AFT Massachusetts in partnership with the Fund Our Future Coalition holds Rally to demand action from lawmakers
Miriam Rodriguez-Fusco fears that the chronic underfunding of public education is hurting the most vulnerable students, especially those with critical special learning needs and children who are second language learners.
Over her 20-year career as a speech and language pathologist with Lynn Public Schools, Rodriguez-Fusco has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students who need special services, while funding the number of speech teachers has remained the same.
“Over the past two decades, the number of our assigned students has doubled,” she explains. “Unfortunately, this is a painful reality for students and educators in communities around the state.”
According to the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission, the Commonwealth’s public education funding formula is outdated—resulting in a more than $1 billion budget shortfall for pre-K-12 public schools every year. State colleges and universities are underfunded by more than $500 million a year.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when, in a state as wealthy as Massachusetts, some of our students with the greatest needs are the very ones who don’t have access to the education they deserve,” says Beth Kontos, AFT Massachusetts president.
“Teachers and school employees in our union are standing with parents, students and members of our community to challenge legislators live up to the promise to fund all public schools and colleges fully and fairly,” Kontos continues.
Over four thousand educators, parents, students, and public education supporters rallied and marched on the State House on May 16 to demand that members of the state Legislature and the governor fix the flawed state funding system. Click here to view our picture collage! Click here to watch a video of the rally!
“It is critically important for the state to repair the persistent funding inequities that exist in our state’s public schools,” Kontos says. “We can no longer accept a system where a child’s zip code or background determines her ability to get a great public education.”
The rally and march were part of an ongoing comprehensive campaign—Fund Our Future—launched by AFT Massachusetts and a community coalition of public education supporters. Fund Our Future builds on the work of—the Massachusetts Justice Alliance—a coalition that includes the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the NAACP, and several other labor, faith-based and civic organizations. The Alliance was formed in 2016 as part of a grassroots effort of supporters of our public schools.
The May 16 Day of Action brought parents and educators together to increase support for the Promise Act and the Cherish Act. The Promise Act would result in more than $1 billion in additional state funding for preK-12 schools. The Cherish Act calls for more than $500 million in added state funding for public higher education.
The rally before the march featured a lineup of speakers—teachers, parents, community and labor leaders—who spoke about the urgent need for a greater investment in public schools, colleges and universities.
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, said at the rally, “The fight to fund our future has taken center stage in Massachusetts: nearly 50 actions across the commonwealth, over 100 resolutions in city councils and school boards statewide and over 20,000 petitions signed by community members calling for investment in public schools.
“Educators are reaching into their own pockets to buy books for barren libraries, teaching in overcrowded classrooms in buildings witho
ut school nurses, and being treated as test prep managers instead of professionals—the result of systematic, deliberate choices not to prioritize our schools, our teachers or our kids. Once again, we come together to say no more. Our public schools are the first responders to fighting the status quo, and we must give them the resources they need to recruit the best teachers, and offer every kid a shot at a better life.”
“Our students cannot afford to wait any longer,” Kontos says. “Now is the time for legislators to act in all of our best interests by fairly funding our schools to safeguard our future.”