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News from AFT Massachusetts and President Beth Kontos - August 2022

News from President Beth Kontos

Welcome to the beginning of a new school year! As educators and students return to the classroom, I’m feeling hopeful. After several years of difficult work responding to the challenges of the pandemic, we have the potential this year to make major strides towards delivering the schools our students truly deserve.

During the spring and summer, several of our locals won strong new contacts that will deliver higher pay, lower class sizes, and other valuable benefits for educators and students alike. Other locals are building the power they need to win strong contracts this year. As schools across the state face educator and staff shortages, we know that additional funding will be needed to improve our teaching conditions, which are our students learning conditions.
We won an enormous victory a few years ago with the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, which reformed the state’s system for funding local public school districts and pledged $1.5 billion in new annual state funding for our schools, especially targeted to high-poverty districts, over a 7-year phase-in period. This school year is the third consecutive year of major increases to local education aid as a result of the Student Opportunity Act, but we still have four years to go to reach the funding levels our schools and students need. To make sure that money reaches our classrooms, as well as to win additional investments in public higher ed and libraries across the state, we need to ensure that the state has a long term, sustainable source of new revenue.
That’s why everyone at AFT Massachusetts is working incredibly hard to pass the Fair Share Amendment – Question 1 on the November ballot – which would raise $2 billion a year for our schools, colleges, and transportation infrastructure by adding a modest tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million. 99 percent of us won’t pay a penny more, but we’ll all benefit from billions of dollars that are constitutionally dedicated to transportation and public education. Please sign up for a campaign canvass or phone bank, talk to other members of your local about organizing your own voter contact events, and tell all your friends and family to Vote YES on Question 1 on or before November 8!
Aside from funding, a top priority for AFT Massachusetts this year is ending the failed policy of state takeover that has eliminated local control of public schools in several communities, including Lawrence, with little to no improvement in student achievement to show for it. We are working hard to elect Maura Healey as our next Governor, and appreciate her strong commitment to public education, and her willingness to reevaluate state takeover policies that are failing our students.
We’ve gone through a lot together over the past few years, and AFT Massachusetts continues to fight for public health protections in our classroom, mental health resources for our students, and the respect that hard-working educators deserve. If we continue to work together and flex our power as a union, we can accomplish great things in the coming year.

Elections Matter

AFT Massachusetts is proud to be endorsing a slate of proven women leaders who will make state government a true partner to our local schools as we work to recover from the effects of the pandemic. These strong and independent leaders will deliver for Massachusetts students, educators, and families.

As the People’s Lawyer, Maura Healey has always stood up strong for Massachusetts students and educators. As our next Governor, she’ll bring Massachusetts together to build an equitable recovery in our schools and will invest in the academic supports, wraparound services, and mental health resources our students need to recover from the effects of the pandemic. She’s offering real solutions to close the opportunity gaps in our schools, and to make Massachusetts more affordable so that educators can afford to live and raise our families here.

In the Legislature, Tami Gouveia has been a steadfast advocate for students, educators, and our families. We’re delighted to be supporting her in her campaign for Lieutenant Governor, where she’ll be able to lift up the voices of those most affected by state government and ensure that our voices are heard when important decisions are being made.
Shannon Liss-Riordan has been a true champion for working people her entire career, from taking on Big Tech in court, to recovering millions in stolen wages for low-income workers. We know that as Attorney General, she will stand up against predatory student lenders, edu-cation privatizers, and other special interests who want to take advantage of our communities.
As State Treasurer, Deb Goldberg has been a strong advocate for our members and students. She protects our public pensions, directs valuable dollars to our communities through the State Lottery, and provides monetary resources through the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the construction and renovation of public schools.
Diana DiZoglio has been an independent watchdog on Beacon Hill, taking on wasteful privatization schemes and fighting for the true government transparency we deserve. As Auditor, we can trust her to protect public dollars from fraud and abuse, and shine a light on where our tax dollars go to ensure that the will of the people is being fulfilled.

