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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - June 2021

A Message from Beth Kontos

Thank you all for your tireless work during this very difficult year.  Schools are closing for a short period before opening for summer programs.  I hope you are all taking time to rest and recuperate when you can.  Remember that libraries are a cool place to spend time this summer for both children and adults.  Getting lost in a good book has always been a special part of my summer plans.  Many libraries still have contactless pickup available upon request but otherwise are open for business as normal.  Check the website of individual libraries for hours of operation and a full list of events and services.
Over the last few weeks, AFT Massachusetts has been proud to celebrate Pride Month, to honor the legacy of the early gay rights movement, and to fight alongside our friends and allies to protect LGBTQ+ rights in Massachusetts and around the nation.  From supporting LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace to backing the Yes on 3 campaign to support Massachusetts’ non-discrimination law protecting transgender people in public spaces, we're fully committed to the fight for true equality. There's much more work to be done to protect our LGBTQ+ youth from discrimination and harassment, and we're dedicated to a vision of a world where all are treated equally.
This year, as we celebrated Juneteenth, AFT Massachusetts recommitted ourselves to remembering our history and continually working to achieve racial justice in our schools, our communities, and our union. As we observed the date as a state holiday for the first time, we encouraged our members to talk to their students about the history of Juneteenth and the lessons it has for us today. We stand with all our allies throughout Massachusetts and across the nation who are working to build a more equitable society, because our fights for racial justice, economic justice, and education justice are deeply intertwined.
Don’t forget, you still have time to register to attend AFT TEACH (Together Educating America’s Children), which will be held virtually July 6-10!  As an attendee at TEACH, you will have access to more than 50 workshops for educators and union leaders, general sessions and special events, both live and on demand.  Register now.
Members of AFT MA recently walked in solidarity on the picket line with the nurses of the Massachusetts Nurses Association who are striking against unfair staffing levels imposed by their employer Tenet at St Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester.  As educators, we know how much class sizes affect our ability to focus on individual students. Similarly, safe staffing limits make sense for patient safety as well as the health and welfare of employees.  Find out more about their demands at
Finally, stay tuned as we plan various back to school events around the state to encourage vaccinations for age-eligible students, their parents, and the community at large.

Summer Leadership Institute 2021

Join us for our Summer Leadership Institute, a series of virtual workshops for local leaders and members to refine their leadership skills as well as to promote participation and initiative in our union!  We have a range of different classes and with this institute we aim to come together across the state for conversation and learning.
“Over the last year, we’ve seen clearly just how important unions are for working people. By joining together through our union, we can win safer working conditions, earn better pay and benefits, and advocate together for public policy changes that we would never get on our own,” says AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “Our success as a union depends on individual members joining together to win changes in their communities. We’re excited to bring our Summer Leadership Institute back this year to train and engage union members and leaders across the state."
Click here and complete the form to register for the workshop.  Sign up for one or as many as you'd like!

For Berklee Faculty Union’s Anti-Racism Committee, Action Starts with Historical Perspective, Clear Facts, and Substantive Conversations

Last summer, in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the protests against police brutality that took place across the country soon after, the Berklee Faculty Union formed a new Anti-Racism Committee (ARC). Many other organizations, including AFT Massachusetts locals, have formed similar groups to more actively participate in the Black Lives Matter movement and to organize against racism in our institutions.
For Prince Charles Alexander, a Professor at Berklee who teaches advanced production and mixing and serves as Chair of the Berklee Faculty Union’s ARC, this moment is reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.
“Right now is as interesting of a climate as the Civil Rights Movement; there’s as much momentum as I’ve seen since then,” said Prince Charles, who recalls his aunt traveling to Washington, D.C. to attend the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. “The Civil Rights Movement included white people, Black people, Hispanic people, and Asian people in a unified effort – that’s what it takes to achieve real change. If Black people didn’t create racism, how can they solve it? We need white people to step up and be involved in these goals.”  READ MORE.

Salem Teachers Union, Salem Public Schools Reach Collective Bargaining Agreement - Negotiations Involved Innovative “Bargaining for the Common Good” Strategy

The Salem Teachers Union and Salem Public Schools have reached an agreement on a new contract to last through August 2024. The agreement is responsive to input we heard from parents, students, educators, administrators, School Committee members, and other community stakeholders to ensure that our students receive an exemplary educational experience. This collaboration resulted in a contract that recognizes and celebrates Salem’s diversity and forward-looking leadership.
“At one of the community forums we held, I remember parents saying that they went through their entire education without having teachers that looked like them,” said Ann Berman, President of the Salem Teachers Union. “We are proud to work with Salem Public Schools to make an intentional effort to remedy that problem.” READ MORE.

Substantial Infusion of Federal and State Funds Headed to Massachusetts School Districts

There is good news on the horizon for Massachusetts schools and students. Massachusetts school districts are slated to receive more than $2 billion in federal education aid over the coming year, thanks to federal COVID-19 relief packages passed since March 2020, the most recent being the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This federal money, in tandem with promised state-level investments in K-12 education, could have a positive impact on Massachusetts students for years to come.
It is useful to think of the two streams of funding—federal ESSER and state SOA—as working in tandem. Full ESSER funds (from Rounds I, II, and III) will arrive in districts over the next year for use through September 2024. Meanwhile, state SOA monies will ramp up steadily over six years—with new money added each year on top of the previous year’s baseline—until full funding of SOA is achieved in 2027. What this means is that districts could strategically use ESSER funds now to accelerate investments in students and schools (e.g., smaller classes, more social workers and nurses, better wages for paraprofessionals, HVAC improvements, etc.) and then use SOA funds to sustain those investments. The timing is quite conducive to this strategy, with SOA ramping up at the same time that ESSER ramps down. READ MORE.

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