AFT Members Bringing Pro-Public Education Agenda to Local Elected Office

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This November saw local elections for School Committee and City Council all across Massachusetts. As local communities prepare to receive millions of dollars in new state funding from the Student Opportunity Act, educators and their parent, student, and community allies are working to ensure that local officials are committed to spending that money in the classroom to support students’ needs. AFT Massachusetts members were active in dozens of local electoral campaigns this fall: knocking doors, holding signs, calling voters, and casting their ballots to support pro-public education candidates.

Several of those candidates happen to be AFT Massachusetts members themselves.

Andrew Lipsett, a history teacher at Billerica Memorial High School and a member of the Billerica Federation of Teachers, was elected to an open seat on the Woburn School Committee in November.

“It's not an exaggeration to say that I might not have won my election had it not been for the support of educators throughout Woburn,” he says. “People understood and appreciated the need to have people who had worked in education providing oversight for our schools.”

Adam Steiner, a technology integration specialist for the Holliston Public Schools and a member of the Holliston Federation of Teachers, served as a Framingham Town Meeting member for 5 years. After Framingham residents voted to change their form of government from town to city in 2017, Steiner won a seat on Framingham’s first City Council. He was elected to a second term this November.

“There has been no greater honor in my life than to serve on my hometown of Framingham's first City Council over the past two years - and I am looking forward to continuing in this role for the next two years,” said Steiner. “The devoted work of my colleagues continues to be a source of inspiration for me in my work on the Council and I can think of no better experience for a role in local government than being a public school teacher.”

A model for many of the AFT members running for public office is Brian LaPierre, a member of the Lynn Teachers Union and AFT Massachusetts’ Director of Organization. Since first being elected in 2015, he has served as an At-Large member of the Lynn City Council. He was most recently reelected in November.

“I enjoy bringing my union experience and labor background to my fellow Council colleagues and my re-election means that I will be able to continue to advocate for our teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists and the broader organized labor community in Lynn,” said LaPierre. “It is critical that union members become candidates for public office because it allows for a seat at the table. It enables us to shape a working families agenda so that union members not only have a voice in collective bargaining, but also an opportunity to shape and enhance public policy that is going to have a long lasting and positive effect on our membership.”

AFT Massachusetts members who hold public office agree that union members having a voice in public affairs is critically important.

“Central to my motivation to run for public office has been a commitment to public service developed over a 20-year career as a public educator and as a proud union member,” said Steiner, the Framingham City Council member. “I have seen firsthand how a union can support teachers in doing the best they can for student learning and well-being.”

“As teachers, we know that policy doesn't always take into account the perspectives of those of us who work with students every day, who see both the triumphs and the struggles of modern education, and who truly know what we need from decision-makers,” says Lipsett, the newly-elected Woburn School Committee member. “That's why we need to use our collective power to make sure our schools are focused on what students and teachers need. That means getting involved in local politics - advocating, voting, and even running.”