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Unite for North: How North Attleboro Teachers Helped Win Millions in School Funding

After years of tight budgets and multiple rounds of cuts, things were getting tough in North Attleboro’s Schools. In 2013 and again in 2015, voters rejected attempts to override the tax-limiting law Proposition 2 ½, leading to the closure of an elementary school, increased class sizes, and a cut of more than 70 paraprofessionals over the last few years. School technology upgrades weren’t being funded, and the potential for another elementary school closure was looming.

AFT Massachusetts Endorses Jay Gonzalez for Governor

The 25,000-member AFT Massachusetts, one of the state’s largest labor unions, announced their endorsement of Jay Gonzalez for Governor in this year’s election. The AFT Massachusetts is the first statewide labor union to make an endorsement in the race for Governor.

“Jay has an aspirational vision for an education system that gives every student the resources they need to succeed. Through his strong support for the Fair Share Amendment, he’s outlined a plan to fully fund our schools and libraries, fix the broken Foundation Budget, and make our public colleges affordable again,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos

Lowell Teachers and Parents Win Guaranteed Recess for Elementary and Middle School Students

Growing Statewide Momentum for Recess Requirements As Teachers and Parents Push Back Against Overreliance on Testing

Elementary and middle school students in Lowell will be guaranteed recess after a successful campaign by teachers from the United Teachers of Lowell and parents, students, and community members from the Lowell Education Justice Alliance.

A citywide recess policy adopted by the Lowell School Committee in May will require elementary schools to have a minimum 20-minute daily recess and require middle schools to have a minimum 15-minute daily recess. Elementary and middle schools will also have 5-minute activity breaks in the morning and afternoon, with physical activities including yoga, stretching and dance. 

AFT MA Submits Comments on Proposal to Extend SEI Endorsement Requirements to Vocational Technical Teachers

AFT Massachusetts has submitted comments on a proposal by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to extend Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) training requirements to vocational technical teachers. 

The letter to DESE from newly elected AFT MA President Beth Kontos states that AFT MA supports the concept of vocational technical teachers receiving this important training. However, the letter notes numerous flaws with the proposed implementation plan and timeline. The letter also provides concrete recommendations for solving the identified problems.  

Mass. Senate Subcommittee Releases Report Critical of Test-Based Accountability

Education reforms in Massachusetts reliant on high-stakes, test-based accountability “have failed to reduce the achievement gap or to improve schools,” concludes a new report by a special Senate Subcommittee to the Joint Committee on Education. 

The comprehensive and detailed report, titled Rethinking School Accountability, reviews the history of educational improvement efforts in Massachusetts, including the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act and the 2010 Achievement Gap Act. Based on experiences to date, and particularly trends since 2010, the report notes a “growing consensus that rewards and punishments based on testing are ineffective in reducing inequality, and that schools alone cannot achieve equity in student learning opportunities and outcomes.”

AFT MA Submits Comments on Proposed School and District Accountability Revisions

AFT Massachusetts has submitted comments on proposed revisions to the state’s school and district accountability framework.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has proposed changes to both the regulations and the system under which schools and districts are assessed and classified.

In a letter to DESE signed by newly elected President Beth Kontos, AFT MA expressed deep concerns about the proposals, calling them a "missed opportunity," and urged the Department to move in a different direction: “Why not hit the reset button and begin the process anew?”

50th Annual Convention Report - Delegates Elect a New President

The 50th annual convention of the AFT Massachusetts featured the election of a new president, a visit from Senator Elizabeth Warren, and a stirring speech from national AFT President Randi Weingarten. Approximately 300 delegates from AFT locals throughout Massachusetts attended the gathering in Quincy on April 27 and 28.

Salem Teachers Union leader Beth Kontos was elected the new President of the AFT Massachusetts at the convention.

“I’m humbled by the support of my AFT colleagues and honored to have the opportunity to advocate for educators, students, and families at this critical time,” she told the delegates. 

Keeping Her Promise: AFT President Weingarten continues to show support

Just one month after the Rollins fire, AFT President Randi Weingarten came to the temporary home of the Rollins to marvel at the progress the teachers and staff had made and to offer her continued support.

“This is the second time national has stepped in," explained LTU President Frank McLaughlin, recalling the 2015 fire at the Bruce School (please see December 2016/January 2017 issue). “I know that all I have to do is make a call and Randi and her team will be here to help.”