For AFT Member Toni Bourgea, Teaching Polish & Ukrainian Students This Summer Was ‘A Melting Pot of Education and Shared Knowledge’

Many AFT Massachusetts members spend their summers teaching summer school, but for Toni Bourgea, a veteran teacher at South Shore Vocational Technical High School in Hanover, this summer presented an incredible opportunity: teaching English to Polish and Ukrainian students in the small town of Ciezsanow, Poland, near the Polish-Ukranian border.
Toni, an English teacher and president of the union at at South Shore Vocational Technical High School, used to run overseas trips for students and parents from the school, traveling to 17 countries in 7 years. When she learned about the planned trip to Poland, she jumped at the opportunity to apply. READ MORE.

#AFTVoices Member Spotlight Series

#AFTVoices is proud to present, Akunna Eneh, a public librarian in Boston! This series aims to uplift the voices, members, staff and educators that make up AFT Massachusetts.
Akunna talked with us about the path that brought her to where she is today."A library is it's own beast, but it is a place that I find comfort in and work hard to help other receive the services and support they need. I know this is what my life's work is meant to be." Click here to read more.  #FreedomToThrive!

AFT Massachusetts President on the Mystic Valley Charter School Administration's Discriminatory Behavior

Mystic Valley Charter School has a shameful history of targeting students with special needs, disciplining students for the way they wear their hair, and, most recently, discriminating against students for their religious dress. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) must immediately revoke their charter school license to protect any future students from being subjected to this illegal treatment.

Enough is enough! If DESE refuses to act, I call on the Attorney General to seek an injunction preventing the Mystic Valley Charter School from receiving any additional state funding. Their years-long pattern of discriminatory behavior disqualifies them from receiving any future state appropriations. READ MORE.

New Law Offers Eligible Members Who Transferred into the MTRS a Second Chance for RetirementPlus Participation

Teachers Who Transferred into the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System from Another Massachusetts Public Retirement System Can Opt in to Retirement Plus. With AFT Massachusetts support, the Legislature has at long last passed a bill which allows those teachers who transferred into Massachusetts Teachers Retirement System (MTRS) or the Boston Retirement System after June 1, 2001 and before June 30, 2022 a one time opportunity to opt into RetirementPlus.

The Governor has signed legislation that offers eligible members who transferred into the MTRS a second opportunity to elect to participate in the RetirementPlus (R+) program. The R+ program, signed into law in 2000, provided eligible members with increased retirement benefits. As stipulated in the R+ legislation in 2000, members who transferred into the MTRS from another Massachusetts public retirement system (e.g., a teacher aide who became a teacher) had 180 days to elect to participate in R+. If they did not respond, they were not enrolled in R+. READ MORE.

BKT Discount for AFT Members

Journey to modern-day Egypt and see wonders of the ancient world like the Temple at Karnak and the Great Sphinx. Experience ancient history come to life and gaze at the Egyptian sun as it rises above the Pyramids of Giza, filling the sky with vivid color. Travel back in time 3,000 years to the 18th dynasty when King Tut ruled and gods like Ra and Anubis were worshiped by all.
Take advantage of this exclusive AFT member discount for 40% off on weekdays and 20% off on weekends! Please visit for more information. National Geographic’s Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience is currently open at the SoWa Power Station from now until October 2nd, 2022

Managing Student Debt

The federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program—with the changes that the AFT has secured through advocacy and litigation—is perhaps the single best opportunity to deliver money in our members’ pockets. So far, $7.3 billion has been forgiven for more than 127,000 public service workers. But there is limited time to act to secure these benefits. Specifically, the expanded opportunity to receive credit for past payments ends Oct. 31, 2022. That means AFT members must submit paperwork by this date—it’s not too late.

The temporary expansion of Public Service Loan Forgiveness means more people are getting relief, including many who were previously denied for having the “wrong type” of loan or repayment plan. You must apply before October 31, 2022 to take advantage of this temporary PSLF expansion. Don’t wait!  Sign up with Summer at and apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness today! Need more information, attend an AFT student debt clinic webinar on September 20 and October 4! READ MORE.

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 October 19, 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.  

Register today for our virtual October 19 Retirement Planning Workshop for AFT Members!

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