursue a degree on my own schedule, without taking on student debt.”
 
Online degree programs offered by the Union Plus Free College Benefit include Associate Degrees in Accounting, Business Management, and Early Childhood Education, and credits can be transferred to a four-year college. Online classes begin every 8 weeks, and students can take classes full-time or as little as one class per term. Click here to learn more about the Union Plus Free College Benefit.
 

Upcoming Events (Learn More)

  • Member Benefits Workshop for AFT members on the 495 Belt North - February 13, 2020
  • Annual Conference for Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel - April 4, 2020
  • AFT Massachusetts Convention 2020 - May 1 and 2, 2020
  • Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members - May 12, 2020
  • AFT Convention 2020 - July 27 to 30, 2020