News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - July 2020

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A Message from Beth Kontos

It may be summer, but it certainly has not been a time for vacation at the AFT MA. We have been busy negotiating with the state on various issues regarding the reopening of our schools. I am excited to announce that we have successfully negotiated to change the 180 required school days for students down to 170 days, and to use those ten extra days at the beginning of the school year for educators to plan for the coming year, participate in professional development, and ensure that our schools are ready to welcome back students safely and effectively, whether it’s in-person or virtually. We felt it was crucial to have time at the start of our school calendar to collaborate with our school teams as we enter a school year like no other before.
 
Here are some ideas for those ten days:
  • Safety training and troubleshooting
  • Anti-bias training
  • Curriculum writing for project-based learning
  • Technology support
  • Team teaching strategies
  • Strengthening the Teacher/Paraprofessional team
I am sure you have many more ideas.  Please engage with your districts to encourage meaningful use of this time.
 
Last week I was happy to join Jessica Tang from the BTU and Merrie Najimy from the MTA in a town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren, focused on how to safely open our schools. After our opening statements Senator Warren took questions from educators. You can watch it here. One major focus of the town hall was providing our schools with the resource they need to reopen safely. From ensuring that our schools have adequate ventilation and cleaning supplies, to hiring the teachers and paraprofessionals necessary for safe teacher-student ratios, our schools need full funding, now more than ever. The Heroes Act is essential for federal funding for the opening of our schools.  You can sign a petition for the passing of the Heroes Act here.
 
The AFT National Convention is taking place virtually from July 28-30. You can see the program and watch a livestream here.

Town Hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren

“We’re concerned about the health and safety of our students and our educators, and that’s paramount in our minds. We believe it’s imperative to assess the health of our buildings before we return to the classroom; the ventilation systems must be evaluated and improved. We need the water in our bathrooms to be at 100 degrees at all times; I’m not sure that’s happened at any school I’ve worked at,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Our families need assurance that these health and safety checks have happened and will be maintained throughout the school year. We’re doing this because we care about the children and the families they go home to.”
 
“The current plan is backwards. We cannot bring all of our students back in person in September on the first day of school as much as we want to,” said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang. “What we need to do is have a thoughtful approach where we have to get remote learning right…It’s likely there’s going to be another surge, and we cannot just scramble overnight to try to get remote learning right like we did in the spring.” READ MORE.

#NowMoreThanEver

From personal protective equipment and changes to school buildings, to safe staffing levels and additional services for students who cannot safely attend in-person school, we know that a deliberate and careful approach to reopening our public schools will require significantly more funding. But instead, state and local revenue shortfalls are leading to budget cuts, pink slips, and furloughs. We need action at the federal, state, and local level to ensure our schools have the full funding they need. Here’s how you can help:
  1. Sign the AFT’s federal petition calling for aid to schools, state and local governments, and healthcare in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The House passed the HEROES Act, but the Senate still needs to act.
  2. Record a video about why your school or college can't afford budget cuts.
  3. Sign the Fund Our Future petition asking Governor Baker to commit to fully funding public schools and colleges in Massachusetts, and to use his relationships with fellow Republicans to push for the passage of the federal aid we need.
  4. Sign up to support the ‘Invest in Our Recovery’ campaign led by the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition. This statewide campaign is advocating for Massachusetts legislators to raise significant new revenue from profitable corporations and their shareholders to invest in public services, rather than making deep budget cuts that drive us deeper into a recession.

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.
 

Member Benefits Spotlight

AFT Massachusetts will host a series of virtual benefits workshops 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:  August – 18, 20, 22; September – 15, 17; October – 20, 22, 24; November – 17, 19, 21 (Tuesdays at 4pm, Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 10 am)
 

Click here to register!