News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - January 2021

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A Message from Beth Kontos

 

Welcome 2021.  We needed to leave last year behind.  We welcome new leadership in President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.  They have promised to ramp up the production of viral testing capabilities and the manufacture and distribution of vaccines.  The President has vowed support for our public schools across the country and is putting forth a strong funding plan for our recovery.  Click here to see the projected Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding numbers for your district.  We look forward to leadership who knows the value of public education.
 
AFT MA and members have been advocating for a safe way to teach during this pandemic.  Your voices were heard!  Financial and logistical support for pool testing at our schools has been offered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  It is free to the districts for six weeks.  Its not too late for your Superintendent to sign up.  Continuing the testing beyond six weeks can be paid for by the CARES Act funds or ESSER funds.  All documents related to pooled testing, including a recording of the webinar, can be found on the new pooled testing section of the DESE website.
 
We are continuing our effort to keep you informed on all information related to educating through the pandemic with topics like remote lessons, ventilation strategies, vaccines, and many other topics.  Please go to AFT MA’s  YouTube channel and Facebook page to see videos we have made with other unions and community groups.
 
We have a link to the projected “Cherry Sheets” which are based on the newly released Governor’s budget.  I have been told that they got their name because they used to be printed on cherry colored paper.  Check them out to see what the Chapter 70 funding for your district may be.
 
As you know, vaccines are being rolled out for first responders, ages 75+, and for people who live in congregate housing like nursing homes.  School nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech and language pathologists have also been added to list of people eligible for the vaccine rollout.  To see the list of who is eligible and where to get your vaccine go here. Some municipalities have contracted to give the vaccines in the district.  Ask your school leadership for details.
 
We will continue to keep you up to date as we roll out the pool testing and as information about vaccine availability changes.

Statement on Governor Baker’s FY22 Budget Proposal

Rather than fully funding the Student Opportunity Act on the original promised timeline, Governor Baker’s proposed budget uses the pandemic as an excuse to further delay the commitment to students made under the law. Rather than investing in public colleges to support existing students and unemployed workers looking for affordable job training, his proposal maintains the status quo in our underfunded public higher education system.
 
Over the last year, we’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the inequities in our public schools and colleges, and illustrate the harmful results of inadequate education funding. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget proposal would continue the Commonwealth’s past pattern of delayed investments that harm students. The budget would also cut funding to school districts that experienced temporary dips in enrollment during the pandemic, meaning that students who return in September would come back to classrooms without adequate funding that accurately reflects true enrollment in fall 2021.  READ MORE.

Tell Governor Baker and the legislature to fully fund the Student Opportunity Act and our public colleges and universities in Massachusetts. Take one minute today to send them a letter using our tool.

Lawrence Teachers’ Union Gives Away Books, Winter Clothes, and School Supplies At Mobile Food Market

 
Members of the Lawrence Teachers’ Union and AFT Massachusetts distributed hundreds of free books, winter clothes, and school supplies to Lawrence families earlier this month at the Lawrence Mobile Food Market, hosted by the Lawrence Public Schools (LPS) and the Greater Boston Food Bank. On Saturday, December 12, educators gave away approximately 2000 books, 500 sets of winter hats, gloves, and scarves, and other school supplies to LPS families.
 
“Our book, clothing, and school supply giveaway was a huge success. It was great to have the opportunity to put books in the hands of our students, and make sure they have warm clothes they need to get fresh air and explore the outdoors this winter,” said Lawrence Teachers’ Union President Kim Barry. “I’m grateful to all the LTU members who volunteered their time to sort and distribute these important supplies, and to all those who have volunteered regularly at the Mobile Food Market to ensure that Lawrence families have healthy food to eat. Lawrence continues to be hit hard by the pandemic, and it will take community support efforts like this for us to get through the winter together.” READ MORE.

