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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - January 2022

A Message from President Kontos

The snowstorm has covered our communities in a beautiful white blanket.  But we will be cleaning up for days in some areas.  We appreciate the work of the road crews, the custodians, and the bus staff who are responsible for moving all the snow so we can safely return to normal.  

January has been a month of record high covid-19 cases with the school testing numbers reaching over 100,000 reported positive cases for the month for students and staff.  Our members have been juggling the duties of the test and stay program, pool testing, and notifying families of the test results.  We know how much work it has been to plan lessons not knowing who will be in the class from day to day.  And you have taught and retaught the same lesson to make sure the returning students have the foundation knowledge they need.  We see how hard you have been working and we appreciate you.
AFT has shared a poll that shows that our families also appreciate the work you are doing in the classroom each day.  “A supermajority of U.S. parents give their public schools and teachers top marks for their Herculean efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, fresh polling shows, with perceptions of teachers unions soaring to record highs.”
It is budget season once again and the governor’s proposed FY23 budget has just been released.  You can see the projected funding for our schools in the “cherry sheets” here.
And here is breakdown of the Chapter 70/Net School Spending from the Massachusetts Department of Education, which provides additional details on the funding assumptions, as well as district-by-district specifics.
We are holding another Student Debt Clinic on February 15th at 4:30 pm. Sign up here to learn how your student debt can be forgiven under the Public Student Debt Forgiveness program using the AFT tool called SUMMER.  
Fair Share Amendment:  Sign the pledge to vote for the Fair Share Amendment on the November 2022 ballot.  This will raise approximately $2 billion dollars a year to be invested into our public education system and transportation infrastructure.  Read more here.

America’s Parents Express Overwhelming Support for Teachers, Their Unions and Public Education

A supermajority of U.S. parents give their public schools and teachers top marks for their Herculean efforts to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, fresh polling shows, with perceptions of teachers unions soaring to record highs.
Overall, 72 percent of parents say their school provides excellent or good-quality education, and 78 percent endorse the quality and performance of their teachers, up 7 points from 2013, according to a new national survey by Hart Research Associates and Lake Research Partners.
Teachers unions are seen by parents as a more positive force in education today than prior to the pandemic, mirroring public polling conducted over the past year and tracking record high support for the labor movement as a whole. Read more.

#AFTVoices Member Spotlight Series

#AFTVoices is proud to present, Joshua Botvin! This series aims to uplift the voices, members, staff and educators that make up AFT Massachusetts. We're highlighting Joshua, Lecturer in English at UMass Dartmouth and Assistant Director of the Writing and Multi-literacy Center! Josh knew almost immediately that he wanted to be an educator. Josh also knew that if he wanted to stay in this field for the long haul, he had to be a part of the union. "Being in the union and taking collective action directly improves the relationship between teachers and students. When teachers aren't splitting time across campuses and multiple jobs, because they have security and earning fair wages, students absolutely benefit." #FreedomToThrive!

AFT MA Staff Profile: Charlotte Kelly

"Charlotte is a tenacious organizer who takes every opportunity to talk with educators, families, and community members to do what is best to support public education in Massachusetts,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I'm thrilled to have her on our growing team as we work to reinvest in our students and their schools, recover from the disruption of the pandemic, and build a brighter future for education throughout Massachusetts."

Charlotte’s years of organizing work make her well-equipped to support AFT educators as we organize in our school buildings and in our communities, building deeper relationships with parents, community groups, and youth. It also gives her the experience to help win our upcoming fights, like the campaign to pass the Fair Share Amendment, the ballot question which would fund transportation and public education by creating a 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million. Read More.

2022 Distinguished Service Awards

Help the AFT Massachusetts celebrate the service of an educator, librarian, nurse, or school related-personnel whose leadership has made our union stronger. Nominations are now being accepted for our 2022 Distinguished Service Awards, which recognize substantial contributions made to the development of the union at the state and local levels, from membership building and leadership training to the advancement of political and professional issues important to the union. 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!

Political Campaigns and Public Employees

Support for union members running for elected office and pro public education candidates is a top priority for the AFT Massachusetts and our affiliates. We know that when our members and others run on a platform of working people’s values and receive unified support from the labor movement, our communities win.
On Tuesday, February 8th at 4 pm AFT Massachusetts will host a virtual discussion for members highlighting best practices of a local's Committee On Political Education, public employee participation in local elections and social media. Brian LaPierre, Director of Organization and Jason Tait, Education and Communications Director, Office of Campaign and Political Finance of Massachusetts will be among the facilitators.
Click here and complete the form to register for the February 8th event.

February 15th Student Debt Clinic

Over 45 million people in the United States are struggling to make their monthly student loan payments, and millions more see economic and personal opportunities pass as they prioritize paying down their debt. Does this sound like you or someone you know?

Many of these people may qualify for free federal programs that can help reduce their monthly payments and eventually lead to student loan forgiveness, but these lifeline programs are significantly under-enrolled. Thanks to new rules just put in place by the Department of Education, many folks who thought loan forgiveness was out of reach are now finding that it is finally within grasp. In an effort to help our members get access to these programs and understand these new rules, AFT Massachusetts and the American Federation of Teachers are proud to host a Student Debt Clinic which will provide information on how to enroll in Income-Driven Repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
To attend our Student Debt Clinic, you must pre-register.  Click here to register for our February 15, 2022 Student Debt Clinic for AFT Members!

Retirement Planning Workshop

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 March 22, 2022 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.

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