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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - September 2021

A Message from President Kontos

The grant received by the AFT MA has been instrumental in creating fun and informative back to school events across the state — events which helped us demonstrate our commitment to reopening schools safely. Our top priorities for these events were reconnecting with students and their families and sharing information regarding masks and vaccines, but we also made them fun with food, ice cream, books, and school supplies for all.  At most events vaccines were offered to the community and we were successful at encouraging individuals to get their shot. In one case, a formerly vaccine-hesitant paraprofessional president was vaccinated, in a great example to the community. Some of our events were put together in a great partnership with the district administration, while others were done without them, but all of the events helped create excitement about the return to school with an emphasis on safety.

The pictures above are from the September Back to School Fair hosted by the New Bedford Federation of Paraprofessionals.

#AFTVoices Member Spotlight Series

#AFTVoices is proud to present, Jezabel Muhammad!
This series aims to uplift the voices, members, staff, educators and paraprofessionals that make up AFT Massachusetts. This week we're highlighting Jezabel, a member organizer and small group paraprofessional with New Bedford Public Schools! Eager to get back into the classroom, Jezabel is driven to support the entire classroom to succeed.
Stay tuned as we continue to display more of our conversations with other AFT members, showing how we collectively strive to build an industry where we all have the #FreedomToThrive! Click here if you would like to be part of our campaign!

Students Need Support, Staffing, and Resources, Not High-Stakes Standardized Testing, to Address the Effects of the Pandemic and Poverty

The MCAS test, highly correlated with student socioeconomic status, has always been a flawed and unreliable measure of both student learning and school quality. This was never truer than last school year, when the MCAS was administered in a haphazard manner during a global pandemic that exposed and amplified deep social and educational inequities.

Educators don’t need a standardized test to know that our students have missed out on learning since the onset of the pandemic, or that they need extra help to get back on track academically, socially, and emotionally. In many of our highest-poverty schools, test scores dropped because students lost family members to COVID-19, or because they were supervising their siblings instead of fully concentrating on their own schoolwork, or because they were busy working to keep their family from being evicted. This year’s test results, as they do every year, reflect our failure as a society to support students living in high-poverty districts; they’re not a reflection of our students’ true potential. READ MORE.

AFT Massachusetts Member Profile: Amesbury's Tia Costello is Developing Civics Professional Development Curricula

“I really do believe that kids learn best when they get to do things themselves,” says Tia. “Even though they’re not old enough to vote, once they get involved in something, they realize they can make a difference. Civics education builds agency in kids. They realize that as adults, they can vote, but they can also do much more than just that. They can be full participants in our democracy.”
“I’m proud that I’m representing a small local and putting our voice on a national platform with these districts that are large counties. We’re in the research and goal-setting phase now, so we’re looking at a lot of research, creating bibliographies, and planning out what we want our curriculum to accomplish,” says Tia. “Professional development can often feel like a waste of time when teachers could be planning, reviewing student work, or preparing for class, so we want to make sure this curriculum is dynamic and useful. Recently, I took the AFT’s ‘train the trainers’ session on social-emotional learning, and I can’t wait to use the tools I learned in school this year. That’s what we want to achieve with civics education.”  READ MORE.

Take the Fair Share Amendment Vote Pledge

The top 1% make their first $1 million without additional tax, after that we're asking for 4 cents on their millionth and one dollar and so on. This would raise a substantial amount of NEW revenue annually to be re-invested into our public education system and transportation infrastructure. Right now, the Massachusetts economy is working great for those at the top. But it’s time to invest in our public infrastructure, schools, and communities, so that working families across MA can receive the support and benefits they deserve. EVERYONE must pay their fair share in taxes. We must pass the Fair Share Amendment and invest in the Commonwealth.
Do you plan to vote YES to pass the Fair Share Amendment on the ballot in 2022? Sign our pledge to become an official Fair Share Amendment Voter!

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Is Available for AFT Members With Student Debt

The AFT has been working to address the student debt crisis for nearly a decade. The union has counseled thousands of members at our student debt clinics, provided a free benefit to union members that will save them an estimated $500 million, taken student loan giants like Navient to court, and sued the Trump administration to protect borrowers.
As a union, we are fighting to make college affordable and student debt manageable. However, 45 million people in the United States owe $1.6 trillion in student loans.
  • Do you or a family member have student loan debt?
  • Are you struggling to make monthly payments or worrying about student loans following you throughout your life?
  • Are you tired of getting phone calls from loan servicers, or concerned about how to tell scams from genuine help when it comes to debt forgiveness?

Discount for AFT Members

As AFT members, the New England Revolution would like to thank you for all that you do by offering a discount on Revs tickets! You are able to use this discount for various seat locations to any of our remaining 2021 regular season home games! Click here and buy a ticket today!

Retirement Planning

The financial professionals of Teacher Retirement Solutions (TRS) have partnered with AFT Massachusetts and specialize in providing independent financial guidance, strategies and solutions to educators, school employees, librarians and their families throughout New England.  Join TRS’ John Gregorio, a Certified Financial Planner, on November 10 via Zoom for a comprehensive workshop for prospective retirees. The Massachusetts' public employee retirement formula, Social Security and living in retirement will be among the topics discussed.  An automated email with the details of the Zoom meeting will be sent to members that complete the form linked here.

Member Benefits Workshop for AFT members

AFT Massachusetts will host a virtual benefits workshop to showcase the products and services available to AFT members through our members benefits program. Whether you’re looking to purchase insurance, buy or refinance a home, or plan for retirement, you can find experienced and dedicated professionals who will work with you every step of the way to fulfill your goals!
Click here to register and an automated email with the details of the Zoom meeting will be sent as well as a link to a folder of resources.

Looking for AFT Massachusetts Branded Gear

Looking for AFT Massachusetts branded apparel?

AFT Massachusetts members are welcome to visit our online store to purchase AFT Massachusetts branded gear! The online store will be "open" during the month of October and products will be delivered to each local president for distribution on or around Thanksgiving.  Check out our online store today!

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