Grassroots Campaign Virtual Training Event

Join Mass Alliance, AFT Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union for a Grassroots Campaign Virtual Training Event on Saturday, January 30 from 10 am to 4 pm. The event serves to introduce future campaign leaders, activists, and candidates to the theory and practice behind successful grassroots campaigning. Sessions will include field organizing, message development, working with the press, and other time-tested tactics for winning campaigns.  

Campaign workers with all levels of experience and potential candidates for any level of government and at any stage in the process are welcome! Click here to register and click here to view our shareable flyer!

Virtual Comedy Night for AFT Members

 
It's been a tough year, and after all we've been through, we could all use a laugh. On February 5 from 7 pm to 8 pm, join President Beth Kontos, AFT Massachusetts and Blue Cross Blue Sheild Massachusetts for a night of comedy and solidarity. Devin Siebold, a professional comedian and union teacher, will lead a night of laughter for AFT members. Register here:  http://bit.ly/AFTCOMEDY2021.
 
Devin Siebold is a nationally touring comedian who has been named iHeartMedia Monster’s in the Morning Comedian of the Year, won the Boston World Series of Comedy, appeared on Laughs on FOX, won Side Splitters Comedian of the Year, and been selected for Comedy Central Up Next. Devin has spent his past 10 years as a middle/high school teacher in Florida, and hosts the podcast 'Crying in My Car: A Podcast for Teachers.' Learn more about Devin here at https://devincomedy.com.

Winning the Fight to Preserve Public Education

On February 10 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom, join AFT members and allies for a webinar to learn about the origins of the war on public education, reflect on the last four years of fighting against the Trump-Devos agenda, and strategize about how to influence public education as a public good moving forward.
 
The webinar will include a virtual book talk with education historian Jack Schneider and journalist Jennifer Berkshire, authors of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. Their new book traces the war on public education to its origins, offering the deep backstory necessary to understand the threat presently posed to America’s schools. The book also looks forward to imagine how current policy efforts will reshape the educational landscape and remake America’s future. A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door offers readers a lively, accessible, yet scholarly view of a decades-long conservative cause: unmaking the system that serves over 90% of students in the United States.
 
During the webinar, Neema Avashia from the Boston Teachers Union will facilitate a conversation with the authors and Beth Kontos, president of AFT Massachusetts; Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut; and Frank Flynn, president of AFT Rhode Island. Click here to register!  You can learn more about A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door or find a copy at https://www.wolfattheschoolhousedoor.com.

Workshops for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts will host a series of virtual benefits workshops in February 2020 to showcase the products and services available to AFT members through our member benefits program.

During the one-hour workshop, presenters will explain benefits you are eligible for, with topics including AFT Plus Benefits, Auto and Home Insurance; Supplemental Insurance; Home Financing; Long Term Care; and Retirement Planning. Whether you’re looking to purchase insurance, buy or refinance a home, plan for retirement, or just see what benefits are available to you as an AFT member, you can find experienced and dedicated professionals who will work with you every step of the way to fulfill your goals.
 
What:   Member Benefits Workshop for AFT members
Where: Virtual Workshops via Zoom
When:  February 23, 25, 27 (Tuesdays at 4pm, Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 10 am).

Click here to register! A link to the Zoom workshop will be emailed to registered participants a few days before the scheduled date.  Please contact Brant Duncan at bduncan@aftma.net for additional information.

Retirement Planning

The financial professionals of Teacher Retirement Solutions(TRS) have partnered with AFT Massachusetts.  They specialize in providing independent financial guidance, strategies and solutions to educators, administrators, and their families throughout New England.  One of the most utilized service they provide is helping members enroll in (or review their current) 403(b).  Included with this benefit is a complimentary consultation, it’s worth the call (or Zoom meeting).  

To assist AFT Members with their retirement planning, John Gregorio and George Bowen, both founding partners from TRS, have produced a series of retirement planning tools and articles to support members in meeting their retirement goals.
 
Members have enjoyed the valuable and educational material like the 10 Reasons to Save for Retirement article and an interactive Budget Planner.  The Budget Planner is a simple yet effective tool to help set realistic savings goals that fit within your budget.