News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - October 2020

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A Message from Beth Kontos

(President Kontos pictured with AFT members, Senator Becca Rausch, Representative Tram Nguyen and State Representative candidate Teresa English during her weekly town hall)

Halloween is this weekend – will there be sweet treats given out in your neighborhood? The masks will certainly look different this year! But the real trick in front of us is the rising rate of COVID-19 cases both in our schools and in our communities. Massachusetts has had four days in a row with rates surpassing one thousand new cases per day. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, there have been 621 positive cases in schools doing in-person (hybrid) learning. Please stay safe, wear a mask, maintain social distancing of at least six feet, and be kind to each other.
 
We have been developing a COVID-19 tracker that we will be rolling out in early November. Educators and community members will be able to report known and suspected cases so that we can track cases at the school level, not just by the district. This will give our locals and our families more useful information as we head into winter, and unfortunately, a new surge of cases. Stay tuned for instructions from your local presidents.
 
It is budget season (again). With our partners in the Raise Up Massachuestts coalition, we have been encouraging our legislators to raise progressive revenue rather than make cuts that will hurt our members, schools and communities. That includes asking for full implementation of the Student Opportunity Act to deliver more resources for our schools, as promised a year ago. Together with our labor councils, we have joined community, faith, and labor voices as we engage in conversations with our state senators and representatives. It is so powerful when they hear from educators and parents in a united voice. We will keep you posted on the budget process as it moves along. At some point in November we may ask you to make a call or send an email. Stay tuned!
 
I will close with this important reminder. November 3rd is Election Day. If you haven’t already, please VOTE! Many of you voted early like I did. So, use your free time to call a friend or a neighbor and remind them how important it is to vote in this and every election.

Make Sure You Vote in This Fall’s Election

The right to vote underpins every other right we have. This year, we face four interlocking crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recession, the reckoning with systemic racism, and the consequences of climate change. With just a week left until Election Day, many votes have already been cast, but there’s still time to make your voice heard at the ballot.
 
“This election is about electing real leaders at all levels of government who will get COVID-19 under control so we can get back to school safely. It’s about investing in our recovery, not cutting public services that our students, families, and communities depend on,” said AFT Massachusetts Beth Kontos. “It’s about ensuring fair, unbiased federal courts that will uphold women’s rights and protect our access to affordable healthcare. This election is truly important, and with new election laws in place during the pandemic, it’s important that all AFT Massachusetts members have a plan for how you will cast your ballot.”  Election Day is November 3, but especially if you’re planning to vote by mail, you should make a plan now.  READ ABOUT OUR ENDORSED CANDIDATES HERE.
 
AFT Massachusetts Member Teresa English Running for State Representative in Billerica

“Many legislators with a background in law or government don’t understand what our classrooms are really like, or struggle to relate to the challenges that educators, students, and families face every day. When it comes to legislating for our schools, there’s no replacement for a lawmaker with real-world teaching and parenting experience,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Teresa English has the experience, the ideas, and the energy to help deliver the schools we and our students deserve.”

“The BFT is excited about having somebody who truly understands education from the ground up as our state representative from Billerica,” said Dave Adams, president of the Billerica Federation of Teachers. “We look forward to having a representative that will advocate for full and fair funding for our schools, who will follow the science when it comes to the pandemic, and who will lead on issues of social justice.”
 
“Teresa is an empathetic and effective educator in the classroom, and a passionate and courageous advocate in her union and the community,” said Lawrence Teachers Union president Kim Barry. “Those of us who have seen her work first-hand know that we need her fighting for us in the State House.”  READ MORE.
 
Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members

AFT Massachusetts and the Salem Teachers Union will host a Student Debt Clinic for members on November 10, 2020 at 4 pm to present information about managing student loan payments and student debt forgiveness. All AFT members are welcome.
 
In this 90-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.

New Member Benefit Workshops Scheduled!

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:  November – 17, 19, 21; January - 19, 21, 23; February 23, 25, 27 (Tuesdays at 4 pm, Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 10 am).