News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - April 2020

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Message from President Beth Kontos

It’s the end of April and we are living through a pandemic. The bulbs are flowering in my garden but my heat is still running and I am wearing a fleece jacket. I read we could get some snow next week. Our annual convention is this weekend and it will be held VIRTUALLY! Our educators and librarians are working remotely, and our nurses are working long shifts to help people fight for their survival. Life isn’t exactly as I expected it to be!

Thanks to your advocacy, the Massachusetts Legislature has canceled MCAS this year. The full story is here. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has issued new guidelines for remote learning. Click here for all the details and supporting materials. Our field staff has been working in each local to negotiate MOAs (Memorandum Of Agreements) that are appropriate for each work environment. We appreciate their dedication!
 
At our annual convention we always give out Distinguished Service Awards to members who have gone above and beyond to serve their union. Read about this year’s recipients here. And each year, AFT MA awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to relatives of our members. Normally we celebrate the recipients at our convention and invite them to the microphone. Its touching to hear them thank their teachers and their parents as they are about to enter college. Read more about this year's scholarship recipients here. We wish them well as they enter higher education in the fall.
 
Now, more than ever, it is important to make sure our public services are supported by the State and Federal government. It’s easy to complete the US Census and it only takes a few minutes. Click this link and get it done!  Funding for our schools, hospitals, libraries, and all other public services rely on your participation.
 
Due to the pandemic, the American Federation of Teachers has created a new benefit to help deal with trauma. We thank them for responding to the needs of our members as they continue to work tirelessly in our communities to educate our students, and to support our families with much needed resources. Our members are our HEROES.
 
Spring of 2020 will be one for the history books.

AFT Members Focused on Food Security Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security.

“For many of our students, school is the one place where they can count on a full meal every day. With schools closed, AFT Massachusetts members across the state are working hard to make sure that our students, their families, and the whole community have the food they need,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I’m incredibly proud of the work AFT Massachusetts members are doing to support all our students during this challenging time.”

CLICK HERE to read about some of the ways AFT Massachusetts members are working to ensure their students have food during this crisis.

New DESE Remote Learning Guidance Released: Highlights and Initial Analysis

The big takeaway from the April 24 guidance is that DESE is now asking districts to go beyond reinforcing previously taught content to also cover new content that is focused “on those standards that are the most critical prerequisites for student success in the next grade” (see p. 8). DESE has compiled guides to these prerequisite content standards for math, English language arts, science, and history/social studies - elementary guide and secondary guide.

The focus on teaching DESE-selected prerequisite standards—or what some are calling “essential” or “power” standards—in a remote learning environment is a shift in DESE policy, and it has significant implications. As remote learning continues, perhaps even into parts of next year, this was an inevitable development. Many districts are already teaching new content, and expectations are mounting to advance the curriculum so that students don’t fall further behind in their academic learning. READ MORE.

This Year’s MCAS Tests Cancelled After Parents, Students, and Educators Speak Out

 
“The educators of AFT Massachusetts appreciate the House and Senate’s passage of legislation to waive this year’s MCAS requirement,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “We are glad Governor Baker signed the bill immediately so that students and educators can focus on staying healthy and learning during this crisis, rather than worrying about test prep.”
 

“Let teachers and students focus on staying healthy and problem-solving to sustain our education system and not have to worry about test prep,” read the petition circulated by Citizens for Public Schools and signed by more than 4,000 individuals. “Test-related funding that can be re-allocated should be spent on more urgent relief for schools and vulnerable students at this critical time.”  READ MORE.

Virtual Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts will host a Student Debt Clinic for members on May 12th at 4:30 pm to present information about managing student loan payments and student debt forgiveness.
 
In this 120-minute session, AFT’s Student Debt Clinic provides:
  • Information on how to enroll in income-driven student loan repayment programs;
  • Help in enrolling in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Click here to register.

AFT MA Celebrates National Library Week

AFT Massachusetts is proud to represent school and municipal library employees across Massachusetts. This week, we are observing National Library Week (April 19 - 25, 2020), an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and other library employees play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities.

“Librarians and library employees work hard every day to provide critical resources, programs, and expertise to people of all ages, and now is no exception. Today, our public libraries are playing an especially important role in supporting the education of children whose schools are closed,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I’m constantly amazed by all the hard work happening to ensure that children, seniors, and others who depend on our public libraries are able to access research and learning resources at this time. It’s a great reminder that public libraries are a vital community space for all of us."  READ MORE

Member Benefits Spotlight

COVID-19 Grief Counseling:  In response to the world-wide pandemic we are facing, the AFT is providing Grief Counseling at no cost to you. All members, active and retired, and eligible immediate family members will have the opportunity to speak with a licensed, Master’s level counselor if a death occurs as the result of COVID-19. The AFT will pay covered counseling expenses for the insured and/or immediate family members.  During the time in which the AFT is providing this benefit you have the opportunity to speak with one of our dedicated counselors via video, phone, or text.  LEARN MORE.