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Back to School and Labor Day Message from AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos

Welcome back to a new school year! As you return to your schools and welcome new students this fall, I want to share several updates on ongoing campaigns, activities, and opportunities for AFT Massachusetts members.

This school year, I’m committed to winning a historic reinvestment of state funding in our public schools, continuing to train and empower organizers in locals all across the state, and building our collective power as educators and union members. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year.

AFT Massachusetts Statement on Final FY20 Budget

Today’s budget is a significant down payment towards the equitable preK-12 school funding that students across Massachusetts so desperately need. We’re glad to see the House and Senate agree on increased state education aid that prioritizes funding for low-income communities whose students have the greatest unmet needs, especially students of color in low-income urban schools and students in rural communities.
 
Legislators must now build on this progress by passing a comprehensive education funding bill that commits the state to school funding equity over the long term. Specifically, our students need legislators to fully implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC), including setting the “low-income increment” at the maximum rate recommended by the FBRC, as the Promise Act does: 100% of the base rate in the poorest communities.

“A Nurse In Every School” – New Union Contract in Boston Wins Increased Resources for Students

The new contract guarantees a full-time nurse in every Boston Public School, 23 new student-facing licensed mental health providers, additional ESL and special education teachers for inclusion classrooms, and a full-time paraprofessional for all K2 classes city-wide, among other provisions. The contract was ratified by each of the BTU’s four bargaining units – teachers, paraprofessionals, substitutes, and applied behavioral analysts – in a vote on June 12.

“The overwhelming approval of this contract demonstrates deep support from members of the Boston Teachers Union for the new resources we have won for students,” said BTU President Jessica Tang. “It is symbolic of our continued commitment to fight for the schools our students deserve.”

Funding Our Future Through Literacy

Earlier this month, AFT Massachusetts, the Chelsea Teachers Union, the Chelsea Public Schools, and JN Phillips Auto Glass held a book giveaway as part of an ongoing project to bring supplemental books and school supplies to the students of the Chelsea Public Schools. On June 4, the partnership distributed 600 copies of the book Alma, by author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal, to the second grade students at the Mary Burke Elementary Complex.

“I loved seeing the smiles on the faces of kids in Chelsea as they read Alma, and talked about their own names and where they came from,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Thank you to JN Phillips and our partners in the Chelsea Public Schools and Chelsea Teachers Union for putting on a great event!”

Job Posting: Labor Attorney

AFT Massachusetts is a statewide federation of more than 50 autonomous locals that represent more than 23,000 members—including teachers, school support workers, librarians, higher education faculty and staff, healthcare professionals, and public employees. We have a long, proud tradition of empowering our locals and members to fight for improved teaching and learning conditions, as well as better salaries and benefits through collective bargaining.

Position opening:  Labor Attorney at the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts.

Celebrate Our Teachers and School Nurses

"This week is both Teacher Appreciation Week and National Nurses Week, and AFT Massachusetts is thrilled to recognize the amazing work that teachers and school nurses do every day. At our annual convention last weekend, I talked to so many great educators and nurses who work incredibly hard to care for our students, often in challenging conditions created by the underfunding of our public schools. Teachers are putting in extra time to help struggling students, paying for classroom supplies out of their own pocket, and making a difference in the lives of their students.

Lowell Educators Spent $674,000 of Their Own Money on Classroom Supplies Last Year; Average Teacher Spent $612

Survey of Lowell Educators’ Out-of-Pocket Spending Demonstrates Need for New State School Funding

A recent survey of Lowell educators shows that teachers and paraprofessionals are spending hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on classroom supplies for their students. In total, Lowell educators spent approximately $674,000 of their own money on classroom supplies last year, and raised hundreds of thousands of additional dollars from crowdsourcing platforms.

Libraries = Strong Communities

AFT Massachusetts is proud to represent school and municipal library employees across Massachusetts. Last week, we observed National Library Week, an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities.
 
This year’s National Library Week theme, ‘Libraries = Strong Communities,’ illustrates how today’s libraries are at the heart of our cities, towns, schools and campuses, providing critical resources, programs and expertise. They also provide a public space where all community members, regardless of age, culture or income level, can come together to connect and learn.

AFT Massachusetts Member Organizers Are Building Union Power Locally

Member engagement is the core of what we do as a union. It’s how we build the power we need to win contract, legislative and other advocacy campaigns. One of AFT Massachusetts’ top priorities is building power in our locals and our communities by improving the operational capacity of our locals and empowering our members to be activists.
 
One important way we do that is through the AFT Member Organizing Institute. A jointly funded program of the AFT, AFT Massachusetts, and local unions, now in its second year, the AFT Member Organizing Institute capitalizes on one of our most valuable resources—our members—to help build union power and activism.
 
“Our member organizing institute for this wave has had a record number of participants at 13 and we continue to applaud the vital work being done in our locals to build capacity, identify emerging leaders and of course, continue to internally organize our rank and file members,” said Brian LaPierre, AFT Massachusetts Director of Organization. “They are doing spectacular work in our communities that supports a progressive, grassroots movement to win the battle of properly funding our schools so that all of our students have the tools they need to be successful.”