News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - March 2020

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A Message from President Beth Kontos

 
I hope this newsletter finds you and your family safe and healthy as we adjust to a new life in “social isolation”.  Most educators are continuing to work with their students on a limited basis in an online world while also juggling homeschooling your own children.  And many of us are also caring for our elderly relatives and acting as their lifeline to food, medicine, and emotional support during a scary time for all.  Please know that we understand that your life is far from normal right now and you may need more support from us than usual.  Our Field Reps have been bargaining with your district leadership to be sure you are paid through this time without using your sick days or personal days.  We will continue to advocate for you as we eventually transition back to our workplaces.
 
Aside from our largest number of members, educators and public librarians, we also represent nurses who continue to be at the frontlines of this pandemic.  We salute you for your daily commitment to your patients and your community.  Please know that we at AFT MA along with our parent union AFT National are advocating for the equipment you need daily to keep yourself safe, minimize the spread of this virus, and to give care and comfort to your patients.
 
We are in constant conversation with the Massachusetts Department of Education, our legislators, and our friends in other unions to be sure that our educators have a smooth transition to distant learning. We have asked our friends in the legislature for help in suspending MCAS for this school year and holding districts and high school seniors harmless from this requirement. If you have not contacted your legislator yet, please go HERE to send them an email in support of this legislation.
 
Below are some links to resources that may be helpful to you as you continue to educate our students.

(Pictures above:  1. With a Lynn student during a reading visit 2. With BTU retirees and friends)

Telephone Town Hall for AFT Members

Join AFT Massachusetts on Thursday, April 2 at 4:00 p.m. for a COVID-19 update. AFT MA leaders will discuss the impact the virus is having on our schools and communities, share how the union is responding, and answer your questions. We'll also spend some time saluting our front line first responders like nurses, school cafeteria workers, custodial members, and paraprofessionals. If you have questions you'd like us to answer on the call, please email them ahead of time to blapierre@aftma.net.  Register today!

ACTION ALERT:  Waive All MCAS Testing and MCAS Graduation Requirements This Year

In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) State of Emergency, AFT Massachusetts and education advocates call on Massachusetts officials to cancel this year's MCAS tests and to waive all MCAS graduation requirements for this year’s graduating class. The U.S. Department of Education has waived all federal testing mandates for this year, and Massachusetts should do the same.  Read MORE.  Click here to send an email today!

ACTION ALERT:  Boston Schools Need Resources and Stability – Not “Receivership”

 

Right now, the Baker administration is threatening to impose a destabilizing takeover on Boston Public Schools. Parents, educators, and students are fighting back because we know this is another distraction from winning the resources and changes our public schools need to succeed.  
 
Across the United States, state takeovers have proven to be destabilizing, unsustainable, and dangerous for the future of children and students.  Boston parents, educators, and students are saying:  NO to state receivership, NO to state “disempowerment” zones and NO to top-down state interventions that ignore local voices!  Sign the petition and get involved!

BTU Unafraid Educators Are Welcoming, Cherishing, and Protecting Undocumented and Immigrant Students and Families

At a membership meeting in early February, Boston Teachers Union members unanimously voted in support of the BTU Unafraid Educators’ work, along with community groups like the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM), to regulate and limit the sharing of student information with law enforcement. But that’s just one part of the work the group is doing to support immigrant and undocumented students and their families in Boston.
 
The BTU Unafraid Educators are a group of BTU members seeking to build schools where all immigrant and undocumented students are welcomed, respected, cherished, and protected.
 
“I and many other BTU members got involved with Unafraid Educators after seeing a rise in anti-immigration sentiment during the 2016 election cycle. Students were organizing within our schools, and we saw a need within our school community,” says Nora Paul-Schultz, a Physics Teacher at the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science. “Lena [Papagiannis, a History Teacher at the O'Bryant School] and I tried to put together a college access workshop for undocumented students, and found there weren’t easily accessible resources. We were connected to Unafraid Educators, which had been started in early 2016 by a guidance counselor and leaders from SIM. We were excited to learn there was already a group doing some of this work.”  Read MORE.

Celebrating Our Paraprofessionals

Wednesday, April 1 is Paraprofessional Appreciation Day, a national day when we celebrate our paraprofessionals and highlight the contributions of paraprofessionals to their students and schools. In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, the work done by paraprofessionals is more important than ever before.

“Paraprofessionals are essential members of our team of educators, and they do critically important work every single day, helping students of all abilities to learn, grow, and succeed. Our schools would not function without them,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “This year, paraprofessionals are doing even more as we all cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While our schools are closed, paraprofessionals in districts across Massachusetts continue to work incredibly hard to make sure their students have food and are able to learn.”   READ MORE.

Member Benefits Spotlight

Union Plus Hardship Help - Through the collective purchasing power of AFT's 1,700,000 members and AFT Massachusetts' 23,000 members, you’re eligible for dozens of member benefits through the Union Plus program, from discounts on insurance and mortgages to free online college programs. Participants in the Union Plus Mortgage, Credit Card, Personal Loan or supplemental insurance programs may be eligible for additional hardship assistance during the coronavirus crisis, through the Union Plus Mortgage Assistance Program or other Union Plus hardship assistance programs. Click HERE for more information.

Upcoming Events (Learn More)

  • AFT Massachusetts Virtual Convention 2020 - May 2, 2020 (Format change)
  • Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members - May 12, 2020
  • Member Benefits Workshop - May 27, 2020 (Date change)
  • Annual Conference for Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel - June 13, 2020 (Date change)
  • AFT Convention 2020 - July 27 to 30, 2020