News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - June 2020

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A Message from President Beth Kontos

The spring of 2020 really has been one for the history books. Amid a global pandemic we see the ugly face of racism rise and gain attention in the killing of Black civilians at the hands of police. Is this a “rise” of racism, or are we simply paying closer attention? We know that racism’s roots are old, deep, and strong in our country. It is the video footage that is new. Technology has made it impossible to deny its existence. Now it is up to us all to look straight into the eyes of racism, name it, identify the systems that support it, change the laws, change the customs, destroy the symbols, and create the world we really want.  This work must be done in our schools also. We must demand that our school departments hire educators of color, then as a Union we must support and learn from each other. We must also teach the skills to our students that will help them become independent learners and thinkers with the tools to create the new systems our communities desperately need.

We see the effects of racism in the way we have traditionally funded our schools.  In 2019 we began erasing that structure when we won the Student Opportunity Act, which would dramatically change the funding formula for the public schools in Massachusetts by adding more than 1.5 billion dollars in annual state funding over a seven-year phase-in. However, the pandemic has completely changed the revenue picture in our state. Revenue is down. We will still be following the new SOA formula to fund our schools but the pot of money that we will have to work with is still in question. The U.S. House has passed the HEROES Act, which could support our states through this difficult time if it is passed by the U.S. Senate as well. Many of our cities have rainy day funds, as does our state. We must lobby them to allocate those funds for our schools, and raise additional revenue from profitable corporations and their wealthy shareholders to close to gap and invest in our schools.
 
You may have read that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has released a set of guidelines regarding the reopening of schools.  We are encouraging each of our locals to participate in the reopening plans being created in your Districts. There should be educator voice in those plans as well as parent and student input. DESE has required each District to submit three plans in August. One for distance learning, one for hybrid learning, and one for in-person learning with health protection protocols. It is clear that not every District’s plan will look exactly like another.  There are different needs and constraints from one District to another. AFT MA is working hard to ensure the safety and wellbeing of each of our members and our students as we transition back to learning in the fall.
 
Additionally, we are in conversation with DESE to negotiate back to school considerations that are common throughout the State.  We are advocating for flexibility and accommodations for our staff who have high-risk conditions, full staffing, and licensure waiver policies that are fair to our educators. We will provide more information on these guidelines and our own negotiations in the coming weeks.

Pass the HEROES Act

Tell the Senate: Support the HEROES Act and don’t forfeit our futures — The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, known as the HEROES Act, provides valuable resources for testing, tracing and hospital support to help ensure we can reopen safely, and provides critical funding for our states, cities, towns and schools. Before Congress goes on vacation this summer, we need to secure the Senate’s support for this necessary funding.

  • Massachusetts would receive $1.5 billion in education funding if the Senate passed the HEROES Act.
  • Massachusetts would receive $11.9 billion in direct aid and $10.8 billion in direct aid to local governments if the Senate passed the HEROES Act.
  • Massachusetts would receive $3.4 billion in Medicaid funding through the HEROES Act.
The Senate must act now to fund these essential services that are at the heart of our recovery and being able to reopen our economy.  Contact your Senators today!

Statement of Solidarity with our Black Students, Families, Educators, and Communities

AFT Massachusetts stands in solidarity with our Black students, families, educators, and communities in Massachusetts and around the country, and joins them to condemn anti-Black racism and police brutality.

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have once again drawn public attention to the structural racism that underpins our entire society. As we continue to confront the COVID-19 public health emergency that is disproportionately harming Black Americans, we know that systemic racism is also a public health emergency that threatens the lives and health of Black people every day. Black lives matter, and we will not live in an equitable society that recognizes that fact unless we commit to deep, structural change.  READ MORE.

Summer Leadership Institute 2020

 
Join us for our Summer Leadership Institute, a series of virtual workshops for local leaders and members to refine their leadership skills as well as to promote participation and initiative in our union!  We will still be socially distancing for much of the summer, but with this institute we aim to come together across the state for conversation and learning.
 
CLICK HERE and complete the form to register for the webinar.  Sign up for one or as many as you'd like! A link to the webinar or video meeting will be emailed to each registered participant a few days before the respective workshop

Boston, Lowell Local Leaders Join AFT Massachusetts Board

 
AFT Massachusetts is excited to welcome two great new members to our statewide Executive Board! This month, Amrita Dani of the Boston Teachers Union and Patty Myers of the United Teachers of Lowell joined the board, which represents the 23,000 AFT members statewide.
 
“I’m thrilled that these two great local union leaders will join the AFT Massachusetts Executive Board as we work to ensure that safety and equity are at the forefront of Massachusetts’ plan to reopen schools this fall,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Their experience engaging members and organizing to protect public education will be critical as we work to ensure our schools have the federal and state funding they need, and as we advocate for our most vulnerable students who are most at risk of falling behind during school closures.”  Learn more about the new Executive Board members.

AFT Massachusetts Endorses Senator Ed Markey for Re-election

 

The AFT Massachusetts has announced our endorsement of Ed Markey for re-election to the United States Senate – the latest labor endorsement for a champion of public education and working people. We encourage all AFT Massachusetts members to cast their vote for Senator Ed Markey on Tuesday, September 1 (Primary Election Day) and Tuesday, November 3 (General Election Day).
 
“Senator Ed Markey has been a supporter of public education for decades and has consistently fought for adequate funding - not because we asked him to, but because he knows that public education is the pathway to better communities,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “He grew up in a household that valued education and the rights of workers. His record in support of labor and the rights of workers to organize is second to none.”  READ MORE.

AFT Massachusetts Celebrates Pride Month

 
AFT Massachusetts proudly joins our LGBTQ+ members, students, and community members in celebrating Pride Month throughout June.
 
“AFT Massachusetts is proud to celebrate Pride Month and continue our commitment to the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights, in Massachusetts and around the nation,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “As we celebrate Pride Month this year, we are reflecting on the many parallels between the early gay rights movement and the moment we are in today. As we celebrate Pride Month, rally for racial justice, and fight for economic and education justice, we know that our collective fights are intrinsically linked.”  READ MORE.
 

Union Members Focused on Food Security Amid COVID-19 Pandemic in Lowell

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. Educators across the Commonwealth are working hard to ensure that students and their families have food during this crisis.

In Lowell, educators have focused on supporting the Merrimack Valley Food Bank (MVFB), which distributes food to 64,000 people each month through food pantries, shelters, schools, and senior centers.  READ MORE.

Member Benefits Spotlight

The AFT has a benefit to protect members against identity theft—the fastest-growing crime in America. We have partnered with CLC ID Protect to offer all members, including retirees, an ID Threat Score as well as assistance in the event you are a victim of identity theft.

You can get a limited amount of coverage for free, or comprehensive coverage for a small monthly fee (individual or family).  Click here to learn more!